CAPTAIN MARVEL review by Mark Walters – Brie Larson really does go “Higher, further, faster”

CAPTAIN MARVEL review by Mark Walters – Brie Larson really does go “Higher, further, faster”

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With the overwhelming success of DC’s WONDER WOMAN movie, it was only a matter of time before Marvel Studios got their own solo female superhero on the big screen in a big way, and that way is with Brie Larson playing the title role in CAPTAIN MARVEL. For those unfamiliar, or perhaps those wondering why they didn’t just opt for a Black Widow movie… well, that is supposedly coming, but Captain Marvel is mega-powerful, and after the events of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, the Marvel heroes are going to need someone strong enough to hold their own against Thanos. But what’s most interesting about this film is it’s a prequel, set years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe we’re all familiar with… in the 1990s to be exact. They’re setting up the character and her abilities, so that when she’s brought back in the next AVENGERS movie, we’ll all be familiar with what she can do.

This film has met with an unusual amount of animosity thanks to a few websites posting some comments Brie said, only those sites took her words out of context as if you watch the original full speech they’re quoting, you’d see what she was saying was much less offensive. Larson was asking for more diversity and opportunities for women within film journalism, and commented on how she’s noticed most of her press interviews are being done by white males… and she’s right. I’ve been in this business for over 25 years, and it IS predominantly white and male. I’ve even witnessed women and people of color be marginalized by the studios right in front of me, and spoken up against it. The point is, Larson isn’t saying anything that isn’t true or a problem, but somehow her words were twisted to make it sound like she was stating “White men should go away” which was not the case. Why am I mentioning this? Because I’m sure some of those folks who read those click bait websites and believe the worst will see my review, which is positive, and just say I’m a shill for Disney or something silly like that. In all my years of writing movie reviews, no studio has ever paid me or bribed me in any way to write a positive review. Yes, we as film critics get to see movies early, but that’s part of the job, and if I wrote a scathing review that aspect wouldn’t change. Look guys, it’s a movie, and regardless of whether or not you’re going to allow yourself to be offended by out of context comments from a speech (at a function supporting Women In Film by the way), how about going to see it and judging for yourself whether it’s good or not? You might be surprised.

CAPTAIN MARVEL opens by introducing us to “Vers” (Larson), a member of the Kree, an alien race of warrior heroes who are battling the Skrulls. The Skrulls aren’t as skilled as the Kree in fighting, but their advantage is they can replicate anyone they see, which can be very deceptive to their enemies. Vers is trained by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), a sort of mentor who wants her to use her fighting abilities to win instead of her powers, the latter giving her a definite advantage. Vers also communicates with the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening), a sort of super computer that taps into the Kree’s minds and helps them understand their purpose, taking the form of something or someone familiar to them. For Vers, it looks like someone she keeps seeing in her dreams, but she can’t remember who it is or why she knows them. After a battle with the Skrulls, Vers is captured and they start probing her mind looking for coordinates and the woman who Vers keeps seeing in her visions. This leads them to Earth where they all abandon ship, and Vers escapes only to crash land in a Blockbuster Video… oh yeah, the year is 1995.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show up, led by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and a new recruit Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Fury questions Vers, but a skrull interrupts them trying to kill her, leading to an exciting train chase. As Fury realizes his world has been invaded by alien forces, he eventually teams up with Vers and tries to find the answers of her past life, all while the Skrulls have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Kree are on their way to reclaim their kidnapped comrade.

In many ways CAPTAIN MARVEL feels like a 1990s action movie, or even a buddy cop comedy, more so than a standard superhero film, but wrapped up in a female empowerment theme. And no, before anyone suspects that’s what it means, this does not feel like a feminist agenda narrative or even a commentary on misogyny, what it is instead is a film that young girls will likely love and connect with showing a strong female lead who faces great adversity, but must find the strength within herself to overcome her fears. When Vers discovers her past life as “Carol Danvers” and what she left behind, she has to wrestle with her own identity and purpose in life, and it’s a concept we can all relate to just through the struggles of our own lives. Brie Larson plays the role well, balancing the moments of confidence and power with personal fear and regret. She’s a flawed hero in the best possible ways, but one that is not without redemption. Larson has proven she can play the tortured soul beautifully in films like ROOM and THE GLASS HOUSE, and a nurturing spirit in movies like SHORT TERM 12, but we don’t often get to see her in tough girl roles with a side of sarcastic humor. Some of the cocky jokes she fires off are a little shaky, but that’s probably more because of the character finding herself within the narrative, which is somewhat complex. Samuel L. Jackson is quite enjoyable here, playing a much more laid back Nick Fury than what we’ve seen before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The digital work used to make him look younger and thinner is quite impressive, there were several shots where I had to remind myself that is not what he looks like now, not at all, but it’s incredibly convincing. And the humor and chemistry between him and Larson is reminiscent of the exceptional work he did in THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT with Geena Davis, only more lighthearted and fun here.

The supporting cast is great too. It’s fun to see Clark Gregg back in the mix, even if this Coulson is considerably less experienced than the Coulson we all know and love. They also creatively brought back Lee Pace as Ronan The Accuser and Djimon Hounsou as Korath, both previously seen (and done away with) in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Jude Law is pretty good as the tough military-like Yon-Rogg, but I felt like there was more to that character than what ended up on screen. The lovely Gemma Chan plays a badass Kree sniper named Minn-Erva, who I also would have liked to see more scenes with. Some of the best characters here are Carol’s old friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and her adorable daughter Monica (Akira Akbar), who represent the Earth-side spirit of Carol and her past. We get some quick flashbacks showing Carol and Maria hanging together, but I would have loved to see even more of them as Lynch and Akbar are a fun pairing and play well with Larson. Ben Mendelsohn has a clearly enjoyable time chewing scenery as the head Skrull named Talos, and Annette Bening is inspired casting as Supreme Intelligence – she genuinely looks like she’s having fun in this role.

CAPTAIN MARVEL has plenty of action and special effects, to the point of where it would be hard to get bored and even disconnected while enjoying the ride. I particularly loved how even though Carol Danvers is an incredibly powerful being, she is frequently knocked down and thrown around to where her “getting back up” becomes something to cheer. There’s one moment in particular involving her finding the strength to fight back that is one of the best singular scenes of any Marvel movie we’ve seen to date, complimented nicely by a powerful score from Pinar Toprak (KRYPTON) who also provides us with an energetic theme throughout the film. The directing team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (HALF NELSON, IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY) keep things exciting, but more importantly they keep it fun. The opening 20 minutes or so are a little awkward, but once the film finds its rhythm and kicks into gear, the rest of it becomes an enjoyable ride. And the final act really comes together nicely, delivering good action and exciting moments that will have you smiling and clapping for sure. There’s also an interesting thing that happens in a subtle way where the movie starts to set up certain origins of things we know are to come within the timeline. A certain item appears late in the story that is very recognizable for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it never even occurred to me it might be in there until it’s revealed. And yes, there’s a cat… and yes, he’s great. You will love “Goose” even if you aren’t a cat person.

CAPTAIN MARVEL has been said to be the start of Marvel’s next cinematic phase, and if so it’s a solid entry, probably not at the top of the pile but very close to it. I feel like there was a bigger movie in here somewhere that may have been trimmed down for time, but the end result is still pleasing. And since some have made comparisons to WONDER WOMAN I’ll just say this, I would argue this is a better movie than WONDER WOMAN if only for the fact that the script offers something more than just a standard superhero story. That’s not to say I didn’t like Gal Gadot’s blockbuster hit, but it was at its core a pretty standard comic book film. CAPTAIN MARVEL tries to be something more and throw in a few surprises, and I respected them for that. And for those of you worried that she never smiles in the trailers (yes, people actually made a big issue of that), like that’s somehow a problem, she’s got plenty of smiles and even some infectious laughter for you in the actual film. I think this may be a case where the trailers really weren’t doing justice to the final product. I wasn’t super excited to see the movie before, but now I can’t wait to watch it again. Be sure to stick around for two credit scenes, and get ready to rock along with the great 90s soundtrack. And for those of you who miss the late great Stan Lee, bring your hanky for the opening tribute… it really got me.

CAPTAIN MARVEL opens March 8, 2019

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.