Review: ‘Captain Marvel’ is an Inspiring, Empowering Adventure
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel tells the story of Vers (Brie Larson), a Starforce soldier for the intergalactic Kree Empire, who are described by her as a race of “Noble Warrior Heroes.” Vers suffers from recurring nightmares of a life she doesn’t remember living. After a mission goes horribly wrong, Vers’ journey takes her to Earth, where she teams up with a young S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and unlocks the secrets of her former life and becomes not only the ultimate badass superhero we paid to see, but also the ultimate badass person she is meant to be.
Portrayed by Larson, Vers is a charismatic, but also emphatic lead with a strong emotional core, and she doesn’t take shit from anyone. A good example of this is after she is told to “smile” by a sleazy biker put off when she ignores his trashy advances. Instead of telling him to “piss off,” she steals his motorcycle. (And no one cares if he ever gets it back.) This attitude carries through in her heroic actions, as well as her interactions with the film’s villains, as Larson balances altruism with inner confusion and a gnarly sense of “Don’t tell me what to do!” that comes packed with a smirky sense of snark, all with gracefulness and precision.
Rounding out the cast are Jude Law as Yon-Rogg, Danver’s mentor; Ben Mendelsohn, who chews (erm, sips?) his scenery as Talos, a shapeshifting Skrull warrior; Lashana Lynch as Maria, an Air Force pilot and a friend of Carol’s; Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, whose return is quite welcome; Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva, a badass Kree warrior with cool blue skin and exceptional hair; and Annette Benning, who adds a whole lot of charm in small doses as a mysterious scientist from Ver’s past.
And then there’s Nick Fury, who is not yet the Nick Fury to whom we’re accustomed. This Fury is softer, youthful, slightly less cynical, and surprisingly, a cat-lover. (Picture him leaving his helicarrier after the events of The Avengers and returning home to his loft, where he allows his stone-hearted personality to soften as he assembles his elite team of soft, furry cats to pet and feed.) This is a simpler time for the infamous S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, years before superhero grudge matches and extraterrestrial invasions become the norm, and because of this, he is more comfortable in allowing his personality to show. But he still is the Nick Fury we know and love, and throughout the course of the film, we see him harden up in response to his first true encounter with “threats far greater than our own.”
It’s no secret that Captain Marvel takes place during the mid-90s. (1995, judging by Stan Lee’s amusing cameo in the film, itself a reference to another famous Stan Lee cameo) Naturally, the film is sprinkled with 90s nostalgia, including: hit songs by Nirvana, Garbage, and No Doubt, all of which are on-the-nose in the best sort of way; references to the films of the era, including a visual allusion to an action sequence from Independence Day and a little jab at True Lies; and if you listen closely to Pinar Toprak’s score, there’s a musical nod to 90s action scores in the way she approaches the character of Nick Fury, accenting him with retro action cues that sizzle with guitar riffs, a beloved staple of the buddy cop movies of that era.
(Also, the concept of a badass woman suffering from amnesia and teaming up with Samuel L. Jackson will bring back memories of The Long Kiss Goodnight, a 90s action film that loosely shares this premise.)
Captain Marvel will no doubt resonate more with its female audience. As a male writer, I cannot begin to tell you what it is like being a woman, because I simply do not know. The film is clearly made with that view in mind — and that’s precisely the experience I was hoping to see as far too often female protagonists are written from the perspective of how males see them — and the film illustrates that viewpoint passionately, translating it into a powerful superhero origin story.
Additionally, Ver’s story will touch anyone who’s been told they can’t be unique; that they should stay in their box; who has been pushed to the ground time and time again, but has chosen to stand up, stand tall, and keep fighting for what they believe, regardless of what people say — if you’ve experienced any of that, then Captain Marvel will resonate deeply, more personally than any of the MCU films that’ve come before.
Captain Marvel is a moving adventure with an empowering lead and a soul-stirring emotional core, served with Marvel’s usual portions of spectacle, humor, and twists. Even though its molded by an established formula, the potentness of the backstory, the way it is threaded as a continuing mystery to unwrap, as well as the endearing heart of the character that grows stronger as the film progresses, make this experience unique, engaging, and more importantly, uplifting.
(Extra bonus points for its positive portrayal of a cat. His name is Goose. And he should be an Avenger.)