Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel (PG13)
Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Jude Law
Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Here we go again, another superhero enters the fray that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Meet Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers and she’s going to send the gauntlet-wearing Thanos packing in next month’s Avengers: Endgame. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Now 11 years old and 20-movie strong, the MCU is a massive, unstoppable locomotive which brakes for no one — not even for the backstory of the series’ first solo female superhero (the funny and feisty Brie Larson), set in the 1990s.
Like last year’s Black Panther, Captain Marvel — which is based on a character who's been around since 1967 and has been rebooted several times, including a 2012 iteration that this movie largely drew on — isn't a typical origin story, where a good chunk of screen-time is devoted to her pre-superhero days.
No, ma' am. When Danvers is first introduced, she’s Vers of Starforce, an elite alien Kree military team (think Seal Team 6 in space). She has photon-blasting powers, but she's still learning to control it. Enter Jude Law as her commander and (a better-looking) Mr Miyagi to her Karate Kid.
All is not well for Vers, though: she has trippy dreams of a previous life. Her search for the truth (and how she acquired her powers) overlaps with the Kree’s ongoing feud with the Skrulls, a race of reptilian shape-shifting “terrorists” led by Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos. The latter, too, is looking for something, a weapon of sorts hidden on the Blue Planet.
The atomic blonde and Talos take their fight to Earth where she encounters a pre-cyclopic, pre-trench coat-wearing, still-oblivious-to-extraterrestrial-threats S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), and his rookie colleague Coulson (Clark Gregg, with an obvious toupee).
When you come to an MCU movie, you know what to expect, and I'm happy to report that Captain Marvel checks all boxes. It has spectacular thrills mixed the right amount of gravitas and pathos and self-deprecating humour; character call-backs (wait, is that Guardians of the Galaxy baddie Ronan the Accuser?); the Stan Lee cameo (there’s also a Stan Lee-themed Marvel Studios logo — so don’t be late!); and the post-credits stingers (there are two!).
Despite their limited experience in conjuring blockbuster mayhem, indie directors Anna Boden — the MCU’s first female director — and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) managed to keep the plot moving by pulling off a few decent action set-pieces, including a French Connection-inspired car-train chase.
But the directors' secret weapons are really Larson and Jackson — their odd-couple pairing is off-the-charts riotous. Seeing them trade quips alone is worth the price of admission. (It’s The Long Kiss Goodnight redux!) Man, I’ve never seen Fury smile so much in an MCU movie before.
(By the way, did the producers digitally de-age a 70-year-old Samuel L Jackson or did they teleport him from the set of Die Hard with a Vengeance to the present? Then again, does Jackson actually age?)
And, of course, there’s the ‘90s nostalgia bait which will please those who grew up in that decade. Thanks for packing the soundtrack with gems of that era (Nirvana, Garbage, No Doubt); no thanks for reminding us how painful it was to surf the Net with a dial-up modem. Those were crazy times, indeed.
Even though Captain Marvel has been hyped as the most powerful character in the MCU, her solo mission seems fairly lightweight. So light that even the way Fury loses his left eye is bizarrely played for laughs. It’s really not that funny until you think of how he told Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) about his injury in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (“last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye”).
But as light as it is, Captain Marvel still manages to get its female empowerment message across loud and clear, and when Vers finally takes up the eponymous mantle, you’ll be cheering for her. Like Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel is the romp the MCU needs before it gets all serious again with Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. Let’s see how well Captain Marvel plays with the remaining Avengers then. And judging from the embedded sneak peek, it’s going to be a doozy. (***1/2)
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On Feb 14, Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson and Gemma Chan (who plays Minn Erva, one of the Starforce members) as well as directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck were in town. 8 DAYS sat down with them to talk about Captain Marvel’s suit, the ‘90s, and those pesky Skrulls.
Video edited by Christopher Khong