Captain Marvel (2019)
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Written by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson Dworet
Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Scarlett Johansson
Release Date March 8th, 2019
Published November 9th, 2023
When Captain Marvel was released in 2019 it managed to beat the hype of being just the latest entry in the smoking hot Marvel Cinematic Universe. Brie Larson came into full movie star form playing Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. Larson’s chemistry with the cast was off the charts, the direction was kinetic and exciting and as a puzzle piece in the long term planning in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was an incredibly satisfying fit. On top of all of that, it was just a great action movie.
Now, with The Marvels debuting and Captain Marvel back on the big screen as part of her own superhero team, it's the perfect time to reflect back on Carol's unique introduction to the MCU. With the Marvel Universe in flux, a lot bad press surrounding the most recent movies in that cinematic universe, it's nice to be reminded just how good Carol's introduction to the MCU really was.
Brie Larson stars as Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, aka Vers to her fellow Kree Warriors. When we meet Carol she has been training as a Kree Warrior with a mysterious and forgotten past for several years. Flashes of memory keep popping up in her dreams but the pieces don’t fit. With the aid of her mentor and commander, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Vers attempts to keep her memories at bay while focusing on her training and managing her remarkable abilities.
After meeting for the first time with the Kree ‘Great Intelligence,’ Vers gets her very first mission. Under the command of Yon-Rogg, Vers will go to an alien planet and rescue a Kree spy in the midst of a Skrull controlled planet. The Skrulls are a race of dangerous aliens, the greatest foes of the Kree, who have the disturbing ability to morph their features into those of anyone they see down to a DNA level of mimicry.
In her first mission, Vers is captured and her memories are accessed and she is forced to confront her past. When she eventually makes her escape, her only way out is a Skrull escape pod programmed to go to Earth. Here, Carol will be forced to confront her true identity as she battles the Skrull leader Thalos to keep him from retrieving technology created by a figure from Carol’s past, Dr Lawson (Annette Bening), tech that could change the course of the war between Kree and Skrull forever.
Along for the ride, and discovering aliens for the first time in his career is Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson). Captain Marvel may be the origin story for Carol Danvers but it also provides a little more of the origin story for the future leader of Shield and the man behind the Avengers’ initiative. Captain Marvel is set in 1996 and the picture we get of a young-ish Nick Fury is pretty great. Baby-faced rookie Agent Phil Coulson is another standout treat.
The chemistry between Brie Larson as Carol and Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury is off the charts fantastic. These two actors have a comfort, familiarity and ease that would be more expected of actors who had worked together for years rather than having never met before. Larson and Jackson have a comic connection that never fails to charm and when it comes time to fight that same natural chemistry increases the fun and excitement in that arena as well.
Captain Marvel was the first major big screen release for the indie darling director duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and they proved themselves more than ready for the spotlight. The action is exceptionally captured and exciting, the special effects are flawless, the script is tight and focused and the character work is some of the best in the MCU. Much of this can be traced to the steady creative hands of Boden and Fleck.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, Brie Larson is in full on movie star mode in Captain Marvel. Larson’s acting chops have never been in question, especially after her exceptional dramatic work in Short Term 12 and Room but Captain Marvel was the first time Larson truly looked and acted the part of a movie star and she absolutely nailed it. Larson’s Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers is a role model more than on par with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and equal to Gadot’s star-power in every way.
The supporting cast matches Larson beat for beat with performances that underline her exceptional work. I already praised the work of Samuel L Jackson and Clark Gregg but there is room still to offer them even more praise for their wonderfully lived in performances. Also exceptional in Captain Marvel is Ben Mendelsohn as the nuanced villainous Thalos, Jude Law as the leader of the Kree warriors and the brilliant Lashana Lynch who plays a pivotal role in the past of Carol Danvers.
The major set pieces are a feast for the eyes, the action pumps up your adrenalin and the cherry on top is the humor. Captain Marvel is legit funny without forcing it. The relationship between Captain Marvel and Nick Fury is pure charm and Samuel L Jackson’s relaxed, confident portrayal of 90’s Nick Fury is an unexpected comic delight. Fury isn’t the butt of any jokes but Jackson plays the scenes smartly and lets the humor of the moment arrive organically and earns laughs with his pitch perfect timing and flawless facial reactions.
I completely adore Captain Marvel. Even four years later, Captain Marvel remains a treat. The film is so much fun and, considering how un-fun much of the modern MCU has been, I loved being reminded of when Marvel remembered that you can be silly and still make a kick-butt action movie. Captain Marvel captured the potential of MCU to craft episodic movie adventures. Sadly, that potential has not been realized in the four years since Captain Marvel. Here's hoping that The Marvels will bring back that sense of adventure, fun, silliness and terrific action.
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