The first of this year’s many Marvel Cinematic Universe events kicked off this weekend as “Captain Marvel” hit theaters. As the 21st entry into the MCU, we’ve finally been blessed with Marvel’s first female-led superhero film, and it doesn’t disappoint.
In a year with “Avengers: Endgame” and the end of Phase 3 looming in late-April, and the return of Spider-Man and the first look at the post-Thanos universe set for July with “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” it’d be easy to overlook “Captain Marvel” in the anticipation.
Not on Brie Larson’s watch.
Instead, she demands your attention, and respect, as the franchise’s most powerful hero yet, and the key to righting the wrongs committed by Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
In “Captain Marvel,” we’re given the series’ first true origin story since 2016’s “Doctor Strange.” While films like “Black Panther” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” have arrived in that gap, we’d already gotten a taste of each hero in “Captain America: Civil War.” As superhero mega-teams and crossover films continue to dominate, it was a nice change of pace to get back to the franchise’s roots.
After crash landing on Earth, Vers (Larson), an elite soldier from the Kree alien race, tries to locate an all-powerful weapon before the Skrulls, an enemy shape-shifting alien race, get their hands on it. Along the way, Vers teams up with new S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), giving them their first extraterrestrial encounters. As Vers searches for the weapon, familiar sights prompt nightmare-like visions, convincing her that this isn’t her first visit to Earth. With the help of Fury, Vers discovers her true identity – Carol Danvers, a former Air Force pilot, and most importantly, a human.
After spending the entire first act of the film being chased by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), the seemingly evil Skrull leader, Carol finally learns that the Skrulls aren’t the enemy, but instead, it’s the Kree that are evil. Carol wasn’t born a Kree, but received her powers from a Tesseract-powered blast, and was then abducted by the Kree and trained as a weapon. With this new knowledge, Carol, Fury and Talos team up to take down Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and the rest of the Kree.
The film’s first act drags a bit, as most origin stories tend to, due to the necessary exposition, world-building and character development, but its final two-thirds are electric.
Thanks to tremendous performances by Larson, Jackson and Mendelsohn, the film’s ensemble is one of the best in the MCU. Larson’s charm is undeniable, and she perfectly balances it with equal amounts of swagger and badass. Jackson delivers a charismatic performance as Fury, giving us a completely new look at an inexperienced and not yet cynical version of the grizzled veteran we’re used to.
But Mendelsohn leads the way, as the villainous turned hilarious leader of the Skrulls. In a truly brilliant twist, Mendelsohn’s Talos is revealed to be a caring family man bent on finding a safe home for his people. Reminiscent of the Mandarin/Trevor twist in “Iron Man 3,” Mendelsohn, and Marvel, succeed where that one failed. Instead of strictly serving as comedic effect, Talos is given a motive and purpose for his actions, which makes the twist that much more enjoyable.
While “Captain Marvel,” is for the most part a standalone film, set years before any modern-day Avenger adventures, it wouldn’t be the MCU without plenty of easter eggs. With tie ins to the Tesseract, Nick Fury’s signature eye patch and the famous pager seen in the closing seconds of “Infinity War,” “Captain Marvel” does an excellent job filling in the gaps.
With “Endgame” just 49 days away, anticipation for the next installment in the MCU has never been greater, and “Captain Marvel” only stoked the flames, particularly with its mid-credits scene.
“Captain Marvel” ushers in the era of one of the most powerful superheroes to ever exist, and it’s no mistake that it arrived on International Women’s Day. After 20 male-driven entries in the MCU, it was far past time for Captain Marvel – but thank goodness she’s here now, because after seeing her in action, I know one thing for sure: Thanos is screwed.
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.