Captain Marvel (2019)

Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law, Algenis Pérez Soto, Rune Temte, Akira Akbar, Robert Kazinsky, Vik Sahay, Mckenna Grace, London Fuller, Chuku Modu, Colin Ford, Kenneth Mitchell, Reggie, Archie, Rizzo, Gonzo

Living among the Kree for years, an amnesiac Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) has been trained by her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), to fight a war against a race of alien shapeshifters called The Skrulls. After a covert mission goes wrong, she follows a group of Skrulls to Earth, 1995, where she teams up with an agent named Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to stop their plan, and uncover a mystery connecting to her own past.

Known for more grounded stories like Half Nelson and Mississippi Grind, it seems Anna Boden and R+yan Fleck are stepping into new territory with this more cosmic tale based on Marvel comics. But a change in scope hasn't impacted their priorities, as despite the shape-shifters, superpowered beings, and space settings, the duo (alongside screenwriter Geneva Robertson-Dworet) have placed the focus upon believable characters and their real feeling relationships, while weaving relevant themes into the story.

After a touching opener to the film, audiences are greeted by the sight of Hala, the home world of the Kree Empire. As we witness how Carol lives among the Kree, the initial set-up unfortunately feels rather by the numbers, and a tad sluggish. But once our lead finds herself on Earth, the story manages to pick up considerably, and settle rather comfortably into the 1990's setting, starting with the now dated sight of a Blockbuster Video store. This leads the way to an assortment of great musical inclusions, as well as thrillingly enacted fight scenes.

With her being paged in the post-credits scene of Avengers: Infinity War, Carol Danvers has been teased as a major part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's future. In the here and now, she's the first female lead in a Marvel film, and a compelling character in her own right. The amnesia is a clear problem for Carol, a problem she can't solve just by punching it with her powers, but thankfully isn't a lazy surrogate for actual character development. At the core of it all is Brie Larson, who puts a blistering performance into portraying every aspect of the character.

Despite being a mainstay of the films since the end-credits of the very first film, Samuel L. Jackson hasn't been given much to do outside of connect these various characters together. With the help of stunning de-aging effects, he's given the chance to believably portray a much younger iteration of Nick Fury, who we meet as a S.H.I.E.L.D. desk jockey making his first experience with alien lifeforms. The bulk of his journey sees him and Carol making a wonderful buddy cop duo, as their road trip is brought alive with great chemistry.

Key to Carol's past is Maria Rambeau, a fellow Air Force pilot and a single mother to her daughter, Monica (expect that name to pop up sometime in a future film). They're said to be a family to Carol, and it's easy to believe in this when it's portrayed so well. Lashana Lynch does great work, with the films beating heart coming from her and Carol's long-term friendship. A special mention is deserved for Goose, the ginger cat who steals every scene he's in.

It's clear that Ben Mendelsohn is having a blast as Talos, not letting the Skrull make-up get in the way of his performance. What initially appears to be a one-note antagonistic role is given very interesting layers, thanks to surprising story decisions, which helps make for one of the films more compelling characters. Jude Law also serves his role well, playing Carol's mentor, while Annette Bening does wonderful work whenever she appears on-screen. As interesting as it is to have Djimon Hounsou and Lee Pace reprise their Guardians of the Galaxy roles, there's little actually done with Ronan and Korath, to the point there'd be no change if their characters were replaced with entirely new creations. It's a shame Gemma Chan doesn't get to do more than point her intergalactic sniper rifle.

What sticks with one the most is Carol's journey. Throughout the film, she gets unwanted advice from others, telling her to smile, to control her emotions, to do as she's told for her own benefit. In spite of it all, she refuses to be pushed around because someone else says so, and gets right back up regardless. It all builds up to a key scene, preceded by the playing of an appropriate Nirvana song, which sees Carol once more stand right back up again, refusing to let others limit her own potential. It's a moment that feels utterly inspiring, and is destined to be iconic much like the No Man's Land scene from Wonder Woman just two years prior. She has nothing to prove to anyone else, nor should she, and that's a message worth spreading across the internet.

Whether in the vast reaches of space, or '90s America, Captain Marvel brings the popular character to screen in an engrossing tale that's wonderfully humorous, heartfelt, and utterly empowering. The prospect of seeing Brie Larson return to this role is an exciting one.