Awakening on an alien world, the Kree Warrior “Vers” is plagued with images from a past she cannot clearly remember. Having been rescued by the Kree several years before, restored to health with their blood and granted powers to aid them in the war against the shapeshifting Skrulls, she is eager to put these powers to work against the enemies of the great Kree Empire, but when a mission goes awry she crashes to a backwards planet designated C53, or “Earth” as the inhabitants call it and there she finds fragments from a life that may once have been hers.
Intercepted following her crash ‘Vers’ (Free Fire’s Brie Larson) meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (dazzling newcomer Samuel L Jackson); having no experience with extra-terrestrial threats Fury agrees to help Larson in tracking down the Skrulls which are allegedly infiltrating Earth, and so begins a mixture of “alien comes to Earth” and “buddy cop movie” adventures.
The twenty first film of the constantly evolving Marvel Cinematic Universe and their first origin story since 2016’s Doctor Strange, Black Panther having been introduced in the Civil War ensemble, the first part of Captain Marvel appears intentionally disorienting, with the audience only having fragments of the lead character and her world, mirroring the shattered memories of her identity and a missing test pilot called Carol Danvers.
While this backstory and world building is necessary setup it is not until the characters reach Earth that the movie really begins to come together and flow, but from that point forward it is all “Higher, Further, Faster, Baby!” In her first appearance, but with her second already signposted by the tag scene of Infinity War, Larson is eminently likeable, a pleasure to watch and with an easy confidence and humour that work very well.
Bouncing against the digitally rejuvenated Marvel veteran with binocular vision and a happier disposition than the grizzled spymaster with whom audiences are familiar, Jackson channels the more fun-loving Nick Fury wonderfully and the jovial chemistry and banter between them is a highlight of the film.
Rogue One’s Ben Mendelsohn leads the Skrulls as Talos; often typecast as the villain he has a richer character than in the recent Ready Player One and he surprises with unexpected humour in his interactions with the others. As Vers’ commanding officer, Gattaca’s Jude Law plays Yon-Rogg, condescending and patronising and a prime symbol of the patriarchy to push against, the film peppered with representations of misogyny for Vers to stand against, a reflection of the resistance the movie has had to contend with.
Also featured are Annette Bening as a vision from Vers past and a representation of the Kree Supreme Intelligence, but despite two roles she does not get quite the screen time she deserves, while Lashana Lynch does better as Maria Rambeau, the woman who used to be Vers’ best friend, a single mother and ex-pilot ready to stand by her friend, the scenes between them showing the strength of that friendship and their easy nature with each other despite years apart.
Set before the timeline established from Iron Man onwards, Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson makes a brief return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as does Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser who danced his last in Guardians of the Galaxy, but it is not just the human cast who make an impact as Captain Marvel introduces a Flerken known as Goose which looks like a cat but has some surprises in store; presumably named for Anthony Edwards’ Top Gun character, Goose is a fan favourite in the making.
Combined with a period appropriate soundtrack and Stan Lee cameo, Captain Marvel brings the audience back to a time when a pager was the height of communication technology, but there are more subtle references as well such as Talos sipping from an identical fast food drink cup to Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction, while Marvel have even created the official Captain Marvel website in glorious nineties style.
Featured prominently in the trailer, the scene of Carol Danvers repeatedly standing up to adversity is a superb representation of the heart of this film, a character growing into her own power and defying those who would keep her down, and despite taking so long for Marvel to have a female led superhero movie Captain Marvel may have been worth the wait.
Captain Marvel is currently on general release and also screening in IMAX