‘Captain Marvel’ is the first female-led Marvel film: but is it any good?

A twist in the tale makes this origin story different enough to be compelling.

“Captain Marvel”

Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg & Jude Law

Marvel definitely has a formula when it comes to making its films, and this film is delightful, but it does little to break from this box. It plays it remarkably safe, while still presenting enough difference for it to be pleasantly diverting.

Captain Marvel starts in a generic sci-fi location, as we see our protagonist Vers (Brie Larson) and her team, headed by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), embroiled in a war against the Skrull as fighters of the Kree Empire. When Vers is captured by the Skrull, she ends up crash landing on Earth in the 1990s, in a location she doesn’t believe she has been in before. However, with flashes of memory assaulting her at every turn, with the help of a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the duo set about trying to protect themselves against the shapeshifting Skrull invaders, only to discover that the mystery was much larger than they originally thought.

The plot is certainly a lot less straight forward than some other Marvel origin movies, in which there is a simple two-dimensional enemy who the superhero butts heads with. At least Captain Marvel makes the question of who the villain is a little bit more complex, and adds a few more layers to the villain of the piece than we have seen before.

The film is definitely carried by Brie Larson as Carol Danvers. A superhero film is never going to be successful without a main character you can root for. The joy of the film is seeing Carol discover herself and her own limits to her ability, as well as acting out against those who seek to control her. She demonstrates her compassion, her humour, her heart and also her brute strength. During the course of the film, she learns how to make her own decisions and trust her own instincts instead of following orders, a fact that makes it more believable why she would have stayed away from Earth in the intervening years within the MCU, as well as her absence during the vast majority of Avengers: Endgame, despite her abilities in stopping the conflict almost at once. With near-unlimited power and with forces seeking to diminish her and control her for their own means, Carol represents the subjugation of many strong, female voices around the globe and the metaphor isn’t hard to spot.

Not only is the first female superhero allowed to be multi-layered and complex, the dynamic of the film is helped with her dynamic with Fury, akin to a buddy cop movie, the two butt heads at multiple points. This provides the film with much of its humour, as well as a standout performance from Goose, the cat. The heart of the film comes in the form of Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and her daughter Monica, who knew Carol from before her amnesia. Rediscovering and interacting with these two adds more depth to Carol’s character who previously in the film was sorely lacking in compassion and attachments.

It is not ground-breaking in its format: Captain Marvel has not reinvented the superhero genre, which perhaps is a lot of pressure to put on a film just because the lead character is a woman. However, the structuring of the plot and the twists and turns that take place along it are enough to make it interesting and Larson’s accomplished and nuanced portrayal of Carol Danvers, in addition to being highly empowering, is enough to hope that she sticks around in the MCU for the foreseeable future.

Captain Marvel is available on digital platforms today (01/07/19) and is released on Home Media 15.07.19.

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