Review: Captain Marvel
It took 20 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies and the commercial success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman for Marvel Studios to produce its first female-led superhero film, and the timing could not have been more opportune. With diversity at its core, a female superhero who packs much more than a punch, and a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as the much loved Nick Fury, Captain Marvel comes at a time when Marvel’s audience – especially young girls – has long waited for a female superhero they could root for.
The new Marvel Studios’ instalment takes the viewers back to the ’90s, introducing a new character to the MCU and setting a context for the franchise’s upcoming Avengers movie. Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel is first introduced as Vers, a Starforce agent of Kree – an alien race on the planet Hala, controlled by an omnipresent being known as the supreme intelligence. She is seen fighting a man, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), who tells her to control her emotions and restrain her power, that allows her to shoot blasts of energy through her fingertips. But Vers does not know where her powers come from, how she landed up on Hala, and what her life was like before she became a part of the Starforce. After a rescue mission to free a Kree agent from the captivity of Skrull – a shape-shifting alien race inhabiting the galaxy – goes awry, Vers ends up on Earth, or planet C-53 as it is referred to in the movie.
Fragments of her life flash before her eyes, a memory puzzle she must piece together to understand her true identity. Vers learns more about her life on Earth as Air Force pilot Carol Denvers, the name she eventually chooses to go by, and discovers the villainous nature of Kree Starforce and the truth behind the Kree-Skrull war. Determined to do right by Skrull folk who the Kree had banished from their rightful homes, she sets out on a mission to avenge their wrongs, forming an unlikely friendship with Homeland agent Nick Fury in the process. Larson’s on-screen dynamic with Samuel Jackson is faintly reminiscent of Loki and the grandmaster’s friendship in Thor: Ragnarok – minus the sexual undertones.
As an origin story, Captain Marvel is unlike what the MCU has given its audience before. None of the superheroes have had people tell them to hold their power back, to be less emotional during a fight or to restrain themselves, but it fits organically into Carol’s story. In that Captain Marvel’s message is clear; it is an ode to women’s strength, to their resilience, and their ability to rise as heroes in the face of adversity – in Carol’s case, a difficult father, unsupportive batch mates during Air Force training and Kree agent Rogg. It is also an ode to sisterhood. Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau plays her part of a supportive best friend to perfection, leaving no stone unturned in helping her best friend reclaim her identity and stand up for what is right. Even as the film’s narrative gets spotty, Larson’s acting chops as the all-powerful but still somehow human Carol Denvers, Fury’s hilarious dynamic with Goose the cat, and the display of female strength in the film make it an important watch in today’s time.
A montage during the climax of the film sees Carol Denvers through various stages in her life. The emotionally driven execution of the phoenix metaphor is sure to evoke a sense of empowerment in the film’s female audience. However Captain Marvel is far from perfect; it lacks the nuance of Black Panther and the humour of Thor: Ragnarok, but is sets the tone for superhero films of the future, featuring flawed, human women, who rise above people’s expectations to become heroes of their time.
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