- “Captain Marvel” is the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie from Disney.
- Though the movie has a couple of dull spots, for the most part it’s fun.
- A big standout is the unique way writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck give the backstory of the Carol Danvers character.
“Captain Marvel” (in theaters Friday) is a lot of things: a buddy movie, a ’90s nostalgic coming-of-age tale, a superhero origin story. This mix can be jarring at times, but the movie hits its stride when it sets its own path and tells a story that doesn’t follow the blueprint of most Marvel Cinematic Universe stories.
This makes sense because Carol Danvers (played by Oscar winner Brie Larson) is a different kind of superhero.
Unlike many origin stories, “Captain Marvel” starts off with its main character all grown up. “Vers” is an elite member of the Kree Starforce warriors, who are in constant war with the shape-shifting Skrull aliens.
Often she is haunted by dreams of a past back on Earth she has no real recollection of. While being trained by her commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) in harnessing the special powers she has, she must also visit the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening) to better understand who she is and what her purpose is.
Her first mission with Starforce doesn’t go well, as she’s captured by the Skrull. While she’s a prisoner, the Skrull probe her mind, specifically searching for something from her mysterious past on Earth where she was named Carol. This leads Vers to set off to Earth (where present day in the movie is 1995) to track down the Skrull who have gone there to retrieve whatever they found from her past.
And here’s the first thing that’s unique about this Marvel movie. Within all this exposition at the beginning of the movie, co-writers-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson”) are also giving the audience a backstory, as we see flashes of Carol’s youth – racing go-karts against boys and even training for the Air Force (in all these instances, men are putting her down for trying to do things only guys typically do).
This method of giving a backstory is fun to watch because Boden and Fleck could have easily mailed in this part of the movie. Instead, it’s clear they wanted to do something different.
On Earth, we get the buddy movie vibe going as Vers befriends S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) while we’re hit with a lot of ’90s nostalgia, from Vers crashing into a Blockbuster Video when coming to Earth, to the needle drops of hit songs from the era, including everything from TLC’s “Waterfalls” to Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.”
A lot of the middle of the movie is Larson and Jackson having a fun back-and-forth as Vers tries to figure out what the Skrulls want (leading her to remember when she was Carol) and Fury starts to realize this is the start of the wild superhero adventures in store for him.
It’s when Vers meets Maria (Lashana Lynch), Carol’s old Air Force friend, that the movie kicks into high gear. Vers’ understanding of who she really was on Earth gives her the awakening needed for her to use her powers better and stronger than she ever had before.
The movie is steeped in the MCU mythology, as Ronan the Accuser shows up as well as an Infinity Stone. And there are a few gags about Fury hurting an eye (in the future, a patch will become his trademark look).
But there are times when the movie hits bumps and doesn’t flow smoothly. A flashback scene that gives us better understanding of Carol is sometimes followed with a dialogue-heavy sequence that kills the momentum.
Larson in the lead is a powerhouse. Her acting is always at a high level, and she gives the character a fun playfulness. But she also does great in the action sequences.
This one isn’t a home run for the MCU, compared to the recent releases since “Black Panther,” but if you hold out long enough, you’ll see that “Captain Marvel” is a strong movie.