Captain Marvel (2019) opens on the Kree capital planet of Hala and threatens to break some new ground for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). While Guardians of The Galaxy (2014) is set in and much of Avengers: Infinity War (2018) takes place in space, there is still a lot of uncovered stories in alien territories for Marvel. In fact, some of the most promising moments of this movie are in this opening when Yon-Rogg’s (Jude Law) team of soldiers are telling jokes and taking on the evil shapeshifting Skrulls led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), all while the titular character Vers (Brie Larson) is struggling to piece together her memory from the few fragments she gets in visions and dreams. Her subsequent capture, escape, and plummet to Earth sends the movie in a different direction very similar to what we have seen before.
The literal new worlds in space are of course not the only new thing for the MCU in this film. The world has been crying out for more diverse lead characters in superhero movies and Brie Larson does a very good if unspectacular job of providing a female hero. The fact that this movie does feel like other superhero movies is a kick in the teeth to anyone that ignorantly suggested having a female lead would negatively impact the MCU. Larson’s interactions with Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) provide a lot of humour and create a buddy cop feel on their hunt for the infiltrating Skrulls. Discovery of old files at an air force base leads our protagonist to rediscovering her past identity as Carol Danvers and a lost friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch). Perhaps the strongest message in this movie is that of Carol’s discovery that she has always been a hero. A female pilot in an era where no female pilots were wanted, a great role model to her best friend’s daughter, and now a powerful saviour of a people.
The intense scenes between Carol and Maria are interrupted by Talos who reveals the truth behind the Kree-Skrull war. Mendelsohn is hilarious in his screen time and also delivers touching moments in his recount of his refugee race’s suffering at the hands of the Kree empire. A black box from a crash leads to the realisation that Danvers’ hero Dr Wendy Lawson (Annette Benning), who allowed Carol to fly in a bid to help harness a power source capable of helping the Skrulls, was murdered by Yon-Rogg in an exchange which gave our hero her powers. From here the plot follows a cookie cutter superhero movie model. Hero gets McGuffin (in this case the power source which is the Tesseract), villain captures hero, hero finds inner strength to take down villains and save the day. However, it should be noted that in saving the day we do get an impressive exhibition of Captain Marvel’s powers and how she can destroy anything in her wake with ease (watch out Thanos).
Ultimately Captain Marvel’s unstoppable power may be this movie’s biggest flaw. There is no threat of defeat at any stage which leaves the conflict feeling a bit stale, and something feels missing in terms of an unequivocal message that Carol Danvers can overcome any odds. Additionally, the cinematography is a far cry from some other MCU films in its simplicity, and the CGI in large part is painstakingly average. There isn’t much bad with this film, it’s a mid-tier Marvel movie, but it had potential to be more. Nevertheless, it is important to say that this movie does provide a fun and entertaining time for viewers, and is definitely worth watching for movie-goers who enjoy action intertwined with Samuel L. Jackson swooning over a cat. It’s also important to say that this movie wasn’t for me, and the fact that little girls (and boys) all over the world can now idolise a badass female superhero, who shoots photons from her hands, and doesn’t take disrespect from sexist pilots, bikers, or anyone for that matter is this film’s real triumph. Captain Marvel is a stepping stone, a necessary platform for Brie Larson’s character to shine in Avengers: Endgame and demonstrate her true ability as a hero, and a necessary platform for future female superhero movies to be truly something to marvel at.