Should I Watch..? 'Captain Marvel'
What's the big deal?
Captain Marvel is a sci-fi superhero film released in 2019 and is the twenty-first film released as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, the film is set in the 1990's and follows an alien warrior's quest to prevent intergalactic genocide on Earth while also attempting to discover more about her long-forgotten past. The film also acts as a prequel to the first MCU picture Iron Man as well as continuing the story in the aftermath of Avengers: Infinity War. The film stars Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Ben Mendelsohn and Clark Gregg and was co-written and directed by film-making duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. At the time of writing, the film has earned more than $1.1 billion worldwide (the first female-led superhero film to break the billion dollar barrier) and received a mostly positive reception from critics. Naturally, the success of the film has created speculation that a sequel will follow at some point in the future.
What's it about?
In 1995, Vers is a members of the Kree's elite fighting unit Starforce alongside her commander and mentor Yon-Rogg. With the Kree engaged in a war with their sworn enemy, the shape-shifting Skrull, Vers is an immensely powerful being but one who is tutored by both Yon-Rogg and the Kree's ruling AI the Supreme Intelligence. Despite allowing her emotions to sometimes get the better of her, Vers and the rest of Starforce are assigned a mission to recover a captured Kree spy from Skrulls led by their commander Talos. However, they are ambushed by Skrull and Vers is herself captured.
Probing her memories, the Skrull discover a link between Vers and Earth (known as planet C-53 to the Skrull) and in particular, a scientist called Dr Wendy Lawson. The Skrull believe that Lawson is the key to developing a light-speed drive and head to Earth to infiltrate and recover the technology. But Vers also seeks Dr Lawson as she is a figure who frequently manifests in her dreams so she escapes the Skrull and crash-lands on Earth in order to find the truth. Unfortunately, her appearance catches the attention of two SHIELD agents - a rookie Phil Coulson and a much younger Nick Fury...
Vers / Captain Marvel
Samuel L Jackson
Talos / Keller
Ronan The Accuser
Dr Wendy Lawson / Supreme Intelligence
Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet*
Release Date (UK)
8th March, 2019
Action, Sci-Fi, Superhero
What's to like?
After years of clamouring for a female-led superhero film, Marvel finally relent and have produced a film that is both fun and somewhat different from the norm. Captain Marvel has a great deal of fun with itself, digitally de-aging Jackson and Gregg to good effect and poking fun at itself and the wider MCU mythology. This is largely down to Larson's performance which feels pitched somewhere between Chris Pratt's Starlord and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow. There is an irreverence there that makes her fun to watch but also a steely determination and resolve that gives this role a bit more gravitas. It's clear that the character and the film are intended to inspire young girls and women with repeated instances where Larson's role got knocked down and she keeps getting up.
Of course, the film's effects are typically polished and like Guardians Of The Galaxy, you don't get confused by the intergalactic scenario we find ourselves in at the beginning. I honestly didn't know what to expect from the character - my knowledge of Captain Marvel was limited at best - so I didn't know what to expect from the film. But I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it does stick closely to the MCU formula and doesn't feel significantly different from other origin stories despite the lead character's gender (as if that was ever a factor, Marvel!) or the very cool 90's soundtrack which is right up my street. But you don't think of things like that when you're watching it. It's just a fun, kick-ass kinda of movie with decent banter, big action scenes and a strong political message about empowering women - something that's sadly still relevant.
- This is the first MCU film released after the passing of Stan Lee, which acknowledged this by altering the traditional Marvel Studios and thanking him. Lee's health was already indecline when he filmed his usual cameo spot but he couldn't muster his trademark enthusiasm. Instead, they recycled unused audio from his appearance in Mallrats which is the script he is reading in the scene.
- The cat Goose was originally named Chewie in the comics after the Star Wars character Chewbacca. The name Goose comes from Top Gun which reflects Danvers' past as a fighter pilot. Unfortunately, Larson is allergic to cats so her scenes were filmed with either a puppet or CG effects. Goose was played by four professional acting cats - Reggie, Rizzo, Gonzo and Archie.
- The security guard Vers speaks to after crashing through the roof of a Blockbusters store was played by Barry Curtis who has acted as a security manager for Marvel productions ever since Iron Man 2 in 2010.
What's not to like?
Sadly, the film isn't quite the Hulk smash than Marvel may have hoped for. For starters, it introduces several plot inconsistencies with previous MCU films such as the fate of the Tesseract. While I'm a huge fan of Mr Jackson, I wasn't keen on the digital trickery to de-age him or Gregg as it just felt a touch gimmicky for me. And the plot is also far too predictable - I spotted the swerve coming from the very start and it just didn't surprise me one bit. I was also disappointed by Bening's low-energy performance in the dual roles of Dr Lawson and the Supreme Intelligence who felt like a slightly more animated version of The Architect from The Matrix Reloaded. I expected more from an actress of her talents.
Perhaps my biggest issue is that despite the narrative and the obvious trumpeting of how inclusive Marvel are being, this didn't really feel like the movie I thought it might be. Larson deserved a bigger part in the film which seems to get distracted by the younger Samuel L Jackson and his relationship with that damned cat which almost has as much screen time as either Mendelsohn or Lynch. The whole thing feels underwhelming somehow - there's no wonder or awe at seeing these alien worlds and races with their advanced technology or these mystical heroes battling to save the world. Remember that shiver down your spine you felt when you first saw the Avengers team up in the battle of New York during Avengers Assemble? There isn't a moment like that in Captain Marvel despite many attempts at trying to replicate such moments like Larson firing off her energy beams or battling dozens of Skrull troopers with relative ease.
Should I watch it?
To be frank, I wasn't that bothered about this film beforehand - I only watched it in order to fully understand what's going to happen in Avengers: Endgame. Having said that, this is a perfectly enjoyable action film with a earnest performance from Larson as the titular hero, finally paving a way from women in the MCU the way Black Panther opened doors to audiences of colour. It's unlikely to change the world but at least it's a long overdue step in the right direction.
Great For: female viewers, fans of Nineties music, fans of the character, MCU die-hards
Not So Great For: people getting bored of the MCU, anyone who saw Wonder Woman first, misrepresented shape-shifters
What else should I watch?
Given how successful the superhero genre continues to be at the box office, it is nothing short of a scandal that there are so few good films featuring female lead characters available. Even The Wasp, an almost perpetual member of the Avengers team, had to wait until 2018 and even then, had to play second fiddle in Ant-Man And The Wasp to Paul Rudd's uninspiring shrinking man. Of course, DC got there first with their hugely successful Wonder Woman which possibly stole a bit of this film's thunder. Before that, super-heroines tended to carry the stench of low-budget tawdriness with efforts like Supergirl and Elektra.
But by far the worst of the bunch is Catwoman, a film so misguided and misjudged that even star Halle Berry slated it when she picked up her deserved Razzie Award for Worst Actress. A film that had nothing in common with the popular Batman character, the movie took so many liberties with the source material that it was utterly unrecognisable. It has since become the byword for awful superhero films and its reputation continues to stink up the joint over fifteen years later. Proof, if it were ever needed, that cats and superheroes shouldn't go together.
© 2019 Benjamin Cox