There was so much riding on Captain Marvel—the movie and the character—that it is a relief to see that it all turned out pretty well in the end. In fact, just like the lead character, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), quips, she doesn't really have to prove anything to anyone. And keeping that in mind has worked well for the makers.
The 21st movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a treat like every other installment in the franchise that producer Kevin Feige has overseen. But it does play it safe in the sense that it does not bear a director's trademark style like the effect James Gunn had on Guardians of the Galaxy or Taika Waititi had on Thor: Ragnarok. It is an origin story that serves its purpose in the larger scheme of things.
Although it is a story that seeks to establish a character, at no point does it feel like the plot is taking the usual predictable route often adopted in such movies. Except the fact that there is something on Earth that two alien races are fighting to retrieve.
The story of Carol Danvers is told in an almost non-linear fashion, with the use of flashbacks. She suffers from amnesia from the get-go, and very little is revealed about her past. So, it does become a bit hard to piece the character together.
She is caught in a war between two warring alien races—the Kree (from Guardians of the Galaxy) that Danvers identifies herself with, and the Skrull. At the height of her powers, she must do the right thing to bring justice to those who were wronged. As the story progresses, the extent of her power makes it clear why Nick Fury sent that distress signal after Thanos snapped in Infinity War. If there is one person who can take the fight to Thanos, it has to be Danvers.
The movie is set in the 1990s and there are large doses of 90s nostalgia (using Nirvana's 'Come As You Are' is one such instance). The connector between Danvers and the Avengers is none other than a young witty Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D. For the first time, Marvel used CGI to make an actor look younger for a whole movie, and the fresh-faced Jackson with his wisecracks brings back memories of Pulp Fiction.
The movie explores several strong relationships that Danvers forges—thankfully none romantic. With her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) it takes many turns, while with Fury, it is a friendship that is mostly filled with banter and jibes. But nothing comes close to the bonhomie she shares with her former fellow Air Force pilot Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch).
It is this pair of headstrong, independent women that enforces the theme of women empowerment that the director duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck had been entrusted with. Thankfully, it doesn't feel like there is a “feminist agenda” forced on to the viewers as we are treated to vital glimpses of the two rebel women who fought discrimination all their life.
It is not like the MCU didn't already have strong female characters. Black Panther, for instance, was a pathbreaker for so many reasons and one of them was the role played by strong and super intelligent women that had an influence on the lead character. We had women-centered Marvel series like Agent Carter and Jessica Jones, but yes, a female-lead film was overdue. But timing is everything, and nobody has worked that out better than the bosses at Marvel Studios.
What better time to introduce the mighty Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel as the ultimate weapon against the merciless gauntlet-wielding Thanos? And what better time to unleash this most-awaited Avenger (she narrowly edges Spiderman in this regard) than on Women’s Day? An impeccable strategy that was bound to succeed.
For all the review bombing that Captain Marvel had to face after Larson said she didn't care what white men had to say about her films, her performance speaks for herself. She kicks some serious ass and does it effortlessly.
Sam Jackson, as always, gives us his best, complementing the newcomer to the Avengers family. We also finally find out how he lost his eye, and trust me, it was worth the wait. Full credit also to Ben Mendelsohn, who gives an emotionally charged performance as Talos, the Skrull leader.
The evil force that Danvers fights is rather sadly another dud, joining a long list of soft MCU baddies. Though Danvers fights a collective bunch of villains to right some wrongs, the lack of a single strong force that can match her powers means that it more about discovering herself than the fight between good and evil.
There are certain actions by characters along the way that don't justify the ends, but at the end of the day it is safe to say that Captain Marvel is more than just a prelude to Avengers: Endgame. It may not be mind-bending or enormous as next month's blockbuster is expected to be. But while Endgame is bound to disappoint many fan theorists and divide the fanbase, in the long haul, Captain Marvel will always be a decent film with a strong message.
Happy Carol Danvers Day!
Film: Captain Marvel
Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Lashana Lynch, Ben Mendelsohn and Jude Law