Since Nick Fury dropped that kitted-out pager in the post-credit occurrences of Avengers: Infinity War, we knew there were big plans ahead for Captain Marvel. So it is up to this origin-cum-prequel to lay the groundwork for a hero that is planned to be one of the most powerful in all the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hopes were high and while I thought initially the film might not reach them, once it finds its footing we are off and away for this enjoyable romp that pays the utmost tribute to the late great legend Stan Lee (that opening sentiment is beautiful), revels in its ‘90s setting and gives its title hero a rather cool start onscreen.
The story takes no ease on newcomers and you are dropped straight into the lore and these first 20 or so minutes are a touch wonky, as the narrative gets its head straight. The time-jumping and collage of memories may initially leave you as confused as Carol ‘Captain Marvel’ Danvers (Brie Larson) herself but once the alien warrior with a mysterious past crash lands on earth (or in Blockbusters if we are being specific) then things really get going and the excitement well and truly is allowed to commence. Even if the post-credits scenes do state the bleeding obvious, from cameos to movie references, Captain Marvel has a ball with its material and era, and carries a strong sense of self-awareness throughout.
Obviously there are a few very silly moments (Nick’s eye, some on the nose dialogue/material…Mar-Vell anyone?) but this film gets away with it through how it embraces the silly with a giddy grin, alongside the joyously throwback tone and some refreshing spins on the comic book origin film, which help give this prequel of sorts to the MCU as we now know it, a fresh coat of paint in places. The script is consistently funny and the action is colourful and plentiful come the edge of the atmosphere climax but there is a welcome detour from the standard full third act face-off between hero and villain in the finale. The long-recurring villain problem with Marvel is present here too but it keeps rolling due to the likability of its heroes and cast, plus at least the film gives a forgettable past villainous figure more importance in this universe overall.
Larson is endearing and her character takes off thanks to a good heart and a strength of soul, and her chemistry with a splendid Samuel L. Jackson imbues the film with consistent energy that doesn’t lag. This is her show and while empowering at points (the “just human” scene is arguably the films most powerful bit), this film opts more to just enjoy itself than double down on drama, ahead of the inevitably high-stakes showdown to come in April. The de-aging technology is absolutely astounding and Jackson (who is blessed with natural de-aging anyway) looks and sounds perfect, offering an effective – if occasionally wacky – backstory for S.H.I.E.L.D figurehead Nick Fury. Ben Mendelsohn also delivers a great turn in the film and stands out in a game supporting cast that includes Jude Law and a charming Lashana Lynch and Akira Akbar. Then there’s Goose the cat (rendered by both CGI and played by 4 different cats onscreen) who is surely set to become a GIF/meme legend down the line.
We can argue endlessly about whether the MCU’s first female hero-led film is long overdue (it is) and admittedly Captain Marvel is not as powerful a movie as Wonder Woman (lacking moments as emotive, lingering or dramatic as the ‘No Man’s Land’ scene or Diana’s ultimate conquering of hate as she vanquishes Ares and all he represents) but this doesn’t change the fact that this is a hell of a good time and another win for the studio that has changed the face of comic book movies forever. Captain Marvel does a fantastic job setting up a hero who is clearly going to kick some serious ass in Avengers: Endgame and the near future of the MCU.