When we last left our favorite Marvel super heroes in “Avengers: Infinity War,” the snap of Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet had eliminated half of all life-forms in the Universe. But before he could fade to dust, Nick Fury made one final page out into the universe to Captain Marvel, a character we had not yet met as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Warning: This review contains some slight spoilers, but I avoid giving away most of the plot points.
This means before we can move on to “Avengers: End Game,” we first have to go back to the 1990s and see how Nick Fury met Captain Marvel. It’s one of the MCU’s most unconventional origin stories, as when we first meet Carol Danvers, she already has all her super powers, but what she lacks is knowledge of her true identity.
When we first meet her in the movie, Danvers, known as Vers to the Kree military team called Starforce of which she’s a member, is a mighty warrior being trained and led by commander Yon-Rogg. The Kree are part of a collective race led by an Artificial Intelligence construct known as The Supreme Intelligence. Yon-Rogg, Vers, and a small team are sent on a mission to rescue a spy and stop the Skrulls – bad guys with whom the Kree are locked into a long war. The Skrulls are led by Talos and have the ability to shape shift, which means every encounter, even with someone you think you know, is a potential danger.
Much of the movie is designed with the Marvel movie nerd in mind. There are also a number of call-outs to the comics, including an appearance by a cat named “Goose” who might be more than he seems. Yes, there’s even a cameo by the late, great Stan Lee.
Setting the story of Captain Marvel in the 1990s, yes that’s a Blockbuster video store, gives the writers a lot of opportunities to make jokes about the power of technology and our collective fashion choices back in that era. If you don’t remember encountering a spinning wheel while waiting for your website to load, you may not get a few of these jokes. I loved the 90s nostalgia, but it was definitely aimed at mom and dad, not the 12-year old in the audience
Like a lot of great 1990s-era movies, Captain Marvel functions on some level as a buddy cop movie. Brie Larson (Danvers) and Samuel L. Jackson (Fury) immediately gel on the screen. You can tell both are having a lot of fun making the movie, especially Jackson who can barely contain himself at times.
The character of Captain Marvel was first introduced to comic book fans in 1967. This may be the first appearance on the big screen for Captain Marvel, but she has actually been appearing on the Disney Channel series “Avengers Assemble.” So kids who are familiar with that show will come with a different set of expectations than most Marvel fans.
Yes, this is also the MCU’s first stand-alone movie with a female led title character, but to Marvel Studios’ credit, it’s a super hero movie first. That Carol Danvers is a woman is less of a plot point than the fact that she’s a powerful warrior on a mission. The character of Carol Danvers faces down issues on inequality and injustice with female empowerment, sure. But the theme of the film is sci-fi action and adventure, like every other MCU movie.
“We thought it was the right time to finally introduce Captain Marvel to the World,” Marvel Studios’ producer Kevin Feige said. “She’s one of the most popular characters and one of the most powerful characters in the comics and will now be the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
Feige added, “We’ve always had powerful female characters and heroes in our films. But having a female Super Hero franchise title character for the first time feels overdue, and it’s something that we have been excited about for a long time, and we can’t wait to deliver it to the world.”
To direct Captain Marvel, Feige once again turned to the indie film world. This time he brought on Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck. Boden and Fleck’s experience making films like “Half Nelson” and “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” helped ensure Captain Marvel remained a character driven film instead of letting the action drive much of the plot.
Boden and Fleck were especially attracted to the story of Carol Danvers, “One of the things that drew us to the character was that she was a really powerful, interesting, unique, and independent female character,” said Boden. “We are so excited to be telling this story about someboy who’s not just powerful but also really complicated and human.”
“In researching the project, we started digging into the comics, and we just fell in love with the character, her grit, and her humor,” added Fleck. “We were trying to figure out how to do this, because we come from a very indie background, but we were aware that Marvel had been making some bold hiring decisions before us with Taika Waititi directing ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and Ryan Coogler directing ‘Black Panther.’ Both are great filmmakers who come from indie filmmaking and very character-based storytelling. We we saw they were hiring directors like that, our interest was really stirred because they’re not just after the big spectacle or the big explosion.
With Boden signed on to co-direct, Captain Marvel became the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have a woman director too. “I feel incredibly honored to be given the opportunity to be here with this awesome group of people,” said Boden. “One of the things I love about this movie is what an amazing collaboration it is between women.”
One of the big surprises of the movie, there are a couple, is not a surprise at all to those who a familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It all ties in with the overall arching storyline that eventually ends up with Thanos finding his way to Earth. Not sure how they could have avoided that.
Part of the disappointment knowing one of the big plot twists coming into the film was made up for by another standout performance as delivered by Ben Mendelsohn, both behind makeup and without it. Talos, the Skrull leader, is exactly the type of role he can really chew through.
A few other notes:
- The digital de-aging Samuel L. Jackson was flawless.
- Clark Gregg’s, aka SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson, digital de-aging was not 100% successful. But he gets significantly less screen time than Jackson, so it’s not all that obvious.
- Brie Larson has successfully created one of the most powerful super heros in the Marvel canon. She doesn’t realize her full abilities until late, late in the movie, but when she turns on the fireworks… oh boy.
- Alas we don’t really meet the real Carol Danvers until late in the movie, she spends much of the film dealing with amnesia. So I’m expecting a lot from Larson in “Avengers: End Game.”
- One of the problems writers have with characters as powerful as Captain Marvel is that you have to get them out of the way somehow for the truly bad shit to go down. With Captain Marvel, the writers literally send her across the Universe so that when The Avengers form, and set in motion the plot points that lead to “Avengers: End Game,” only Nick Fury even knew who she was.
- You’ll want to stay through at least the first end credit scene to see about how that pager Fury used at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War” comes back into play.
- The second end-credit scene is wonderful too. But if you have to run to a reservation or something, you can skip it and not miss any important plot points.
- Goose the cat is actually played by four different cats.
2. Yes, we learn how Nick Fury ends up with one eye and an eye patch in Captain Marvel.
3. If you’re a fan of Stan Lee make sure you’re in your seat prior to the movie’s start.
Some people are not fans of these stand-alone Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. But I really like them. They tend to be lighter and filled with more humor, to go with the action and adventure which is my idea of a great super hero film. I rank this one in the same neighborhood as “Thor: Ragnorok” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which makes sense, since the directors were original considered by Marvel Studios for Guardians, but they fell in love with the Carol Danvers character and the rest is history.
This one doesn’t move the overall plot forward all that much, since it’s set in 1990s. But it’s a fun romp through a period of Marvel super hero history we haven’t yet seen on the big screen. Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, is a powerful super hero and will be a great rolemodel for all the young girls and women who get to see a female in the title role of a Marvel movie for the first time.
Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel” is rated PG-13 and opens this Friday in theaters everywhere.