The wave of female representation in blockbusters is finally finding traction. After the success of Wonder Woman in 2017 for DC, the rival superhero studio Marvel has released their first stand-alone female superhero with Captain Marvel. Thankfully, the picture holds strong with the Marvel brand as well as with the reputation of prior female-led films performing well.
Captain Marvel is the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, it is the first film to not continue the storyline chronologically. Instead, the story takes place well before the events in 2008’s Iron Man in 1995. Vers (Brie Larson) is a talented warrior of the Kree, an alien race, who doesn’t remember anything prior to six years ago, when she suffered an accident. When fighting the rival Skrulls, she is separated from her team and crash-lands on earth. There she finds young S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who helps her on her mission against the Skrulls, and along the way to discovering her past.
Marvel has crafted a specific tone of light-heartedness and humor throughout its more than twenty inter-connected films. Captain Marvel certainly continues with that trend, with indie director-duo Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden providing an extra flair of originality to the mix. The story itself is as cookie-cutter as one could get, but the seams of the intrigue are held tightly by the sheer magnitude and will of the Marvel machine; giving yourself away to their world will always be easy escapism and fun.
Brie Larson brings appreciative charisma that pulls viewers into the film more than the bare bones of it would demand. Her dedication and clear seriousness with taking the role is felt, and the professionalism helps assimilate the character of Vers with other of the well-known super-heroes in her midst, in the span of a single movie. Her dynamic with Jackson’s Fury is strong and the majority of the film rides on the buddy-cop style road movie that structures the plot.
As for the groundbreaking aspects of the film, it is truly great to have more representation on the screen, but it only pains me that it had to be pushed so hard for. The success of Wonder Woman and Black Panther only a year ago, sparked truly inspiring images of children dressing up as these new icons and role-models for them. Captain Marvel seemed intent to ride this wave and inserts a young girl character (played by Akira Akbar) that is constantly looking up at Vers. The character would have been fine in a small dose, but her constant presence in the second half, where she shows up to worship Vers with cartoonish passion and fervor, seemed to be ramming its message to viewers instead of suggesting it. Her character seemed to be a device in how young girls and boys should act and worship Vers, instead of letting the character and her actions speak for themselves. Some of the scenes between the two end up sweet, but the rest felt like a cheap marketing ploy by Marvel.
In the end, not much else can be said about Captain Marvel. The action scenes are enjoyable, but as with everything these days, heavy with CGI and explosions. The plot borrows heavily from other films and is livened up thanks to Larson and Jackson’s chemistry. Marvel studios should truly be applauded; in an age of so many blockbusters, the ability to keep an ongoing franchise with a stable tone and quality is truly fascinating.