The twenty-first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe released in 2019 sees Brie Larson starring as the titular Captain Marvel aka Vers aka Carol Danvers with Jude Law as Yon-Rogg with Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as Nick Fury and Clark Gregg returning as Phil Caulson. Dijmon Hounsou and Lee Pace also reprise the roles of Korath and Ronan the Accuser respectively, both of whom were last seen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1.
Naturally Captain Marvel is already a box office smash, and why wouldn't it be?? In the post-credits scene of Infinity War we saw Nick Fury using his final seconds to send a pager-message out to someone unknown (that fans quickly latched onto was Captain Marvel), so who wasn't going to see her in her own film?? Now personally my knowledge of characters in the Marvel comics’ universe is limited to those I have seen in cartoons like the Spider-Man or X-Men animated series, or various Marvel Lego games I have played over the years. To my knowledge there has never been a film adaptation of the character so going into this film I had no idea who she is or what her powers were going to be.
The film opens with Vers (Larson) awakening on her home world of Kree, in the capital city of Hala, after recurring nightmare in which she sees a woman standing over her with a member of a race called the Skrull killing her. Vers has amnesia and cannot remember her life before six years ago. She doesn't know who the woman in the dream is, nor does she recognise the planet that the dream happened on. She goes to see her friend and mentor, Yon-Rogg who tells her that she needs to let go of emotion and during a sparring match she is only able to beat him by using plasma bolts that she can fire from her hands. Her powers were a gift from the Supreme Intelligence (an AI that rules the Kree) and a chip on her neck is used to keep them under control otherwise she might harm herself or others if she loses control of them.
Vers' planet is at war with a race of beings (the aforementioned Skrull) and she is part of a Starforce team that is tasked with recovering a spy from their world. Their allies, the Accusors, create a diversion so Vers' team can slip onto the planet undetected. The mission goes AWOL and Vers is captured. She has visions of something like a nightmare and wakes up to discover that the Skrull and their leader Talos are scanning her memories searching for something.
Using her powers Vers is able to escape in a stolen ship and crash lands in Los Angeles, on Earth. She contacts her team to advise where she is and is instructed to wait for rescue. The Skrull have the ability to mimic other life forms down to the DNA and Vers is concerned that if she waits for rescue they will get a foothold on the planet so she defies orders to seek out the Skrull to find out what they were hoping to find inside her head, and exterminate them.
Soon after her arrival on the planet she starts getting feelings of familiarity and is found by two agents of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, Nick Fury and rookie agent Phil Caulson...
The film is as a prequel to the other instalments in the MCU (with the possible acceptation of Captain America which took place mostly in WWII but ended in the present day) and serves to explain who it was that Fury sent a message to at the end of Infinity War. Fans recognised the colours of Captain Marvel, and there were other Easter eggs which referenced her in that film. So it seemed evident that we will be seeing the good Captain in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. Now Spider-Man was introduced in Captain America: Civil War and got his own film sooner afterwards Homecoming but who doesn't know who Spider-Man is?? They even brush over his back-story in his film when they just casually mention that he was bitten by a spider and that is how he got his powers. So a film to explain who he is wasn't necessary. But personally my only information regarding Captain Marvel was from the second Lego Marvel Superheroes game in which she seemed to share the powers of Mr Fantastic and Ant-Man. I therefore didn't really understand how she could be a game changer when it came to fighting Thanos and if she is so powerful why Fury didn't contact her as soon as he became aware what Thanos was planning.
Samuel L Jackson and Clark Gregg are both digitally de-aged by 25 years in order to create the impression that the film is happening years ago. Marvel had demonstrated this technique before to make Michael Douglas' Hank Pym look younger in Ant-Man but this was the first time that they have employed it for an entire film. It has to be said that it does look pretty good. I mean Samuel L Jackson's career started in the 1970s before really taking off in the 1990s I imagine therefore that it may have been easier for film makers to de-age him because they had many points of reference on exactly how old he should look for the film's time period. Gregg has less screen time but again the technique does work and is not a distraction from what is happening.
The film is set in the mid-90s and by God does it want you to know it. Basically every few minutes they seem to be playing a number-one song from that time. I guess that this could be down to the fact that the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack featured nothing but 80s music and was ridiculously popular. Maybe the soundtrack was an attempt to replicate the fun of the Guardians' soundtrack from both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. The songs chosen are funky enough but I just wanted to grab the film by the shoulders, give it a shake and say "Yes, you're set in the 90s, we get it!".
Brie Larson seems to fit the role well enough in my opinion, but I cannot honestly remember seeing her in anything before this (despite her being in Kong: Skull Island and me doing a review of that). However, because I have no idea what her character is supposed to be like I think she was decent enough. True she seems to spend most of the film with a kind-of half smile expression as though she is mildly amused by everything going on around her and doesn't show a huge amount of emotion throughout the proceedings, still considering the Kree have been trying to make her suppress emotion this may have been intentional.
I have to say that the timeline of the film does bug me a little, now I say the following knowing full well that if Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk had flopped the MCU would have been abandoned then and there. But I think it is a bit of a shame that this film happens immediately before the release of Endgame, imagine how cool it could have been if this film had taken place first. Think about it, we have this badass superhero who's film is the first in the series, she is then not seen or heard from again until twenty films and over a decade later when Nick Fury pulls the pager she gave him from his pocket and sends her a message. The smiles that would have been on the faces of everyone in the theatre when we realised that Captain Marvel was going to returning could have been amazing. Sadly I had no idea what the pager-thing meant at the end of Infinity War and so it lost some of the impact to have her appearing back on Earth in a post-credits scene moments after we'd watched her head off with her allies at the end of Captain Marvel. A gap of a decade between her first appearance and her return, that would have been cool, but considering this film only exists so when fans go to watch Endgame we know who the hell she is, the reveal was not as awesome as it could have been.
I am also not sure what the tone was supposed to be, MCU films have ranged from tongue so far in cheek it is in danger of tunnelling through, like Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man: Homecoming to of course the amazing Thor: Ragnarok. But there have been others with a more serious edge like Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther and Iron Man 3. But Captain Marvel doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. Is it supposed to be serious?? If it is then why do they push the 90s references like computer loading times, and the music so much plus the things that the cat, Goose, does?? But if it is meant to be more light-hearted then why does the story revolve around the superior race wanting to commit genocide by wiping out another species, who doesn't really seen to have done anything to them in the past. It is a bit of a mixed bag that seems to want to be like Guardians of the Galaxy with its hip soundtrack but also wants to be a more serious story about persecution and not judging people by their appearance.
Okay I can't really go on any further without potentially revealing plot details so...
Vers has amnesia...yes that old chestnut.
She has no memory of anything happening before she awoke on a Kree medical table having a blood transfusion. Now naturally we learn during the film that Vers is in fact Carol Danvers, a human air force pilot whose experimental aircraft was shot down and to prevent the engine core falling into the wrong hands she blew it up. Now as we're in movie-land detonating the experimental core in her own face infused her with power, granting her abilities that include but are not necessarily limited to: Super-strength, flight and energy projection. After she survived the explosion she was taken by the Kree to be trained in the hopes that she could be used as a weapon. Well, I assume that is why she was taken. It isn't stated in the film but if someone has just absorbed the power of an experimental engine-core then what else are you going to use them for?? Gardening?? The chip on her neck is used to keep her from accessing the full extent of her powers but if the Supreme Intelligence is concerned enough about controlling her that it needs to have a power-dampening chip on her neck, why not have a bomb implanted next to her heart?? Or have the chip capable of actually killing her?? You know, something that will instantly put her down if she becomes uncontrollable?? Why place a chip somewhere that she could easily get to it should she ever learn the truth of what happened to her six years ago??
There is a scene early on when Vers gets a bloody nose and her blood is green thus demonstrating that she is Kree. However, the reference to the blood transfusion she received is obviously an explanation for how a human can have green blood. However, unless every drop of her blood was swapped out then the Kree's green blood mixing with the red of her own would surely have made her blood brown, not green. I get that it was meant to throw the audience a curve ball as it would have been obvious she was human if her blood had been red but all they had to do was establish that different members of the Kree can have different colours of blood and job done. The Kree seem to be made up of different species, some of which are human-looking and other are humanoid but obviously alien so having different colours of blood would have made sense within the film context. Or hell if the Kree's blood was red too then no problem. I may be getting bogged down on something unimportant but it is clearly important enough for Yon-Rogg to reference it.
I'm also not entirely sure exactly what the Supreme Intelligence is, yes it is an AI, but who created it?? Why do the Kree listen to it?? What are its ultimate goals?? HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn't faulty when it killed the crew of his ship, it did it because it was the logical thing to do to protect the mission (I haven't seen the film so don't know his full reasoning) but isn't it possible that an AI could be corrupted?? Or breaking down?? Machines can have technical flaws and if the Intelligence was based upon a collection of minds then could any flaws within those minds have been transferred to the AI?? VIKKI in I, Robot was the villain but only because she was bound by the 3 laws of robotics which compelled her to seek to enslave the human race in order to ultimately save humans from themselves. People can't kill one another if they are prevented from doing so. Why does the Supreme Intelligence want to wipe out the Skrull instead of maybe forming an alliance with them?? Maybe this is explained in the comic but for me I was left with questions regarding why a powerful, space going civilisation would take their orders from an AI. Plus it didn't help that because I'd recently seen Team America the name "Supreme Intelligence" reminded me of I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E, Team America's computer system which just made me chuckle every time someone mentioned it by name.
The make-up effects of the Skrull are really impressive and it is honestly nice for a film to have the scary and beastly looking aliens being the good guys whilst it turns out all of the pretty ones are actually bad.
Naturally with this being a MCU film there is a post-credits and an end credits scene, the mid links directly to the up-coming Endgame. Although not surprisingly it did leave some unanswered questions. The main one bugging me was how long did it take Danvers to get to Earth??
If it was days then why was Fury only to contact her in an emergency?? If it took weeks or months then fair enough it is a long way for her to travel for something trivial, but on the flip side if she is going to take an extended time to return then why call her even in an emergency?? Also did Fury not consider an alien invasion of New York an Emergency?? Or a rogue AI programme planning to drop a continent on the planet to wipe out all life and start a-new an emergency?? The word: “Emergency” tends to mean that a prompt response is required, it is why you humans call police, fire and ambulance the Emergency Services or hospitals have an Accident & Emergency department. Again it is a throw away explanation as to why she has not been seen before so I can live with it, after all you all know me, I like context within my films, and I guess this film does take the time for her to tell him only to contact her in an emergency which is why she hasn't been seen or heard from again since Fury first met her in the mid-90s.
Plus presumably the Skrull survivors weren't spared from Thanos' 50% cull of the universe so perhaps when she got the message from Fury she realised that what had taken place happened across the galaxy not just wherever she was. I assume the answers to these questions will be answered in Endgame or perhaps a sequel to the first film will reveal what she has been doing with her time between 1995 and 2019.
Okay, so to bring this review to some kind of summary there was a fair amount to like in the film, the Skrull were interesting, Danvers powerful and badass, and Samuel L Jackson was always going to be a highlight. However, this film only exists to explain who Captain Marvel is so we know going into Endgame. There is a hell of a lot of talking and it was always going to turn out that Vers was a human. The usual clichéd dialogues are all present and correct with the typical long-lost best friend who makes an off-the-cuff speech about Carol being the best person she knew way before she could shoot energy from her hands. The action sequences are all good but realistically by now there is not much the MCU can throw at us which we haven't already seen. Thor realising his true power in Ragnarok looked very similar to how Danvers looked when she did the same, you know energy crackling over them and their eye glowing with power. We've seen big scale battles before so there is not really anything new on display so whilst I cannot say the film was bad, there were times when it was pretty dull. We basically spend a couple of hours killing time waiting for her to realise that...[yawn]..."the power was inside her all along"...wow, what a twist.
There have been far better editions to the MCU but there have also been worse. I guess that is the best thing I can say about it, the film was alright, it was entertaining enough, it was inoffensive. It didn't push any boundaries but did enough with the story and special effects. I have seen a trailer for Endgame which has a very brief interaction between Thor (My favourite Avenger) and Danvers which was a highlight, so hopefully the two will bounce off one another in Endgame...I didn't mean that to sound the way it did, still you have to admit it would be interesting to see what a child born to the God of Thunder and a being with Captain Marvel's powers would be capable of doing...perhaps an idea for a future film series..."Children of the Avengers"??
I am going to give the film a Thumbs Up because it did do enough but when I left the cinema and was asked what I thought all I could do was shrug and say "It was alright". Naturally fans of the MCU are going to (or have already seen this film) because they want to know about a character that will be teaming up with our surviving Avengers in Endgame.
7/10 - I considered giving a 6/10 but that seems unnecessarily harsh. The film was alright, it was okay, it passed the time and served as a little appetiser for Endgame which (at time of writing obviously) is due to be released in a little over a month's time.