Review: Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel
7 10

PLOT: After being captured by a ruthless alien race, Carol Danvers finds that her forgotten past is catching up with her. She soon comes face to face with her new found memories and those that she left behind, all giving her the strength to fight an unexpected enemy.

REVIEW: Just over ten years ago, movie fans were introduced to Robert Downey Jr.’s take on IRON MAN. Since then, the MCU has introduced numerous characters and gathered them all together in one of the most successful film series ever imagined. And this year brings us CAPTAIN MARVEL. The story of an unassuming young pilot named Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) who has developed super human strength and a number of other goodies that make her one of the most powerful superheroes alive. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the new film takes a slightly different approach when it comes to its villains and heroes. In fact, while there are a number of exciting chase sequences, the focus here is on Carol and ultimately her relationship with those around her. This includes a military commander named Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), as well as her best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch).

When we first meet Carol, she is a part of a team looking to take down a group of shapeshifting aliens called the Skrulls. However, when she is captured by one of them - an alien leader named Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) - they attempt to gain information from her. While there, she begins to have a spark of memory of who she was before. And when she has the opportunity to escape, she finds herself on a journey to save the planet from a dangerous group of aliens, as well as a few of their accomplices. This includes a dazzling return to the 90’s, where Carol was just a pilot and not able to conjure incredible powers. During that time, she finds comfort in her own past relations. It also leads her to a couple of familiar - and younger looking - MCU favorites, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). And perhaps most importantly, she reunites with her old friend Maria Rambeau - another character comic book fans will be familiar with - who in turn helps her on her current mission.

Captain Marvel, Brie Larson, Jude Law, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Marvel, MCU, 2019

At this point in time, Marvel has developed a very clear pattern for introducing new characters. And while CAPTAIN MARVEL follows a slightly similar route, it also feels a bit like something else in popular culture. If you are a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you may find that the latest hero to command the screen shares a few traits with the valley girl that slays the undead. In fact, there is one scene in the new film that was a reminder of a seminal moment in the final season of the series. In one of the last and best episodes, we see a montage of a group of young girls suddenly finding their own inner strenght to become a vampire slayer, breaking the rule that there can only be one. It was a terrific moment that had a ton of inspirational "girl power" for long time fans of the show. The sequence here may just involve Carol, but it certainly feels very familiar to this fan. As well, you could certainly compare the on-screen freindship with Carol and Maria to Buffy and Willow - the Slayer's best pal also happened to be a powerful witch. Even Annette Bening shows up in a role that feels similar to a pivitol character that appeared in that same final season of the cult hit series - however, I'd rather not reveal which one because even this slight reference could give something away to fans in the know. While the similarities may not be intentional, for this viewer it felt like an interesting comparison.

As far as Brie Larson is concerned, the actress is a fine choice to bring Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel to life. When we first meet her, she is already a force to be reckoned with. She works alongside an alien race called the Krees'; whch includes Korath (Djimon Hounsou), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan), Bron-Char (Rune Temte) as well as Jude Law as the previously mentioned Yon-Rogg. However, even then, Larson brings the character to a grounded and confident level, one that nearly always feels quite human and honest. Unfortunately, she doesn’t always stand out when it came to some of the action sequences. Thankfully the stunt team and the visual effects artists around her make it work well enough. This is an action hero that is heavily aided by CGI, colorful special effects and the basic stunt work, so there's nothing radically new or exciting here. Thankfully, Ms. Larson handles the more dramatic journey quite well so ultimately it comes together.

Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden are interesting names to add to the list of directors involved in the MCU. The two come from unassuming and independent projects like HALF NELSON with Ryan Gosling, the baseball drama SUGAR, and the Zach Galifianakis charmer IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY. Thier focus on character and story creates an interesting - and yet not always successful - take on the popular superhero formula. While this approach works at times well enough, the first half of CAPTAIN MARVEL struggles to find the right tone, with the reveal of her past feeling a bit clunky. It was a different take on an origin story, as they explain her backstory like a mystery waiting to be revealed. However, it is a mystery that takes a bit too long to uncover even though it's clear where it will ultimately lead. In fact, considering the run time is just over two-hours - which is relatively short for a recent blockbuster -  the first act is occasionally dull and jumbled. Carol’s introduction attempts to add something unique to this particular tale, but all too often fails to really invest the viewer. However, starting in the second act, we get a better sense of the direction they are going. And thankfully, it begins to move the story forward in a more engaging way.

Captain Marvel, Brie Larson, Jude Law, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Marvel, MCU, 2019

When it comes to the supporting cast, there are a ton of good performances here. Clark Gregg has a bit of fun playing a young and slightly naive version of Coulson. Jude Law shares a terrific connection with Larson and Lashana Lynch gives the movie a ton of heart as Maria. It's interesting that the best scenes in the film revolve around the two old friends. And since much of this takes place a couple of decades ago, there are a number of cool sequences spread throughout, including a clever throwback to the 90’s in an old Blockbuster video store. And then there's the one on-screen relationship that rivals Maria and Carol… Let’s just say that every single moment that Samuel L. Jackson spends with Goose the Cat (surprisingly they changed his comic book name to “Chewie”) is quite appealing, and that feline pretty much steals every scene he’s in.

Ultimately, CAPTAIN MARVEL continues to open up the franchise with a few new characters to add to the universe. Brie Larson gives yet another solid performance as a hero unsure of her own strength. As well, the girl power element will likely appeal to a whole new group of fans, as WONDER WOMAN did for DC. And then there is the cat who I hope becomes a regular in the MCU. And while you can certainly appreciate the heart that Fleck and Boden give it, the film occasionally suffers from an uneven and challenging first act. While the action is certainly enticing, only a couple of the massive set pieces really stand out in my memory. The chase on the train was an enjoyable mix of big screen thrills and humor, and perhaps one of the best moments in the film.

It may not be the best in the series, especially with a clumsy and sometimes frustratingly dull first act, but this story certainly offers up a few worthy moments and a couple of cool characters to add to the mix. And for those longing for the 90’s, the music and the nostalgia for another period in time add yet another level to the film. The soundtrack is absolutely terrific. And for those wondering, the opening dedication to Stan Lee in the Marvel logo will bring tears to your eyes. CAPTAIN MARVEL may not be the most thrilling adventure in the MCU filmography, but it’s likely to please a ton of fans looking for a little bit of empowerment and inspiration.

Source: JoBlo.com



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