By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by Marvel Entertainment©
“Finally! Finally!” You could hear the Marvel fanbase exclaim as Kevin Feige announced the studio’s first female-led superhero movie, ‘Captain Marvel’. After 10 years of heroes like Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and the other Captain, Steve Rogers; it was a relief to see that Black Widow and Gamora would no longer be the kicking ass all on their own. Fast-forward to 2019, and finally audiences got to see whether Marvel had succeeded in matching their rival comic book studios, DC’s juggernaut, ‘Wonder Woman.’
The answer isn’t a straightforward ‘yes’, but neither is it ‘no’.
For a review, that may sound bizarre; it either is or isn’t. But nothing is ordinary about ‘Captain Marvel’, and in relation to soul-sister, ‘Wonder Woman’, they aren’t necessarily similar besides women take the spotlight. DC’s female led movie was the first to puncture the long-standing belief that a female-led movie wouldn’t break the box-office – it did. So whilst ‘Captain Marvel’ fails to have the global shifting impact its rival did, there is still a hell of a lot to celebrate here.
Starting on the alien planet of Hala, all the characters are new. Bold move for a flagship superhero in need of an origin story. And whilst some hardcore Avenger’s fans will be frustrated by this, it is surprisingly refreshing. We quickly find Vers (Brie Larson), a mysterious and powerful amnesiac in the midst of training to join the Kree. Unable to respect authority, she is a tempestuous and extremely driven individual.
For some, the numerous references to the ‘Kree’ or ‘Skrull’ will have you scratching you head, and sadly the movie does little to help with the confusion. If you haven’t read up on Marvel history then you’ll just have to grin and bear it. This movie stops for no one.
Vers is mentored by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), a charismatic leader who prepares her for their war against the camouflaging and shape-shifting Skull. One way or another, Vers finds herself ending up on Earth in 1995, as the Skrull, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) search for Dr Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening), whose all-important invention they need to secure. Vers quickly begins to recover old subdued memories, learning she was once the test pilot Carol Danvers and that Lawson was her boss. Connecting with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and old friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), they together they aim to save the day.
Phew! There’s a lot to take in, some would argue too much, and a few rest bites would have been beneficial. Through this full-throttle approach, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck feel as if they desperately have tried to ram as much content in as possible to emphasise Danvers’ kick-ass toughness. It sadly leaves her without many insecurities and much less human than other Marvel superheroes.
But whilst these errors may leave Danvers’ feeling stunted and a little dull; it is Brie Larson’s performance that more than makes up for it. Her gifted talent and comedic timings are expertly utilised; she becomes the saving grace of Captain Marvel. Specifically, her partnership with a young and brilliantly de-aged Samuel L. Jackson is the driving force of the movie. Both take the film into new realms and quickly distract you from the flawed character of Danvers.
The film unrolls to a killer and feet-tapping ‘90’s soundtrack’ from artist such as TLC, Elastica and Hole, adding a ‘Guardian’s of the Galacxy’ feel to proceedings. But it is Danvers’ relationship with Rambeau which begins to peel back the hard exterior of Captain Marvel and glimpse into the humanity of Carol Danvers.
As the film enters its epic finale, we finally are fully exposed to ‘Captain Marvel’s’ full potential. And similarly with DC’s Wonder Woman, it leaves you exicted for the future of the genre. There is nothing cheap or cliché here, no hollow feminist apotheosis. ‘Captain Marvel’ means something, both industrially and socially. It stands for more than just ‘girl-power’. It highlights that belief, one where anyone, boy or girl, can literally become god-like when we begin to accept who we are and cast aside the need for approval.
As the credits roll, and the future looks bright for Marvel’s first female-led superhero outing, we expect the chants of “finally”, to transition even louder to “encore”.