"I'm kind of done with you telling me what I can't do." Carol Danvers
Marvel Studio's first venture into a female fronted film was long overdue, but alas, we are here. Captain Marvel flies higher, further, and faster into the MCU, hinging on the formidable talent of star Brie Larson. It brings with it the hopes and dreams of female fans starving for more on screen heroes that look and talk like them. Does it succeed?
Definitely! DC's Wonder Woman proved to the masses that not only was a female fronted superhero film far overdue, but that it could work cinematically and financially as well. Captain Marvel simply reinforces it.
In this era of social media, wherein toxic masculinity and misogyny run rampant, the need for moviemakers to champion women both in front of and behind the camera is as important as ever. The trick is to create stories that empower and educate without coming off as agenda driven. Audiences want good stories and good characters, and most of them don't care who is sporting the spandex. The online trolls whose sole purpose is to shout down these efforts don't even count in this discussion. They aren't worthy of our energy.
Carol Danvers (Larson) has a complicated past. So complicated, even she isn't sure what to make of it. Her origin story is as unknown to her as it is to the audience, and her quest for self-realization is the driving theme of Captain Marvel. She has dreams and visions, snippets of moments that she struggles to piece together into any sort of coherency. She believes herself to be a part of the alien race known as Kree. The Kree are noble warrior heroes with a penchant for dislike towards their sworn enemies, the Skrulls.
As she tries to find her place in the world, she of course has a man, Kree commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), more than willing to tell her who she is and who she should be. Part of her training requires her to keep her emotions in check. Tell me ladies... have you heard that one before? But we realize pretty quickly that Danvers isn't going to play the damsel in distress role. She is confident, bordering on cocky. She may have questions about who she truly is, but she isn't going to let the traditional rules of society stop her from figuring it out.
When her quest takes her to Earth, known to her as planet C-53, we are dropped into the mid-90's, complete with Blockbuster video stores, grunge clothing, and No Doubt filling the airwaves. Her presence draws the attention of SHEILD, led by much younger versions of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) than we've seen before. Also hot on her tail are the Skrulls and their commander Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), desperate for her knowledge of an energy core developed by a Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening). Eventually, we end up down in Louisiana, at the home of Danver's best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), and it is here where much of the context surrounding Danver's past starts to come into focus.
If that seems like a lot of complicated exposition, it is. At times it moves quickly and challenges your brain to keep up. Director team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck reveal the pertinent parts of Danver's backstory in fits and starts, through flashbacks and dreams, and the stylized scenes don't always feel as coherent as they probably could. There were more than a few moments in the middle when I had to reconcile with myself on who exactly was looking for what. This might be one of those 'plays better on a second viewing' type of films.
Those issues aside, Captain Marvel is quite the enjoyable ride, thanks mostly to the job Larson does in bringing the character to life. She brings a confidence to the character, and a don't take no for an answer bravado. She is 100% badass. Jackson, for his part, stays mostly out of Larson's way. Much like Chris Pine in Wonder Woman, he solidly supports Danvers but never infringes upon her efforts. In other words, he never has to interject himself to save, or mansplain anything to her. This also enables Jackson to sit back and flex his comedic chops, as he fires off as many one-liners as he does bullets.
Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn are right at home in their quasi-villain roles, even though Mendelsohn's Talos gets the meatier story. Law's Yon-Rogg feels more of a means to an end; the requisite hardened male character arc needed to propel Danver's forward.
I wish Lashana Lynch had been given a bit more to do. She's great as Rambeau, but she serves mostly as a catalyst for Danver's rather sudden recollections of her past. She feels more like those familiar items you place in from of amnesiac patients in an effort to jar something loose from the subconscious.
And then there is Goose, the best use of a cat onscreen since Jones prowled the corridors of the Nostromo. And I'll leave it at that.
As we've come to expect after 21 films, Captain Marvel is another solid entry into the MCU. It feels slightly more grounded than others, in that we get to spend more time with the character in conversation and reflection. She is a character in search of an identity, and much of the journey to that discovery are the best parts of the film.
We must continue to push the narrative forward, that strong, powerful women need to be a part of these worlds. That they have value, and only serve to enhance our enjoyment of films, fronting characters to be judged by their abilities over their looks. Add Captain Marvel as a strong entry in that discussion.
Steve has been writing moderately well on the Internet for over ten years. As a middle aged fan-boy, he acknowledges that his relevance in today's culture is barely recognized, but he continues to pretend people like him. Maybe you will too. Aficionado of 80's culture and guacamole. Mildly amused by pandas.