After a slow start to 2019, we have our first major release of the year with Captain Marvel, the 21st film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This was another big moment in Marvel’s history, as the movie’s leading star and co-director were females, both firsts for the franchise. Beyond this historic moment for cinema, there is plenty to admire about the movie, from the 90’s set tone and soundtrack to the rousing action sequences and stunning visual effects. But sadly, it can also be very uneven at times, with some jokes falling totally flat and characters feeling underdeveloped. With recent superhero efforts such as Infinity War and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse taking the genre to all new heights, the inconsistency of the film means it will not be remembered in the same conversation.
Amnesiac Vers (Brie Larson) is training to fight a war with Kree leader Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). But after a mission fails and enemy Skrull Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) accesses her memories, she gets a glimpse of her past life, leading her on a mission for answers whilst battling the Skrull enemy who have invaded Earth.
There has been a lot of talk regarding the casting of leading lady Brie Larson (some even using the word ‘miscast), but I was really impressed with her performance. She can sometimes struggle in the more serious scenes, but she does charming and sarcastic really well and is certainly someone you will root for. Samuel L. Jackson (looking incredible with his de-aging CGI) is his usual likeable self, providing a great chemistry with Larson and it’s a joy to watch his early years at SHIELD unfold.
The supporting cast here is huge, but most are either underused or frustratingly erratic. Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn in particular are superb at times, whilst at others they are terribly wooden and unconvincing. Returning actors Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) and Lee Pace (Ronan) have frustratingly limited screen time, just like newbie Annette Benning who excels as Dr. Wendy Lawson but is only in a handful of scenes. The best of the rest is actually a cat named Goose, who is adorable and another great creation within the Marvel universe.
Written and directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (the duo behind Mississippi Grind and It’s Kind of a Funny Story), their transition from small indie flicks to big budget blockbusters is an overall success, but still have a lot of learning to do if they are to return to the big leagues. The directing is sharp and at times gorgeous, but an over-reliance on slow motion does dampen things. Their script is solid, with some great gags throughout and the story interestingly never goes in the direction you think it will. However, characters are never fully fleshed out and the first act in particular is thrilling but rushed. In what has become a recurring problem with MCU movies, some of the jokes here are once again really poor and feel nothing but forced.
Despite its flaws I had so much fun watching this movie. Often thrilling, always entertaining and features a Stan Lee tribute so beautiful it is worthy of admission alone. Finally, Marvel has its first big female superhero role, an astonishing character that reaches her full potential come the explosive final act. Her next challenge is the world-destroying Thanos, and he better be watching his back because she means business. Do not miss the mid-credits scene either, it’s a belter.
Verdict: Visually spectacular and consistently enjoyable Captain Marvel is another fun entry in the MCU, though very far from their best.
Best Moment: Larson tracks down a Skrull on a train