Captain Marvel (2019) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Marvel has done it again. Captain Marvel (2019) is another excellent entry in what has been a mostly unprecedented success for the MCU. Unlike the issues that I saw with the Black Panther (2018) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017) CG – something I contribute to the indie directors’ first attempt at a blockbuster – Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck managed to make this film which simply requires special effects to look fantastic while maintaining their indie storytelling roots. This film manages to tell a compelling origin story that has a wealth of positive messages which may be distilled from it.

Captain Marvel was a fun ’90s adventure with great performances

Carol “Vers” Danvers (Brie Larson) has no memory of her life before she awoke on the Kree planet, Hala. Six years later, she is still haunted by unclear visions of her past, but focuses her frustration as part of an elite warrior force alongside her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). While fighting Skrull, she finds herself at the mercy of one named Talos – but Danvers fights her way free, only to arrive on Earth. Here, she teams up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in an effort to make sense of her fragmented memory, and to stop the Skrull invasion.

I never thought that I would want a solo Nick Fury movie before seeing Captain Marvel, but now I really, really do! Samuel L. Jackson has been great throughout the MCU, but here, he gets to do so much more, all while having a little bit more personality in this film. He was absolutely great, and much of the film feels like a buddy cop movie in the best way. Fury isn’t the best aspect of this film, but he definitely was a great highlight.

Carol Danvers, a.k.a Captain Marvel, burst her way into the MCU in a powerful and memorable way. Larson’s performance is strong, and yet there is an air of lightness maintained that has been a trademark in the MCU which continues to work. The real highlight here comes from Boden and Fleck’s script. It’ll be hard not to compare Captain Marvel and Wonder Women (2017), as they stand as the only solo, female-led comic book movies. While Wonder Women does much to develop and showcase a strong female presence, it ultimately comes down to her relationship with Steve Trevor. Danvers story doesn’t need that, and it only helps to be all the more empowering (plus, the third act doesn’t falter, even if it may go a bit quicker than I would have liked). Then again, most of what we learn about Danvers is shared from other people telling us about her.  This is a result of her amnesia-like condition, where she doesn’t remember her past – so she, too, is learning it from third parties like we are…but that doesn’t excuse the choice to tell rather than show us her character. However, through the course of the film, I was so engrossed with the movie, that I didn’t realize this flaw until thinking about it later.

The MCU always manages to pack several surprises into their films, and this one isn’t lacking. I won’t spoil any of the secret ones here, but Ben Mendelsohn’s performance and role in this film are outstanding. He’s been excellent on the regular, but this is probably my favorite performance of his in the big blockbusters he’s been a part of. Annette Bening being in a Marvel film was a pleasant surprise as well, and it’s nice seeing more of Hollywood’s elite embracing the comic book films. It seems only people with a reason outside of this film can find something to truly hate about it. The story is solid, the cast is great, and the movie is just exciting.

Final thoughts…

Captain Marvel far exceeded my expectations. I probably would have had more faith in it had I realized Boden and Fleck were involved, as I loved both Mississippi Grind (2015) and Half Nelson (2006). I’ve also been a Brie Larson fan for a while, but the trailers didn’t instill a lot of faith that she could make this character compelling; nonetheless, she did. Captain Marvel is certainly among the great origin films within the MCU, and earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.

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