Captain Marvel: Review

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I had my worries about Captain Marvel – the trailers left me cold and even the first few minutes of the film feel lifted directly from the sci-fi playbook. However, from the moment Carol Danvers comes crashing down to Earth, Captain Marvel is an absolute delight.

The obvious standout is the “buddy cop” dynamic between Danvers and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

Jackson delivers his most energetic iteration of the role yet, and the chemistry between the two drives the plot forward at a brisk pace. With the gargantuans of Infinity War and Endgame looming on either side, it’s refreshing to see Marvel go back to basics. The familiar logo music, the home-grown hero vibes and the delight of seeing the instantly likeable Danvers discover her powers all make for a thoroughly uplifting experience.

The relationship between Danvers and best friend Maria Rambeau provides the emotional core of the film, taking the spot that usually would have been occupied by a lazily constructed love interest. There’s still room for Danvers to have a romance arc in the inevitable sequel, but as an audience we’d seen it all before. There was always a danger that Captain Marvel would re-tread the familiar tracks of the superhero origin story, and one of the ways this is deftly avoided is owed to the Rambeau’s presence. Convincingly played by Lashana Lynch, she provides some necessary emotional substance in a film rooted in the fantastical.

So, too, does her daughter Monica (Akira Akbar) – in contrast with her mother’s heavyweight monologues, Monica is seen to be in awe of Danvers much in the same way that a new generation of kids undoubtedly will be too. It’s a total pleasure seeing “normal” people reacting to the alien world that Captain Marvel introduces, and the bright-eyed charm delivered by Monica is the perfect vessel for it.

If Nick Fury drives the plot and the Rambeau family provide emotional substance, then Goose the cat deserves a mention for just being the absolute best. The less said the better, but take it from me – this cat is worth seeing the entire damn film for.

In the face of some controversy, rest assured that the writers play to gender in the exact right ways.

Always on-the-nose but never patronising, the script approaches these issues with subtlety but also the necessary gumption to tackle some powerful subjects. Carol Danvers fits the “badass female role-model” mold whilst still managing to be goofy, flawed, and at times emotional. To make the inevitable comparison with a certain 2017 girl-power superhero origin movie, Danvers manages to own her humour rather than be the subject of the jibes of others. While we should be striving for a world where we have many such films to celebrate, it’s difficult to look back at some recent efforts when Captain Marvel sets the gold standard. However, we should be wary about Marvel’s approach: while they seem to care about social issues, they’re really just enjoying free marketing off the back of the controversy. We should remember that Marvel has a monopoly on the film industry currently, and hold their films to the same standard we hold independent films to.

Whilst the film’s many successes are definitely owed to the cast of characters, the dazzling visuals deserve a mention too. The MCU has had mixed results when it comes to direction and photography, notably in the already-dated approach to action taken in some of the earlier origin stories. Captain Marvel shines in delivering a much more mature offering, including in the more serious moments of the second act. When the film kicks into gear with some action sequences, it treads familiar ground well, with pleasingly dynamic and flowing combat.

For every hit, however, there are several misses.

The film’s first half an hour feels deeply generic and pretty slow. The pacing largely improves moving forward, but if the film didn’t already run to a lean 125 minutes, there are a few scenes that I wouldn’t have minded seeing cut. The fight sequences in particular spring to mind. Contrastingly from last year’s Infinity War, it’s pretty predictable who’s going to make it out alive – and even then, Captain Marvel doesn’t go far to increase the stakes. It’s a real shame that the fight scenes were lacking in this respect, given that the action itself is superbly delivered, and accompanied by a pithy 90s soundtrack. However, thankfully the acerbic dynamic between Danvers and mentor Yon-Rogg saves the final battle from falling into total cliché.

It’s difficult to be impartial here – I watched the film with my 11-year-old sister, and seeing the total joy in her face made me realise that this film is hitting the right notes where it ought to. Movies shouldn’t be divorced from their context – Captain Marvel is a brilliantly empowering experience for young girls, and some of the bizarre nonsense online would have you believe it’s bad as a result. Rest assured – Captain Marvel’s successes are entirely down to a sensitively written cast of characters, with the dynamic Danvers at the centre. I’ve seen it three times. It’s a total joy.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons

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