ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No 19: Captain Marvel

Year: 2019

Runtime: 123 Minutes

Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Writer: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet

Stars: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg 

By Sam Hurley, host of the Movie Reviews in 20 Q’s Podcast

Despite arguably being the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Captain Marvel still had a lot of heavy lifting to do in terms of expectations. It was the 21st film in the MCU, and the precursor to the event that was “Avengers: Endgame”, which came out roughly 7 weeks after Captain Marvel’s debut. It was the first to be a solo outing for a female character in the MCU, being the titular Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). It also felt like an eleventh-hour decision to have our first introduction to the character, and it was heavily hinted that she was going to play a significant role in Endgame.

Fortunately, for the better part of the movie, Larson manages to shoulder the expectations set on her and uses them to launch herself into the MCU. Her extensive acting talents are sublimely on display when she rotates effortlessly between her two distinct personas. The first being Vers, battling with memory loss and the echoes of who she once was, while desperately trying to fight her emotional nature and to try and appear stoic in a foreign environment. Secondly, as the stone-cold badass Air Force pilot Carol Danvers that we witness in flashbacks.

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Brie Larson and Lashana Lynch in “Captain Marvel” (2019) (IMDB)

While Larson’s acting brings the character to life, the film really exceeds on the talents of co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. They introduce her in a way that makes her feel both new, yet familiar. They empower the character to be bold, charismatic, confident, and to show an understandable level of vulnerability. There’s no use of the lens to become fixated on her curves, no impractical outfit to reveal as much of her skin as possible, and there’s barely a trace of sexual tension. At no point is she floundering around in hopelessness at a rather benign situation. Given a prevalence of action movies to objectify women characters in the past, it’s a refreshing change.

What She Said:

“Captain Marvel is a film you should be proud to let your children watch. It will inspire them to understand there should be no limits on what women can achieve.”

Monique Jones, Shadow and Act

 

Another strength of the movies is the supporting characters. Captain Marvel’s chemistry with Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson, digitally de-aged down to fit the 90s) is the heart of the movie. While starting out with what could quickly become a cliched odd-couple thrust together, their growth and ultimate conclusion feels organic, and most of the notable non-action scenes of the film are of them playing off of each other. Annette Benning and Lashanna Lynch give memorable performances, almost acting as the figurative devil and the angel on Captain Marvels shoulders at different parts of the film. Ben Mendelsohn also shines as Talos, the leader of Skrull’s, an alien race who are also a late addition to the MCU. Spoiler alert, but once its revealed that he’s not as evil as Captain Marvel had been led to believe by the Kree, he quickly becomes one of the funniest characters in the MCU.

Captain Marvel sam
Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson in “Captain Marvel” (2019) (IMDB)

The film isn’t without flaws, and unfortunately these also come from some of the supporting characters. Jude Law, as Mar-Vell, leader of a Kree special forces group, brings as much as he can to what inevitably becomes a one-dimensional role. Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Chan and Lee Pace are also underutilised and forgettable as they round out the other notable Kree in the movie. Clark Gregg, making his return to the MCU as fan favourite Agent Coulson, is also given little screen time to make a notable impact. It doesn’t help that his de-aging process is also nowhere near as well-polished as Samuel L Jacksons.

What She Said:

“Captain Marvel’s reflection of the female experience, along with the themes of empowerment and the general nostalgia trip, help make the result more than just your ordinary superhero movie.”

Sara Clements, The Reel Roundup

The story also establishes a whole other galactic-sized amount of information in a short amount of time. We’re quickly introduced to the Kree and Skrulls and not really given a chance to emotionally form a bond with either of them. From a visual perspective, the subsequent end of first-act battle scene is respectable enough, but without any time spent previously with either of these races, it’s hard to not appear apathetic to what is occurring on the screen.

It also doesn’t help when some larger aspects of the MCU are almost forcibly jammed into this movie. An Infinity Stone makes an appearance, how Fury lost his eye is also explained unnecessarily, but there’s never any real sense of danger for our hero. We know Captain Marvel is going to survive, we also know Nick Fury is going to become the head of SHILED. However, this isn’t totally a bad thing. Once Captain Marvel lands on earth, a big part of the film’s charm is seeing how her and Nick Fury unravel from a position of power, to rock bottom, and ultimately culminate in an ascension to a new and higher level as the film progresses.

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Brie Larson and Anna Boden in “Captain Marvel” (2019) (IMDB)

Overall, the film succeeds a lot more than it fails. Its daring in what it says about what it truly means to be a superhero and gives young girls a well-rounded character to look up to. Marvel is also blessed with another pitch-perfect casting and amazing portrayal for a superhero that most people outside of comic book fans would never have heard of. It’d also be remiss to not mention that the film, and stealing from a great film websites slogan here, truly shattered the celluloid ceiling at the box office. Where “Wonder Woman” had almost gone before it, “Captain Marvel” flew higher, further and faster, being the first solo female superhero film to break a billion dollars US at the box office world-wide, finally settling at 1.128 billion USD.

What She Said:

“Larson is a great casting choice to play Danvers/Captain Marvel. She has an air of power with a soft femininity underneath and a sarcastic wit.”

Allison Rose, FlickDirect

The best part about all this was that it came at a time when a small minority of the internet made the loudest noise in trying to vilify Brie Larson and the film prior to the release. Their denouncement of the movie, their online boycotts, the seemingly endless YouTube videos where they took quotes out of context and argued why Brie Larson is a horrible person, and their “#GetWokeGoBroke” hashtag panned out to being utterly pointless, turning into nothing but the immature screams from insecure people, desperate for attention.

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Goose the Cat (IMDB)

This article should end on a positive note, and that’s why I’ve saved the best till last. The other real standout is Goose who, while looking like a standard tabby cat, is later unmasked to be a flerkin, or an incredibly dangerous alien being. While only in it for a few brief scenes, he’s the real MVP of this movie, and hopefully going to be the first cat/flerkin to have their own standalone superhero movie.

The Extra Bits:

Where to watch:

Amazon: Buy

Google Play: Buy

iTunes: Buy

Who to follow:

Official Twitter @captainmarvel

Brie Larson @brielarson

Gemma Chan @gemma_chan

Pinar Toprak (composer) @pinartoprak

 

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