Captain Marvel soars high and mighty as the MCU’s first female superhero kicks ass and rediscovers what makes her a hero.
The 21st entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe follows Carol Danvers as a member of the elite Kree Starforce fighting against the Skrulls who ventures back home with questions about her past as the Earth gets embroiled in an alien war.
Captain Marvel is filled with refreshing action sequences, fun dialogue, and fully realized characters. It provides a different take on the superhero origin story that purely anchors itself on the performance of its lead, Brie Larson, and is another groundbreaking entry into the MCU that serves as a new inspiration to young girls and boys everywhere.
And yes, there are two after-credit scenes.
A lot of spoilers below!
While Captain Marvel checks off some elements off of the conventional list, their approach to the origin story differentiates itself in execution. The film starts with Carol on Hala under Yon-Rogg’s guidance where she’s told to gain a stronger hold on her mind rather than letting emotion take over so she can truly be a Kree warrior. It’s been 6 years since she arrived on Hala and she’s since thrived with her powers, but she lacks any memory of her life before.
When she arrives on Earth after a Skrull ambush incident, Fury takes her to the site of Project Pegasus, where she gains knowledge of the incident that led to her powers, including the woman who appears as her Supreme Intelligence, Dr. Wendy Lawson, a Kree scientist who was with her in the crash. She’s further grounded when she goes to Louisiana to find Maria Rambeau, her best friend in the Air force, and her daughter, Monica, who provide her most of her memories. There were no outright plot points of dealing with the death of a mentor, learning to use her powers, or learning what it means to use your powers for good; Carol already knows all this. Instead, she goes through self-rediscovery as she gains back her memories.
The film is a fun-filled action adventure in the sky. Carol and Maria, being from the Air force, mixed with the free floating action of space make for refreshing action sequences that grab your attention by virtue of just watching them (Carol most especially) have fun on screen. On the ground, the Kree Starforce holds down some of the action, with each member providing a good slice of the action. I would hope to see more of them in action someday (especially Gemma Chan as Minn-erva) but that seems unlikely.
Carol’s scenes, most of all, are astounding to watch as she fully unveils her power in a show of strength that would scare away potential threats to the earth. It’s significant in the way that it’s visually pleasing and a cathartic moment for her character in the film while the smaller character moments let Brie Larson’s indie roots shine as well as the directors’.
On Earth, we meet a young Nick Fury who hasn’t seen everything yet. He arrives on the scene the morning after Carol lands on a Blockbuster, and slowly learns about a world greater than his own throughout the film. It’s a different Fury than we’re used to and it’s fun to watch Samuel L. Jackson be filled with life and act a little less hardened than his character’s current state since the events of this film serve as a catalyst for the Fury (and MCU) we know now. It’s also super fun to see him interact with Goose, who is a huge scene stealer, and to watch the de-aging technology work its magic; making him and Agent Coulson look 25 years younger was so seamless that I had actually forgotten about it while watching the film.
Maria Rambeau, on the other hand, is a strong guiding force in Carol’s life that greatly helps her remember who she is. Having met while serving in the Air force, the two were brought together by a mutual drive to be better and jump the hurdles of being a woman in the military. While it’s common on television, it’s rare to see female friendships on film, especially the kind that successfully brings together two very similar but distinct personalities. Lashana Lynch brings a sincere and tough Southern charm to the vital role of being Carol’s anchor but is defined enough to stand as her own person.
Another standout performance was Ben Mendelsohn as Talos. It’s a different character for him, switching his usual snarling proper Englishman villains for something less refined in his native Australian accent. He’s motivated, sympathetic, and dedicated to his purpose. A true delight on screen, Ben Mendelsohn surely makes his mark on this film.
And as for the MCU itself, I went in not expecting much connection aside from the bridge to get to Avengers: Endgame, but Captain Marvel brings about some significant connections to the greater MCU that’ll make you gasp. In the film, the source of Carol’s powers is revealed to be the Tesseract, known under the name Project Pegasus, which is the same name Fury uses in the first Avengers film and it is revealed that Fury had named his initiative after Carol “Avenger” Danvers, which is perhaps the most touching detail from this film.
Other easter eggs include changing Mar-vell into a genderbent version from the comic as the original Captain Marvel, and the introduction of a young Monica Rambeau who poses some future potential should she and Carol meet in the present.
Free as a Bird
The approach to Carol’s character is one of the most amazing things in this film because it starts with the idea that Carol is and has always been strong, amazing, and powerful. It was a matter of rediscovering her past and learning to find value in her own strength that doesn’t require validation from anyone.
In a sequence towards the end of the film, the Supreme Intelligence shows Carol memories of crashing, falling, and failing throughout her life. It proves that the Carol we’re seeing is the same Carol since she was a child. She gets thrown down, she gets back up. It’s a flaw, according to the Supreme Intelligence, to be human but Carol knows that her human spirit is what makes her powerful. It’s the same thing she experiences with Yon-Rogg, who believes that her emotions are what hold her back from being a truly great warrior (in his eyes) and her final scene with him is extremely cathartic.
Her breaking free from the Supreme Intelligence was the culmination of everything she had felt living under the Kree, and frees herself of the chains put upon her by the Kree and herself, saying that she “no longer has one hand tied behind her back” which is the moment she unleashes her true power.
The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.
– Mohadesa Najumi
The film believes that true strength isn’t found in acting like a man. We normally think that traditionally masculine qualities are what would make us stronger, but there is truth in emotion, compassion, and heart. It’s a regular flaw for female heroes to simply adopt masculine traits but made sexy, cool, and effortless, but Captain Marvel works against the idea that having emotions are bad, or that women have to be stoic to be considered strong because Carol is full of life; she laughs, she’s self-assured, she makes jokes, she lets herself feel her emotions, and she’s anchored by the relationships she’s built and a sense of purpose through her journey. It’s what you would expect from the writers of Guardians of Galaxy and Inside Out.
Captain Marvel will mean a lot to young kids. It shows them that having emotions are good and healthy and there’s nothing wrong with being human. Strength manifests in more ways than one and it’s good to see someone embody that on screen. But on a more important note overall, this is a film for girls.
It’s for women and girls who have more than once in their lifetimes been told that you’re too emotional, too silly, too aggressive, that you aren’t good enough, have been continually told no or treated differently, and the ones that oh-so-desperately seek validation that we will never get or require us to compromise who we are. Girls are taught to be like Carol; to own your femininity and humanity and to be a fighter, hero, or leader by being who you truly are, not by what you think people would approve of. Captain Marvel is a milestone for little girls everywhere and shines a light on what it means to be a hero.
Catch Captain Marvel in cinemas March 6.