While the Marvel movies introduce new characters with almost every installment, it’s been a while since they’ve done an origin story that’s as exciting, clever, and just plain well done as Captain Marvel. In fact, you’d have to go back eight years, to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, to find an introduction that’s this effortlessly exhilarating.
In Captain Marvel,
our hero is an alien warrior named Vers who has only a vague recollection of who she is and where she’s from (though we know her as Kong: Skull Island‘s Brie Larson). While on a rescue mission, things go wrong, which not only brings up some of her lost memories, but also lands on on Earth, where it’s 1995, and she and a young Nick Fury (fellow Kong star Samuel L. Jackson) have to rescue a scientist (Mars Attacks‘ Annette Bening) who may hold the secret to Vers’ past…assuming our hero can stop some shape shifting aliens from killing her.
Like the best Marvel movies — Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, etc. — Captain Marvel has a pitch perfect mix of compelling action, interesting characters, and witty banter. Directed and co-written by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who did the same for Mississippi Grind and It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, the movie starts off as a sci-fi space opera that’s like a more serious Guardians Of The Galaxy, but seamlessly transitions into something more akin to Spider-man: Homecoming once Vers lands on Earth.
Where Captain Marvel differs from Marvel’s previous origin stories is that it doesn’t take the familiar path of following a normal person as they get super powers and then have to come to grips with the implications. It’s not structed like Iron Man. Or Captain America: The First Avenger. Or Ant-Man. Or Doctor Strange. Well, sort of. Though this is the story of how she becomes Captain Marvel, she’s actually pretty powerful at the start, and this isn’t about her learning to be a superhero. It’s a subtle difference, sure, but enough of one that it makes this feel like a fresh approach to an origin story.
Captain Marvelalso smartly avoids the problems that have undermined some of the lesser Marvel movies, origin or otherwise. Its jokes aren’t as obvious as the ones in Ant-man, its use of music is far better than Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 2, and it even manages to use slo-mo well, something most action movies — Marvel or otherwise — fail it miserably.
It also has some genuinely surprising moments, not just for people watching the movie, but for fans of the comics as well. And good ones, too; not ones just tossed in to throw comic book readers for a loop.
Captain Marvel isn’t just a prequel to Avengers: Endgame, which it easily could’ve been. While it does connect to that movie, and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s not just one long set-up for why Captain Marvel will be in that movie, too.
Then there’s the cast of Captain Marvel, which is as solid as, well, the cast of every other Marvel movie. After being M.I.A. for the last couple flicks, it’s nice to see Samuel L. Jackson back as Nick Fury, and the same goes for Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson (well, assuming you stopped watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. around season three). As for the bad guy — er, bad alien — for that they have Ben Mendelsohn, who’s as swarmy here as he was in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Ready Player One, and thus must be a super nice guy in real life.
But the star of Captain Marvel, is, well, its star, Bree Larson, who is as likeable but commanding as Gal Gadot was in Wonder Woman and Justice League (though this is a much better movie). While I’m the first to admit I was hoping someone else would play this part — specifically, Battlestar Galactica‘s Katee Sackhoff — Larson more than won me over with how deftly she delivered her lines and punches.
As exhilarating as Captain Marvel may be, it does have a couple ropey bits. One bit with a cat is a bit too cartoony, while setting this one scene to No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” is a bit too on the nose. Also, while the de-aging process works well for Jackson, Gregg looks like he’s been photoshopped, and not by a professional.
But these minor mistakes…
do little to undermine Captain Marvel. It is, quite simply, one of the best Marvel movies, second only to Iron Man as the best origin story, and the best since Cap got his muscles. I just hope we don’t have to wait another eight years to meet a new Marvel character in such an interesting way.