thu 18/07/2019

Captain Marvel review – Brie Larson is the Avenger we’ve always been waiting for | reviews, news & interviews

Captain Marvel review – Brie Larson is the Avenger we’ve always been waiting for

Captain Marvel review – Brie Larson is the Avenger we’ve always been waiting for

A superhero movie that’s galactic in scale yet refreshingly down to earth

Who needs a hammer, or a cape, or a mask? Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

There have been two relatively recent, welcome correctives in what is grandiosely referred to as the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” – a move towards diversity (Black Panther) and a sharp injection of comedy (Guardians of the GalaxyThor: Ragnarok). With Captain Marvel the studio combines the two elements, resulting in one of the more breezily enjoyable and emotionally satisfying of the franchise. 

And in Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, it has an actress and a heroine ready to take over from Robert Downey Jr/Tony Stark/Iron Man as the Avenger’s top dog. What a relief that would be. 

This is the first of the Marvel films led by a woman (it’s taken 21). And apparently there have been some male comic book fans chiding at the idea of a female being the most powerful superhero we’ve yet encountered. Of course, if they really don’t like it, they can use their comic collections to create little papier maché cells in which to hide themselves from the world for the next few weeks.  

At the very least, bringing women to the fore helps to dispel the worst aspect of the Marvel films – the tiresome, testosterone-fuelled, bickering egos that generally lead to the Avengers themselves being responsible for the calamities brought down upon the planet they’re supposedly protecting. It’s no coincidence that the best thing achieved by rival outfit DC was Wonder Woman, whose heroine is not only more powerful than the men around her, but decidedly lower maintenance; and it’s the women of Black Panther– whether warriors, spies or scientists – who are the real heroes of that hour.   

And so to Danvers, whose journey of self-discovery is the film’s principal theme. She’s first introduced in a galaxy far, far away as Vers, newest recruit to the Starforce, the elite military unit of the Kree civilisation that is the rapier in its war with the Skrulls. In training with her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law, pictured left with Larson), Vers is confident and impetuous, eager to prove herself in battle; yet she’s also troubled by strange dreams, in which she doesn’t recognise herself or the environment.

When a mission goes awry she’s captured by the Skrulls, escapes, and finds herself on Planet C53, otherwise known as Earth and looking very much like the place in her dreams. It’s the 1990s and her crash landing is into a Blockbuster store; dusting herself off, she picks up a copy of the classic movie about the Nasa space programme, The Right Stuff, and blasts a cardboard cut-out of Jamie Lee Curtis from True Lies. The cultural jokes will continue to come thick and fast, alongside comic riffs on the tech divide between this alien strutting around LA in a colourfully incongruous spacesuit and the planet she’s stumbled upon.  

By this point, Vers understands that she’s not who she thinks she is; as another character puts it, “she knows more than she knows”. By happy coincidence, a young Nick Fury (a digitally de-aged Samuel L Jackson, pictured right) of a nascent Shield is the first to try to arrest her, before demonstrating his nose for potential allies. With the Skrulls in pursuit, Vers and Fury join forces and look for answers. 

The out-of-the box hire of writing/directing team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half NelsonMississippi Grind) to helm Captain Marvel is akin to that of Taika Waititi for Thor: Ragnarok. These are all top-drawer indie filmmakers who can respect the blockbuster template without being beholden to it. Boden and Fleck have a great feel for character and dialogue, demonstrated in a film that – despite its inter-galactic reach – feels far more grounded than we’re used to.  

Of course, the casting of Larson also has something to do with that. The actress hasn’t made the greatest choices since her Oscar-winning breakout in Room, but her performances always have a commanding solidity alongside the film-star charisma. Here she’s enormously personable as the wryly amused, cockily confident soldier who takes everything in her stride, literally roars into the face of her enemies and expertly banters with old pro Jackson – who finally gets to remind us how funny he is after years portraying Fury as a pompous ass. When Fury boasts that “I’m a 100% red-blooded Earth Man” the actor could be back with Tarantino. 

Larson is very affecting as Vers meets former best friend and fellow test pilot Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch, pictured above with Larson ) and discovers both her true identity as Carol Danvers and that of the mystery woman (Annette Bening) who’s been nagging at her memory. And she’s pretty nifty in the fight scenes. But while Danvers never seizes to be amused by the power of her proton blasters, it’s impossible to miss the weight of Rambeau’s observation that “you were the most powerful person I knew way before you could shoot fire from your wrists,” or the revelation that the true extent of Danvers’ power has been held back by her male bosses.

On the downside, the film’s pacing could be a lot tighter and the action rarely gets out of second gear – when it does, it has the same numbing effect of the CGI overkill in most Marvel films. Captain Marvel works best on the ground, with script, dialogue, character, the smarter than usual origin story and a number of neat surprises, none better than that involving the shapeshifting Skrulls, gleefully led by Ben Mendelsohn. 

Bringing women to the fore helps to dispel the worst aspect of the Marvel films – the tiresome, testosterone-fuelled, bickering egos

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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