Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Benning, Jude Law
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language
2 hrs. 3 min.
With another astonishing entry, the masters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe can congratulate themselves once more for an extraordinary film garnering critical praise and mindboggling worldwide profits. It’s Captain Marvel — hear her roar, from the least heralded of the Marvel roster to a supernova of big screen, female power.
A little background: in 1940, Captain Mar-vell started at Fawcett Comics as a man; it was discontinued in 1953 because of poor sales and having too strong a resemblance to Superman. In 1967, Marvel acquired the rights to the character. By 1982, the hero had been reimagined as a woman. That’s who we meet in this film.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the movie begins on Hala, home to the Kree, a race of super warriors. The title character is, at the outset, named Vers (Brie Larson), a Kree blessed with hands that shoot deathly photon blasts. Her hard-driving mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), and the rest of the Kree Starforce, are charged with keeping their sworn enemies, the shapeshifting Skrull, from attaining a powerful energy source and invading Hala.
Oscar-winner Larson worked out furiously to get in shape for this role, and it paid off. In nearly every scene, she enriches each facet of this superhero, and plays her to all her potential, with easy wit, athleticism and robustness. Adding that she’s beautiful does not diminish the power of her work. That’s just another dimension of it.
Vers is plagued by flashbacks she cannot account for. When she’s captured by the Skrull and mined for her thoughts by their leader, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), it becomes clear that she has a past as someone else. She’s not who she thought she was — and neither are the Kree or the Skrull.
Freeing herself, Vers tumbles to Earth, in 1995, right through the roof of a Blockbuster Video store. The pop culture of the time is well represented: Radio Shack, music from En Vogue to Des’ree. There are also two investigating agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). Anti-aging CGI, an incredible development in movie effects, was used to make Jackson and Gregg look 25 years younger. It’s a truly remarkable breakthrough.
Annette Benning portrays an image who comes to Vers frequently, an important person from her past. For a film that fully explains the history and purpose of its main character, Captain Marvel is fluid, graceful and possesses the flavor of Stan Lee’s comic book humor that’s such a part of MCU. To reveal too much would be to spoil the fun. Revel in the action, enjoy the chemistry between Larson and Jackson, Lashana Lynch (as former-U.S. Air Force ace Maria Rambeau), and Goose the Cat. It’s turning into the most talked about tabby since Morris, from those old 9Lives cat food commercials.
Outside the theater, this movie’s success shades the Internet trolls who tried to sabotage its initial word of mouth. Inside, Captain Marvel reveals something more: that art no longer imitates life. Just the opposite. When a film is celebrated as a bellwether for the positive representation of strong women, as Black Panther was hailed for its depiction of an estimable African nation and its citizenry, we realize that life now imitates art, and has for more decades than we’d like to admit. As with Lee’s comics, 50-plus years ago, its subtext has a lot to say about contemporary issues, such as immigration.
To that end, Captain Marvel validates strength as a virtue without gender. It is an exhilarating exercise of the senses.