Captain Marvel movie review: Brie Larson excels, film lacks chutzpah
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Film: Captain Marvel;
Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck; Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg, Jude Law; Rating: ***
Captain Marvel is the 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first film from its portfolio to evolve around a female-superhero. It serves as an origin story of the eponymous character. So, naturally with some serious expectations, the stakes are high for the film and the larger-than-life, female-superhero character.
Set in 1995, when S.H.I.E.L.D is just a budding task force and the Avengers are in their early stage, the story follows Carol Danvers, aka Vers, to her alien mates, a former US Air Force Fighter pilot, as she turns into one of the galaxy's mightiest heroes.
It is a desperate tale of identity with Vers honing her powers by working to figure out, along with the audience, who she actually is.
When we meet her, she is a Kree warrior fighting alongside her friend and mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) as part of the elite Kree military, Starforce, which is a special-force unit, tasked with fighting the shape-shifting rivals the Skrulls.
When a field mission goes awry, she is kidnapped by Skrull commander Talos (Nen Mendelsohn) and interrogated for information about a mysterious mcguffin. However, soon she manages to mount a chaotic escape, crash landing on the nearest planet which happens to be Earth, also known as C-53.
Here, despite being chased by Skrulls, while Vers finds comfort in Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), an old colleague from her air-force days and her daughter (Akira Akbar), we learn that Vers and her superior officer, Lawson (Annette Bening), crash-landed in the desert, where Vers, confronted by an alien force, blew up the energy core that was Lawson's experimental light-speed project.
This accident gave Vers her power that makes her a legend.
The narrative built on templates from the MCU fare of cosmic action adventure, makes the film appear like an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, superhero romp. And the convoluted screenplay along with its casual pacing, makes the viewing tedious.
The trouble is, in the first half, from Vers' initial combat training session to the aforementioned Skrull ambush, its frenetic opening doesn't give us much time to get to know her or the alien world she exists in.
Also, while the second act drags at a slow pace, the final act with the climactic sky battle that takes place over the sun-washed Great Canyons, appear standard fare.
The film lacks in emotion and isn't quite as funny as it thinks it is. While the 90's references are consistently entertaining, including the IT gag, the dialogues lack the punch of the earlier Marvel films.
On the other hand, what emerges as intriguing is the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson as the young Nick Fury, who had earlier appeared in six Marvel films. He has been de-aged by the kind of computer wizardry that will write humans out of the future. He shows up in the scene when Vers crash-lands on earth.
While Brie Larson radiates as Captain Marvel, she is aptly supported by her colleagues. There is an engaging chemistry between her and Jude Law, as well as Jackson.
Unfortunately they are all burdened with too many agendas making their performances appear perfunctory.
The plot works hard and succeeds to build the connective tissue between this film and the MCU. The two post-credits scenes are both definitely worth staying for as they tie Captain Marvel squarely into the MCU.