Settle down, all you geeks.
With the release of Avengers: Endgame rapidly approaching (just six short (LONG!!) weeks away), movie theaters are preparing for the ultimate nerd-gasm. You might think they are prepared for this after the first Avengers and Avengers: Infinity War (not to mention Star Wars: The Force Awakens), but we nerds have a funny way of surprising you. Yes, I am a nerd, though not nearly to the extreme of some folks you would find at a comic convention dressed in cosplay. I did once dress as Khal Drogo for Halloween (more like Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon dressed as Khal Drogo), but that is totally different. To my point, Endgame has a real chance to melt the entire film industry and waiting another six weeks is going to be hard. Luckily, Captain Marvel is here to remind us of the U in MCU and to, seriously, calm down you big dorks.
(Very minor SPOILER WARNING and, seriously, calm down you big dorks.)
Vers (Brie Larson) is a Kree soldier, training under the tutelage of Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Wait, that is his name? Throughout the entire film, I kept wondering what his name was because I do not remember anyone actually saying it. Anyway, Vers is having recurring dreams featuring a person she does not know (Annette Bening) and is struggling to control her ability to shoot energy beams out of her fists. She meets with the Supreme Intelligence (taking the form of Annette Bening) that governs the Kree to discuss her future and is sent on a mission to retrieve a Kree agent from the hands of the Skrulls, the enemy of the Kree. In what is the first of some very predictable scenes, the mission goes awry and Vers is captured by the Skrulls, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). After the obligatory escape scene, Vers ends up on Earth being chased by Skrulls and waiting for Yon-Rogg and her squad to retrieve her. If you don’t have any questions about what you just read, thanks for reading, nerd.
At this point, the meat of the movie kicks off, which ends up being a ninety-minute romp through 1995 with digitally-remastered Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury. On that note, Disney has exponentially improved their CGI effects making people look years, if not decades, younger. It was noticeably raw in Tron: Legacy, a bit jarring in Star Wars: Rogue One, and practically unnoticeable in Captain Marvel. Well, at least with Jackson. Twenty-years-younger Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) just looked weird with hair.
Captain Marvel is definitely an origin story for Vers, who later learns her real name is Carol Danvers and that she is human and not Kree, but it is also arguably an origin story for Nick Fury as well. The MCU movies and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are littered with Fury-morsels, but almost none of them tell us much of Fury’s backstory. Captain Marvel addresses that void, spending ample time fleshing out Fury while he was just a regular two-eyed agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and not the one-eyed S.H.I.E.L.D. director we are well acquainted with. Meeting Carol and the shape-shifting Skrulls robbed Fury of his run-of-the-mill secret agent mindset and the subsequent events of the film send Fury down the path we met him on years later in his life in Ironman. It is a great bit of character building and he serves as a perfect sidekick to Carol throughout the film.
Speaking of which, Carol (who becomes known as Captain Marvel) is also given a plethora of backstory. Fighter pilot, best friend to fellow pilot Maria Rambeau, stubborn kid-later-woman who refuses to accept people insisting she stop trying to compete with men, Kree special-forces soldier, and superhero. We learn about all of these things along with Carol, as she has amnesia of everything from earlier than six years ago and pieces them back together as the film progresses. All of this is weaved in between action scenes reminiscent of most fugitive movies, including The Fugitive, where the hero must rediscover her past in order to succeed in the present. I did not realize how much I missed movies like this and I enjoyed the heck out of it.
That is not to say the film is without some flaws. For one, Yon-Rogg and Carol’s Kree squadmates are as thin as characters can be. Of note, Gemma Chan and Djimon Hounsou are noticeably wasted as two of those mates, each appearing in a couple of fight scenes with scant dialogue and being eminently expendable. Not much better is Bening, who plays two different characters (the mental image of Bening conjured by the intelligence, as well as a military engineer on Earth), each of whom is forced to recite cringeworthy dialogue about her own looks. I mean, why is a super intelligence commenting on its imaginary avatar’s looks? It reminded me of the poorly-written Ego from Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but at least Ego’s name gave cover to that kind of thing.
Another flaw was some of the banter from Larson fell a bit flat at times. If there is one thing I love about the MCU films, it is how great the banter is between all of the characters. At times during the film, Larson seemed like she was trying too hard to match Jackson’s wit. There are precious few who can do this, most of whom are actors in the MCU. I have no doubt that Larson is capable – there are other scenes that she nailed – but, too often, Larson came off forced and it showed like a sore thumb. In addition, her body language seemed forced at times as well. It was like her brain was telling her she needed to stand like a superhero and her body interpreted that as “stand kind of weird.” I do not know how else to describe it, so when you see her posing on the porch of a house near the end of the film, try to describe it yourself.
That being said, the movie as a whole is quite good, on par with Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. As with most of the individual-focused MCU films, Captain Marvel feels contained and deliberate. While the conflict in the film is revealed as fairly large, it never feels like an existential crisis. Larson is a very solid choice for Captain Marvel and Jackson and Gregg remind us why Fury and Coulson are two of the most beloved characters in the franchise. The special effects are excellent (though, a little cartoony at the end when Carol starts to glow) and the music and costuming are straight out of the mid-1990s (if you are my age, you will recognize the dozens, probably hundreds, of 1990s references sprinkled throughout the movie). If nothing else, there is a running gag with a house cat that will make you smile. All of that together will tide you over for the next six weeks and, if it doesn’t, you can borrow my Khal Drogo costume for a nerdy fix.
Rating: Do not ask for any money back, even if you will need it for the fourth time you see Endgame.