15 June 2024

Film Review – Captain Marvel (2019)

Believe the hype, for the hype is true. With one small exception. It may have been trumpeted as Marvel’s first female-led superhero film, but others have come before Captain Marvel. Elektra was back in 2005, but who remembers? DC’s Supergirl and Catwoman have faded from memory, although the studio more than redeemed itself with the magnificent Wonder Woman (2017). Now she has the mightiest of competition in the shape of Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, whose arrival has been anticipated for several years. And she’s been more than worth the wait.

Harder, faster, stronger are words that trip off her tongue, both as her mere mortal alter-ego, Carol Danvers, and once she’s acquired her extraordinary superpowers. She’s all that and so is the film, packed with action, colour, eye-popping spectacle and a breath of freshness, courtesy of Marvel newbie writer/directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden. But this isn’t all about the visuals. Like Black Panther, it wears its political heart on its sleeve – launches in the US, UK, China and India on International Women’s Day speak for themselves – reflecting contemporary issues such as the refugee crisis, immigration in general and political corruption.

This is, of course, her origin story, starting with her time as a fighter pilot, alongside best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch following in fellow Brit Letitia Wright’s footsteps by making the leap from low budget movies to the dizzy heights of the MCU) who is a more grounded version of a superhero, a mum as well as a whizz in plane. Captain Marvel’s powers come from the Kree, a noble warrior race, who are permanently at war with the Skrulls and she’s soon caught in the middle – on Earth in the 1990s. It’s a setting that gives the film a deliciously nostalgic flavour, not just in terms of the visuals but also the soundtrack and nods in the direction of popular films of the decade.

Larson is a great piece of casting – not that we expected anything else – and she has a great on-screen rapport with Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury who has clearly discovered the fountain of youth. Even more remarkable is that, after a few minutes of watching, you forget he’s shed several decades since we last saw him. A word, too, for Ben Mendelsohn who, unsurprisingly, is cast as a villain but one whose heart isn’t completely black.

Being an origins story, facts that we’ve always taken for granted are explained with simplicity and a definite cinematic wink. Not that the film is perfect, because the storyline sags in the middle but at least that allows you to take a breath and prepare for the onslaught of the final section, which is truly spectacular. By the time the end credits arrive, we’re full of hope for the future in the hands of this superhero. And we need it because, as we all know, Avengers:Endgame is on its way next month, when we discover what happened after that Snap – and now we’ll find out what part Captain Marvel will play in that scenario. She has to be in it, right?

For now, though, we have a new hero, one who truly inspires but never loses her human touch and that, in itself, is one of her great strengths. She is – dare we say it – marvellous.

Freda Cooper | [rating=4]

Fantasy, Action, Adventure | Cert: 12A | UK, 8 March (2019) | Disney | Dir. Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden | Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Jude Law.

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