Captain Marvel, the 21st film in the MCU, rolls out this weekend with the comic book-based film series’ first female protagonist. Brie Larson is steady and assured as a character who keeps getting up. The story doesn’t always work, but it knows it and it doesn’t care.
I haven’t made it a secret that I don’t think highly of the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe,
“Then, Ben, why are you writing about it?”
Well, I’m writing about it because, despite myself, the MCU reminds me of my childhood days of dreaming of fantastical adventures fueled by the likes of Flash Gordon, Luke Skywalker, James T. Kirk and Indiana Jones. These stories are timeless, their themes boundless and their imaginations endless.
“But Ben, what about that Marvel movie that features a female protagonist?! The one we’ve all been jeering on ‘Film Twitter’ these past few weeks?”
Captain Marvel, which features Marvel’s first female protagonist, played by Brie Larson, breathes a fresh air in to the machismo that permeated the previous 20 films. It helps that the directing duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) were at the helm. They tempered our heroine’s growth so that it gave her character and her situation room to develop.
Based on Carol Danvers by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, the screenplay by Borden, Fleck, and Geneva Robertson-Dworet (2018’s Tomb Raider) shows Vers (Larson) with only a minuscule aspect of her powers. She is guided by her commander, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), telling her to control her emotions so that she can better control her powers.
While she is trying to understand the nightmare, Vers and her team are deployed on a mission, which goes awry and lands Vers on 1995 Earth (smack dab in the middle of a Blockbuster Video store). Once on Earth, Vers teams up with Nick Fury and Agent Coulson as an interspecies war is on the verge of breaking out.
As her character develops, as we learn more about Carol Danvers and the eponymous name by which we know her, Brie Larson plays the character with a steady and assured hand. There’s a little twinkle, a nod to those who have come before her early in the film that I appreciated and brought the themes of picking oneself up after a fall and getting right back on the horse, to light for me.
Similarly, when she shared the screen with a digitally de-aged Samuel Jackson, I found their interactions to be the highlight of the film. Ben Mendelsohn once again steals the show too. He brought levity to the story which was sorely needed, because, quite honestly, Captain Marvel takes itself far more seriously than it was capable of being.
Captain Marvel mirrors many of its modern day ilk, most egregiously, Wonder Woman. It also tries a little too hard to be like Black Panther in trying to build a world while at the same time introducing a character.
The editing of Captain Marvel proved to be problematic.. The way the story is structured lent itself to limiting the surprises and perhaps even ruining some of the reveals. Part of that might be the ‘Marvel formula,’ part of it was probably to make Carol Danvers look better throughout the remainder of the story.
Despite my quibbles, Captain Marvel is fun film. It has the potential to appeal to young kids in a way that I haven’t seen since Captain America: be bigger than yourself.