“Captain Marvel” delivers all the heart, heroism, and humor Marvel Studios fans have come to expect from origin story entries into its canon. But that’s not all it delivers.
With it comes a new face for the brand, a new hero to lead the next chapter in the studio’s journey. Brie Larson’s jumps right into the deep end with her debut in MCU, and her work proves she’s ready to lead it into its second decade.
What’s it about?
When audience first meet Larson’s character in “Captain Marvel,” she’s very far from home, though she doesn’t quite know it.
A member of an elite strike force in service of the powerful interstellar Kree Empire, her outward sense of purpose seems simple. Accomplish the mission. Watch her teammates’ backs. Protect the lives of those she serves against their mortal enemies, a nefarious race of shapeshifters called Skrulls.
But a mission gone awry leads her to a place that’s at once alien and frustratingly familiar. The Kree and Skrulls call it C-53.
Its residents call it Earth.
Once there, she works to track down Skrulls who have infiltrated the human population, as she’s been trained to do. But the longer the mission goes on, the more she realizes she has a much more meaningful tie to Earth and its people.
With the help of a SHIELD desk jockey named Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) — it’s 1995, and he’s got both his eyes — she goes down the proverbial rabbit hole. Accordingly, her world is turned upside down.
Solving the mystery of her true identity lays many other secrets bare, sets the stage for a new battle, and reveals a new hero to fight it.
Larson brings “It Factor”
“Captain Marvel” marks the beginning of a new era for Marvel Studios.
Yes, the previous era, “Phase Three”, still has one final chapter to deliver in “Avengers: Endgame.” Larson and her character will figure prominently in that film, as well, providing necessary continuity as the stars of the MCU’s first three phases pass the proverbial torch.
But it’s undeniable that “Captain Marvel” bears the weight of reassuring Marvel fans that they still have much to look forward, no matter what finality “Endgame” finally brings. That starts with Larson, and she delivers a body of work here that should do more than just reassure: it should inspire.
Like Robert Downey Jr. in his initial turn as Iron Man/Tony Stark back in 2008, Larson’s tasked with selling both the larger-than-life superhero action the film’s set pieces demand as well as the character development beats the film needs to propel the plot forward.
Larson more than delivers on both tasks. When she hits, she hits hard. When she soars, audiences’ hearts should soar with her. And when she turns a line for a laugh or a heart-string tug, she sticks the landing.
She delivers a character (and yes, I’m being coy with that character’s name) that fans will want to see go “higher, further, faster” in future sequels, and that, after all, is what matters when it comes to origin stories.
Strong supporting cast
All that said, there’s plenty more to enjoy in “Captain Marvel” thanks to some stellar casting.
As a whole, casting choices here appear to have been made specifically to play on audiences’ expectations walking in.
Just about everyone here is a familiar face. However, they’re all doing something a little different than what we’re used to seeing them do.
For example, Jackson gets to depart from his usual take on Fury here, and it’s a breath of fresh air. He gets to smile, crack wise and be the sidekick, all of which must have been great fun for a guy who usually just gets to alternately play it cool and glower with just one eye.
Ben Mendelsohn (“Ready Player One“) also gets to loosen up a bit but also show some range. Playing one of the film’s prominent Skrulls, he gets to play multiple roles, and he injects all of them with a little more lightness and humor than we’re used to seeing from him.
Also, watch for Lashana Lynch in a key emotional role as pilot Maria Rambeau. This is Lynch’s debut in an U.S. feature film, and it’s likely audiences will be seeing more of her in movies thanks to the nuanced, wide-ranging work she turns in here.
Oh, yeah, and there’s the cat, or I should say “cats”, that everyone’s talking about. Believe the hype: “Goose” steals just about every scene he’s in.
For anyone deeply invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and looking forward to “Avengers: Endgame” in April, “Captain Marvel” is without doubt a must-see.
Its arrival will no doubt prompt comparison to other Marvel Studios origin films — it’s just what fans do.
It does fall short of the high benchmarks set by the aforementioned 2008 “Iron Man” and last year’s “Black Panther” in terms of the ambition of the script and just how rich those other films were in terms of cultural subtext and commentary.
Does that make “Captain Marvel” any less deserving of your time at the movie theaters? Absolutely not.
It just means that while this entry is very, very enjoyable, there’s room to grow, and that’s a good thing. After all, the hope is we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this hero in the years to come.
Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, with Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, and Jude Law. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.
Running time: 124 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language.