Captain Marvel, written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, stars Brie Larson as Vers (pronounced Veers), someone with only the memories of the last six years, and apart from that, no memory of who she is or where she came from. The journey of this film is largely following the journey of Vers as she figures out who she is and what she stands for.
The film opens with Vers and her Kree unit going to another planet to rescue one of their spies. During the mission, something goes wrong, and Vers ends up landing on Earth, in a Blockbuster video store, a scene widely viewed in the trailer, and our indicator of when the film takes place, in the 90s. Throughout the film, the set designers and costumers clearly had fun sticking in 90s nostalgia to make the time period believable. The music choices are all well chosen too. There is a particular action scene towards the end of the film with a song choice that, while on the nose, is perfectly placed and makes the scene so much fun.
It’s in this crash landing in Blockbuster that Vers in introduced to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury (a de-aged Samuel L. Jackson), or, more accurately, that they are introduced to her. Throughout the film, Larson and Jackson have great chemistry and their banter is entertaining and believable without becoming annoying.
One stand out about Captain Marvel as a film is its place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s the first solo female superhero, and that puts a lot of pressure on a film. Pressure one could argue that no film could live up to. It’s also the last film before the end of the current Avengers arc with the original six Avengers. This also puts potential pressure on the film, as viewers are expecting some sort of set-up to Avengers: Endgame. (There is a post credit sequence that will do that, so make sure to stay if you’re looking for a set up to the final film.)
Instead, the writers did Captain Marvel as a kind of two-part origin story. We get the origin of Carol Danvers and her journey, but we also learn a lot about the history of the Avengers Initiative, and where it came from. There are a lot of Easter eggs in this regard for the observant fan.
However, keeping all of that in mind, Captain Marvel stands alone as its own film. If you were to watch it with no knowledge about the Avengers at all, you would get a film that makes sense and is fun.
The themes the film carries involving Carol Danvers and multiple other characters are worth thinking about, but are spoilers so I can’t discuss them here. There is an interesting theme of growth with Nick Fury that carries through from the other films, giving Nick Fury a bit of an origin story too, as we see his first encounter with aliens and get some background on why he reacted to the invasion of New York the way he did.
Another thing worth mentioning, particularly in light of the problems with Rotten Tomatoes, is that this film has a lot of female characters and the characters are complex people. It also has no love interest. The “love interest” for narrative purposes is Danvers best friend, Maria (Lashana Lynch). That relationship has a complexity and a growth, and that character is given room to exist as a multi-dimensional person while being female. It is far too often that female characters do not get to have complexity in not only the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in blockbuster (no pun intended) films in general. There is also a relationship with a young girl, Monica (Akira Akbar) that is something I can’t think of another time I’ve seen portrayed on film.
The girl looks up to Carol Danvers, but also has a relationship with her mother that lacks any drama. What makes it even more impressive is that there are characters of multiple races, and here I’m not even just referring to black and white, the races of the main actors, but to a more complex situation that is intended as a moral equivalent to make you think about refugees and immigration, though any more details would venture into spoiler territory.
The film is a must-see for MCU fans that are excited for Avengers: Endgame, bit it’s also a film that anyone could watch and enjoy, and should.