Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson are the real heroes of this middlin' superhero origin story.
Grade: C +
Directors: Anna Boden (Sugar), Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson)
Screenplay: Boden (Half Nelson), et al.
Cast: Brie Larson (Room), Gemma Chan (Mary Queen of Scotts)
Runtime: 2 hr 4 min
By: John DeSando
Oscar-winning Brie Larson as noble Kree commando Carol Danvers makes a difference. Her cool indifference to showing off or overacting makes her a welcome addition to the Marvel Comic Universe. The adventure itself is not as original as the character/actor because it slavishly follows the Marvel/Super Power formulas (especially kapow and more kapow). It has, however, the first MCU female super-hero lead and a female as co-director and writer.
It is not, lamentably, the cultural change agent that Black Panther has been. Captain Marvel is modest in ambition and scope. But fun anyway, especially in just another fight scene where No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” places it right in the ‘90’s and gives juice to the feminist theme.
Danvers initially fights for the empire against the reptilian Skrulls, who are shape shifters and terrorists to be stopped from taking over the universe. Carol is captured but escapes to earth, 1995, where she joins with S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, de-aged to digital perfection; Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson not so much) to search for her past (she has amnesia from some high-powered alien stuff I better not try to explain), the source of her powers and Skrulls.
Also dealing with Kree leader Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening) taxes Carol even more than Fury. In say a grunge chic, girl power ‘90’s way, Larson and Jackson would do fine with a buddy film where they can exchange barbs like screwball comedy leads or just action characters of the 1990’s.
Nothing really new here for a super-hero film: lots of fights, lightning-like weapons, wise cracks, and villains you can spot a galaxy away, even if they shape shift. It’s the wholesome dignity and ironic awareness of Carol that alters the formula to a more human and reasonably wicked evil without hammering away both for her feminism and genuine love of humanity.
Captain Marvel is an entertaining super-hero flick with cartoonish characters and absurd setups. However, that heroine is worth seeing so you can fit her more nicely into the next chapter of the Avengers and witness a new type of hero that takes a reasoned approach to absurdity. Feminist the film can’t avoid being; human it becomes under the power of charismatic actors.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com