This review contains mild spoilers.
More than anything, Captain Marvel suffers from the constraints of existing in a cinematic universe. Maybe it’s the placement, a month and a half out from Avengers Endgame, that makes it seem like the most shoehorned Marvel movie. There are numerous good things about this film, but the parts that would make it great are lost in service of connecting the dots to the 19 films before it, and more specifically, to Endgame. But first, let’s talk about the good things.
Brie Larson is, of course, perfect. Whether it’s as the amnesiac Vers or the badass Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, Larson imbues humor, wit, and vulnerability into the role. Her chemistry with Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson, digitally aged down to fit the 90s setting) is on par with the best of buddy-cop comedies. Jackson gets to do more with Nick Fury here than he’s been able to do for a while as we get to see the birth of SHIELD we now know it as.
There’s a significant amount of time dedicated to an entire alien race, and for a cinematic universe that first introduced space seven years ago, it’s refreshing to learn more about the races of the MCU besides the humans or the Asgardians. The Skrulls are a shape-shifting species that start out as the enemy but turn out to be a misunderstood species who are just trying to find a home. Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos is one of the funniest characters in the MCU. Giving him a family turns him into something more than just comic relief.
The aesthetic of the 90s is also on point, with great music cues from Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” No Doubt’s “Just A Girl,” and TLC’s “Waterfall.” However, certain parts of the film feel underwhelming within the scope of the MCU.
The narrative structure is odd. While this take on an origin story feels refreshing in that Carol already has her powers, the amnesiac beginning feels like a tough place to start for a character we need to get to know quickly if she’s going to be the saving grace in Endgame. Not to mention, the more time Larson spends as Vers, the less time we get to know her as Carol Danvers, and the friendship she has with fellow Air Force pilot Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch). There’s a lovely story of lost friends and a lasting friendship somewhere in here, but very little time is spent really getting to know these characters before aliens come knocking on their door.
Because this film is set in the 90s, and since it’s the 20th film in the MCU, there are certain issues it runs into with MCU history. As far as the audience knows, the Kree has always been the villain, with Ronan the Destroyer (Lee Pace, reprising his role) headlining the villainy in Guardians of the Galaxy. Here, Larson’s character starts off as part of the Kree team, notably: Jude Law as Yon-Rogg, Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva, and Djimon Hounsou as Korath (also reprising his role from Guardians of the Galaxy). The issue is that we already know the Kree are the bad guys so when Talos reveals he’s actually the good guy, the moment gets lost under the weight of the history before it.
Despite all this, Captain Marvel is still a good time and a welcome addition to the MCU family. Thanos doesn’t know what’s coming.
Goose is definitely an honorary Avenger, though.
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