Review: Captain Marvel (2019)

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Jack always thought his Ma was marvelous… : Marvel/Disney

It only took Marvel 21 movies. Now she’s finally taken flight, CAPTAIN MARVEL like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY before it could be the first stage of a colourful cosmic journey for the superhero superfactory.

An encounter with shapeshifting Skrull foes gives Kree commando Vers (Brie Larson) flashbacks to another life on a more primitive world. Her search for answers leads her to Earth where she teams up with SHIELD agent Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) to defend the planet from an invasion on multiple fronts.

There’s an appealing dynamic between Carol and Fury from their first meeting in a Blockbuster carpark. Neither like sticking to procedure if there’s a more efficient way of getting things done. They look at each other’s respective worlds with wry amusement but see eye-to-eye on a great many things. The effects job on getting Jackson back to looking in his 40s is pretty seamless, though I suppose your subject being extremely well-preserved to start with must help. It’s great to see Larson have a bit of fun again after years of intense work and she’s great with Jackson; I really hope there’s a way to have him stay part of her extended family once the whole Finger Snap thing has been dealt with.

It’s so refreshing to have the superhero’s main civilian relationship be one of close platonic friendship, and Carol and Maria (Lashana Lynch) have such warm chemistry you regret that the film’s slow reveal story structure puts many of their key bonding moments on the back foot. I get that the amnesia plot device gives Carol a journey, but there’s no reason why we as an audience couldn’t be shown more than the briefest of flashes of their previous life together.

Who’d have thought they’d finally let Ben Mendelsohn use his native accent here, under the heaviest prosthetics of his career? His take on Skrull leader Talos is unexpected to say the least, but he has a lot of fun taking his usual antagonist performance in a different direction. Great efforts are made to make the Skrulls different to the run-of-the-mill invading green aliens, and while I’m not sure this take will satisfy all fans I found that great morphing effects, seamless makeup and the unexpected depth given to Marvel’s most famous extraterrestrials really made them memorable.

The 1990s trappings that have been made so much of in the marketing are just window dressing and don’t amount to all that much aside from a pleasing soundtrack and a well-timed gag about crappy computers. What’s not disposable is the presence of Goose the cat, who is key (but I’m not telling you why).

While the film has all the usual Marvel gloss and visual splendour, I was looking for a few more individual images that lingered. The fights are solidly put together but not the most creative in the universe, we’re not given the time to explore and soak up an entirely new culture like in BLACK PANTHER, the weird stuff is first-base compared to the sights of DOCTOR STRANGE and even the indelible sight of Captain Marvel fully powered up and ready to blast henchmen and spaceships alike doesn’t deliver the tingle that WONDER WOMAN striding across No-Man’s Land did.

With the Guardians in movie limbo post-ENDGAME, Captain Marvel seems like the next most likely candidate to carry the more out-there cosmic/space opera side of the Marvel universe forward. There are visual and character references to what James Gunn established in his films, no surprise given the involvement of Nicole Perlman again, but they seem to be saving the great leaps forward for the sequel.

Captain Marvel is a solid foundation for a franchise and it has literally any direction in the universe to jet off in. Like all of Marvel’s origin movies it does its job well, and it tells a story long, long overdue, but it leaves you more excited about films to come than an imminent revisit to this one. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

I'm not paid to write about film - I do it because I love it. Favourites include Bong Joon-ho, Danny Boyle, the Coen Brothers, Nicolas Winding Refn, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Taika Waititi and Edgar Wright. All reviews and articles are original works owned by me. They represent one man's opinion, and I'm more than happy to engage in civilised debate if you disagree.
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