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Captain Marvel Review

Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Clark Gregg

The 21st film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel, is a product of many firsts and lasts. While many expected a Black Widow film, Captain Marvel has come as the first standalone female superhero film from Marvel. It’s also one of the first films from the franchise, along with Captain America, to have a storyline set in the past. On the other hand, Captain Marvel will also be the last film with a cameo of Stan Lee; it’s also the last before its biggest film, Avengers: Endgame, hits theatres this April. With a lot to live up to and a lot to deliver, considering Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is expected to be a gamechanger in Endgame, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have much on their plates to work with. That’s probably why they have rather taken a laidback approach in making this origins film.

Captain Marvel, unlike DC’s Wonder Woman, does not dwell on how a girl turns into a woman… and then, a legendary warrior. What we get instead is an interesting storyline of Danvers, an ex-Air Force fighter pilot, who becomes a member of a military unit named Starforce for the alien race, Kree. Stuck between her past and present, her old world and new, and her human nature and the superhuman powers she gets, it’s a film about self-realisation. The Academy Award-winning Brie Larson does full justice by providing much detail to a character that could have easily seemed cold. As said by Maria Rambeau, Danvers’ friend and a fellow Air Force pilot, she is “smart, funny and a pain in the rear”.

You could just say the same of this film too. It’s smart, given how it connects the dots that have been picking our brains for the last 20 films. From how Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) got one of his eyes damaged, to how he gets the pager which he uses 23 years later in the post-credit scene of Avengers: Infinity War, you get the answers. Considering Captain Marvel happens in 1995, the visuals also serve as a walk down memory lane. There are Radio Shacks that are still open, and Danvers, when she gets back to Earth, crash lands at a Blockbuster only to take a brief look of a film cover of The Right Stuff, a film on soldiers involved in aeronautical research. We even get glimpses of Street Fighter video games as well as a bad guy using a Nerf Gun in a fight.

Brie Larson’s character has to show both vulnerability and determination, and almost overshadows all the other characters including that of Fury and his trusty sidekick, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who, thanks to the timeline, is very much alive. The transformation of an optimistic low-level bureaucrat Nicholas Joseph Fury to the Nick Fury we know deserves a solo film on its own. And while on smartness, the smirk of approval when Danvers sees Stan Lee got me wondering if she, like what many geeks believe, is The Watcher, an extraterrestrial from the comics whose species appear to observe major events. This also explains his presence in all the Marvel films.

The film is funny — though not as rib-tickling as Thor: Ragnarok. Be it the innocent punches, such as the one when Fury calls Danvers’ choice of clothing as “dressed for laser tag” or the awkward one-liners by Skrulls clan, the jokes give us some much-needed breathing space even during intense situations. Look out for the scenes involving Goose, the cat, who can be compared with Groot for more than just the cuteness.

Unfortunately, though, the film’s also a pain because though the backstory has little significance to the bigger picture, a majority of the first half is spent on establishing Danvers’ character. We are as confused as she is until the plot unfolds. After being appreciated for having one of the best villains in recent times for Black Panther, followed by perhaps a better villain in Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, the villain here — Yon-Rogg, a unidimensional character played by Jude Law — brings little to the table. Captain Marvel also relies on old tropes and preaches on betrayal and friendship. The emotional sequences serve as a dampener too.

It is supposed to be the origins story of one of the strongest characters in the Marvel universe, but it barely scratches the surface of Carol Danvers as a character. That said, the future looks bright for the red, blue and gold draped superhero, and one of the two post-credit scenes gets that point across loud and clear. But it seems the studio’s resting a bit on the laurels on Infinity War. As Captain Marvel once says, “I have nothing to prove to you.”

My Rating: 3/5

This review was written for Cinema Express, the Entertainment division of The New Indian Express. The edited review can be read here.

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