“CAPTAIN MARVEL” A FEMALE-DRIVEN SUPERHERO ACTION ADVENTURE
A Film Review by Tim Riley
“CAPTAIN MARVEL” Rated PG-13 The abundance of superheroes generated from the source materials of Marvel Comics and DC Comics is a driving force for a seemingly endless stream of cinematic versions bombarding the theatrical market. The Marvel Comic Universe has become an enormous media franchise based on comic book characters from Marvel Comics. On television, the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” series runs on ABC. Netflix streams “Marvel’s Runaways,” “Marvel’s Iron Fist,” among many other titles.
The list of Marvel films, including “Avengers” and “Captain America,” is way too long to enumerate. Suffice it to say, there is no shortage of material for now or the foreseeable future. Now along comes “Captain Marvel” with the added twist that the titular character is female, and Brie Larson (Oscar winner for Best Actress in “Room”) wears the iconic jumpsuit’s whole chest piece with the starburst and the red and blue colors.
Without any real depth of knowledge of the Marvel Comic Universe, this reviewer accepts as an article of faith that “Captain Marvel” represents the first stand-alone, female-franchise title character, namely in the person of Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. With that said, Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is first introduced as Vers, a warrior and member of Starforce on the planet Hala in the Kree Empire, serving under the command of her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law).
Urged by the ruler of the Kree, Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening), as well as by Yon-Rogg, to keep her emotions under control, Vers has fragmented flashback memories that suggest a human connection to planet Earth. In outer space, the enemies of the Kree are the Skrulls, shape-shifting aliens with an uncanny knack to confound rivals. The Kree Empire’s full-blown battle against their lizard-skinned adversaries affords Vers the opportunity to use her awesome superpowers. The Skrulls, under the command of their fearsome leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), abduct Vers, but she manages to escape from the Skrull spaceship in a pod, crash landing on Earth in 1995.
Her presence in Los Angeles comes to the attention of agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, digitally made younger) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who are in the midst of an alien investigation. Fury doesn’t believe in aliens but he’s intrigued with trying to catch Vers riding the light rail system in pursuit of Talos who takes the identity of an old woman passenger that doesn’t fool the superhero.
By now, fans of Marvel are familiar with the late Stan Lee’s penchant for a cameo appearance similar to what Alfred Hitchcock was known to do, namely to elicit a knowing recognition of the master’s presence. In this case, the posthumous tribute to Stan Lee carries an insider wink. As a passenger on the train, Lee is reading a script for “Mallrats,” a film from the ‘90s in which he performed a similar cameo task.
The fun part of Vers coming to our planet is that her pod crash lands through the roof of a Blockbuster Video store, where she peruses a VHF cassette of “The Right Stuff” before using an outdoor pay phone to call home. Other amusing nostalgic relics that figure into the story include modifying the use of a pager and the slow pace of a dial-up computer at an Internet café.
While navigating the urban jungle of Los Angeles, Vers comes to realize that her true identity is that of Carol Danvers, a former U.S. Air Force test pilot presumed to have died in a crash six years earlier. With the mortal threat by the Skrull leader’s continuing pursuit, Carol teams up with Fury, now willing to believe in aliens once upfront and personal with one, to essentially retrace Carol’s life as a pilot for clues to combat common enemies.
The relationship between the skeptical Fury and fish out of water Carol leads to amusingly caustic banter and barbed comments, and yet they focus on the need to retrieve a mysterious glowing cube that must not, at all costs, fall into the wrong hands. The investigative trail sends Fury and Carol to rural Louisiana to the home of Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), who was once Carol’s best friend when they served together as test pilots and is now urged by her young daughter to join the intergalactic fight.
It should be noted that while the cynical yet witty Fury proves to be the most interesting human character, the real scene-stealer is an orange tabby cat named Goose who has more personality than any of the aliens. Overall, though the hardcore fans may disagree, “Captain Marvel” has the feel of a standard-issue superhero film more invested in the spectacle of the action than the emotional connection to be had with its characters. The visual imagery is certainly appealing and the humorous jabs from Nick Fury are great fun, and make sure to stay through the end credits for the “Avengers: Endgame” preface.