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Review: CAPTAIN MARVEL Movie Flies High for Everyone, Not Just Women

Captain Marvel (2019) - Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel (Brie Larson)
Captain Marvel is a thoughtful and powerful exploration of the glory, necessity, pain, and tragedy of war.

There been a lot of digital ink spilled over the online campaign from a handful of fans angry about the supposedly anti-male themes of Captain Marvel. Over the weekend there was an unsuccessful attempt to poison the well of Rotten Tomatoes audience reviews and bring down the box office numbers this weekend. It may have succeeded to a degree but not enough to keep it from breaking box office records at $455 million worldwide.

It's ironic because, to me, Captain Marvel is less about female empowerment and more about the effects of war. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to love in Captain Marvel for women and it breaks several male tropes. It's also the first Marvel movie starring a woman and co-directed by a woman. That's all awesome. But lost in the noise is the fact that, even if the movie starred a man, it would still be powerful.

The movie follows "Vers" (Brie Larson) as she trains to be a warrior for the intergalactic Kree Collective. She and the other members of Starforce are fighting a war against the shape-shifting Skrulls. She's lost her memories after a crash and is having strange dreams about her life on another planet. Vers aka Carol Danvers' mission takes her to Planet C-53 aka Earth where she tries to track down the Skrulls searching for a faster-than-light drive. Along the way, she runs into Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) who joins her hunt through the past to find the FTL drive. Along the way she discovers that her life isn't what she thought it was and not everything is as it seems. By the end, she realizes how powerful she really is.

I won't say more about the plot to avoid spoilers but suffice it to say that the twist in the middle of the film is the biggest I can think of in the MCU. I'll add a little "spoilery" paragraph at the end of the movie in case you've seen it. But any war has winners and losers and can be brutal on both. Military training is harsh and can bring out the best and worst in people.

Some of the social reviews have complained the movie is boring and that's mainly because there are only a handful of action scenes. Plus, the fight on the train was shared by Marvel in almost it's entirety before the movie opened. But there are still some good action scenes and the big space battle at the end is the real highlight. Captain Marvel also follows on the heels of Avengers: Infinity War which is wall-to-wall action. But after that movie and the lightness of Ant-Man and the Wasp, this movie fits in well.

Most of the movie is more exploratory and gives deep character studies of Danvers and Fury. That's where the move shines and the actors really sell it. Brie Larson is funny, cool, rebellious and brave. Complaints that she never "smiles enough" are over-blown hot air. Samuel L. Jackson is amazing and his performance makes you realize he's been waiting years for a chance to really explore Nick Fury and the wait is worth it. The two have amazing chemistry on and off the screen and it holds the movie together.

Jude Law's Yon-Rogg is a typical tough sergeant but has an unexpected level of depth that elevates the character and the actor. Ben Mendelsohn plays the Skrull leader Talos with humor and charm that shows he has a wider range than the cruel and calculating Director Krennic from Rogue One. Lashana Lynch plays Maria "Photon" Rambeau and the friendship between the two of them is so moving. It's one of those childhood bonds that you can feel. They don't have to spend the whole movie saying "we're best friends right?" You can feel it. Plus, she has the same fighting spirit.

A shoutout to Akira Akbar who plays Monica Rambeau, Maria's daughter and future superhero. She's a relatively new actress with a handful of roles in This Is Us (2016) and Criminal Minds (2005). But watch her because she's headed for big things. She calls Danvers "Auntie Carol" and you'd think the two were family. A great performance. By the way, Goose the cat is everything you've heard and more.

The music for Captain Marvel is mainly made up of nineties grunge but it would have been nice to throw in some early rap hits. Would it have killed them to drop Tag Team's "Whoop There It Is"?

Captain Marvel is a movie that takes some superhero tropes and throws others out the window. But it makes challenge what a hero is and what it takes to keep fighting when you're down. Captain Marvel isn't perfect and it's not the best MCU movie, but it is the one you'll be talking about for a long time.

Overall: Watch Captain Marvel (4 stars out of 5)

Spoiler Notes Begin
The twist that the Kree Empire is evil should have been obvious. Why else would they be working with  Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou) and Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace)? But it wasn't and it blew my mind. It also turned the story into a powerful study on war. How do good soldiers know they're on the right side? How do you define a hero? Plus, the sad plight of the Skrulls who seem so powerful shines a spotlight on the plight of refugees worldwide. They didn't want a fight. They just want a home.

The Supreme Intelligence (Annette Benning) took the form of her friend and mentor to manipulate her. I can't think of anything eviler. The explosion that gives Captain Marvel her powers is a nice nod to her comic book origin where she got her powers from an exploding Kree device. BTW it's from the FTL drive and nothing else. Some people have confused the two. The Tesseract appearance is a surprise but makes sense.

My favorite moment is when Yon-Rogg challenges her to fight her without powers and she blows him across the desert saying "I don't have to prove anything to you".

Nitpicks
  • Captain Marvel's hair burns off in her helmet setting up the short hair from the comics but then miraculously grows back.
Spoiler Notes End

About Captain Marvel (2019)

Official synopsis: "Set in the 1990s, Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel” is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that follows the journey of Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes. While a galactic war between two alien races reaches Earth, Danvers finds herself and a small cadre of allies at the center of the Maelstrom"
Directed by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Cinematography by Ben Davis
Production Design by Andy Nicholson
"Captain Marvel" stars Brie Larson, Gemma Chan, Ben Mendelsohn, Samuel L. Jackson, Lee Pace, Jude Law, Mckenna Grace, Annette Bening, Djimon Hounsou, Clark Gregg, Colin Ford, Rune Temte, Chuku Modu, Robert Kazinsky, Lashana Lynch,
"Captain Marvel" was released on March 08, 2019 (United States)
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