Action Adventure

Review: ‘Captain Marvel’ is a Triumph that Goes Far Beyond Being the MCU’s First Female Superhero Movie

March 8, 2019Sara Clements

Over the past 11 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has given audiences many strong female characters. Some have stood on their own on the small screen like Agent Carter, or have been perfectly content with having their name forever etched alongside their counterpart like The Wasp, but now the standalone female superhero movie we've been waiting for is finally here.

Sitting comfortably in a mold that Marvel Studios has built and has nestled itself in over the last decade, Captain Marvel is often formulaic, hitting many of the similar beats as the superhero films before it. The titular character, played by Brie Larson, is introduced as Vers, a noble Kree "warrior hero" from the planet Hala. She is strong and skilled, but plagued by flashes of memories that she doesn't understand and doesn't believe are her own because, well, she doesn't know who she is.

In the chaos of the Kree's war with the Skrulls (a race of extraterrestrial shapeshifters led by Ben Mendelsohn's Talos), Vers is separated from her fellow Kree and crash lands through the roof of a Blockbuster Video circa 1995. Followed by the Skrulls, who are attempting to find the mysterious Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening), Vers begins to question her loyalties as her past — and true identity as a human named Carol Danvers — becomes clear.

Larson excels at playing a character that has been told that suppressing her emotions will make her a better warrior, and her performance is anything but wooden. She displays Carol's strength, but also the internal struggle with her emotions that makes her human. Larson has the range to convey anger and confusion, but from her first moments on-screen, she shows a humorous side that she is told is deadly, but which reminds us of her humanity. Her journey of discovery is the core of a movie that is jam-packed with fight scene after fight scene, but one that also has an emotional arc for our hero.

As usual, however, there's humor, and lots of it. Granted, that's not hard to achieve, as Larson and Samuel L. Jackson (who reprises his role as a young Nick Fury) prove to have great chemistry together in their buddy cop dynamic. And honestly, the '90s is just a hilarious time to reflect on, especially where technology (such as dial-up modems) is concerned. Yet, the comedic moments sprinkled throughout are never forced and are never cringeworthy; they feel natural. And with Goose the cat in tow, the entertainment factor never falters.

As for the action, Larson fights alongside many men in the film, namely Jude Law as fellow Kree warrior Yon-Rogg. But unlike those movies where romance develops between the male and female leads, there's a different kind of love story explored — one between best friends. In this regard, Captain Marvel's biggest accomplishment isn't simply the fact that audiences are finally getting a film solely about a female superhero; rather, this is a story deeply rooted in female friendship.

From Natasha and Wanda, to Gamora and Mantis, to Nakia and Okoye, there are many famous Marvel twosomes who work and fight together, but whose relationships ultimately take a backseat to their duty. What’s different about Captain Marvel, though, is that Carol's relationship with her best friend Maria (Lashana Lynch) is the reason why she remembers who she is. And in those moments where Carol is the most conflicted about her identity, it's Maria and her daughter Monica (Akira Akbar) who remind her of who she truly is.

This reflection of the female experience, along with the themes of empowerment and the general nostalgia trip, help make the result more than just your ordinary superhero movie. It's easy to want something more from a genre whose stories are becoming more frequent, but Captain Marvel is the first of its kind for the MCU — the first female-driven entry in the series. It's a good send off to the old, and a bright start to what's next.

Captain Marvel releases March 7th, 2019 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 4 min.

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