Captain Marvel is the twenty-first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise. It comes right after the entertaining ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018), but in story terms, MCU fans are primed for this tale because of the final moments of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018). The— then unseen —Captain Marvel was the superhero that Nick Fury contacted as things got down and dusty, post The Snap a.k.a. The Snappening a.k.a. The Snapture. (Thanos? The Infinity Gauntlet? You remember, folks…)
Brie Larson plays Vers a non-Kree who is part of an elite military unit called Starforce. The Kree are powerful blue-skinned aliens from the planet Hala who were seen in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 1 and 2 (as well as television’s AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D). Vers is a powerful warrior, but Starforce commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) advises her to fight guided by intellect rather than emotions. Vers is also troubled by visions of another life; she knows she was someone else and lived on another planet, but the Kree advise her to forget these memories and concentrate on the present.
Starforce are sent to track down a spy on a small, out-of-the-way planet and this puts them in contact with their long-time enemies the shape-shifting Skrulls. A series of events takes Vers to the Planet Earth where she collides with two agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). It’s 1995 and the Earth is unaware of extraterrestrials, their wars or their weapons. Our planet is about to get a rude awakening.
Vers finds herself in the middle of a complex situation. She has deviated from her original mission and is now hunting Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), a Skrull leader who has landed in Los Angeles. Her memories are growing more troubling and indicate that a scientist called Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) knew Vers previously and has invented something that Vers needs to recover. The mystery deepens and Vers realises that she has to stay in motion and not get killed, to discover Lawson’s secret and her own true identity.
Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck co-wrote CAPTAIN MARVEL with Geneva Robertson-Dworet. Their entry into the MCU ticks a number of boxes, or if you prefer, connects a number of dots. We are given the origin story of a new and extremely powerful superhero; the back story to MCU favourite Nick Fury and further details of the warring Kree. There are a number of solid gags about mid-90s brands and technology and a CD rack full of era-apprpriate music from the likes of Nirvana, No Doubt and REM.
Larson is excellent as Captain Marvel. The Oscar-winning actor gives her character some depth that doesn’t necessarily feel as though it’s in the screenplay. Veteran talents, Bening and Jude Law are also very good and Mendelsohn is particularly engaging in his role (Australians in the audience will particularly enjoy his choices).
CAPTAIN MARVEL does a fine job in its multitasking journey. Some of the action could have been more conventionally lit. It can be dull watching too much quick-cutting and silhouetted stunt people punching and leaping. On the other hand, some of the close combat training between Law and Larson is top-notch fun. The movie also suffers to an extent from the sheer familiarity, after 21 films, of the unfolding of an origin story, despite its being skilfully told in flashback. Larson and digitally de-aged Jackson are fun together;it’s good to see Gregg as Coulson back on the big screen and a certain feline is a great addition to the tale, even for those of us who are not necessarily cat people.
This is a solid, entertaining film with funny moments and clever ideas that lapses into formula on occasion. CAPTAIN MARVEL expertly sets us up for AVENGERS: END GAME.