Review – Captain Marvel

So twenty one films later and having had their thunder completely stolen by DC with Wonder Woman Marvel FINALLY have their first movie lead by a woman in Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). Of course the crazy people online (I refuse to call them men as actual men don’t act like this) have completely lost their minds over this trying to sandbag the movie by posting negative reviews. I remain completely baffled by the whole thing. The mere presence of a female lead movie in the MCU doesn’t mean that you suddenly can’t watch the three Captain America movies, the three Iron Man movies, the three Thor movies, the two Ant Man movies, Doctor Strange or the three Avengers movies all of which are arguably male lead (Infinity War is better with female representation but we do not speak of Black Widow being reduced to caged love interest in Age of Ultron and while Evangeline Lily gets equal billing in Ant Man and the Wasp it’s still the Paul Rudd show because everyone loves that jovial vampire). Not to mention the many Spiderman movies. Brie didn’t spend her weekend personally destroying every copy of male lead franchises guys. You can still go watch them. If your masculinity is really so eggshell fragile that you can’t cope with an action movie lead by a woman then maybe just you know don’t go see it and wait for any of the billion other male lead franchises coming out this year that you might enjoy more. Just a thought. It simply isn’t fair for Larson and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (who also wrote the screenplay alongside Geneva Robertson -Dworet) to have to carry this manufactured on-line outrage on their shoulders. Thankfully it doesn’t seem to have made a jot of difference to the audience as Captain Marvel is set to open to $455 million worldwide – the 2nd biggest comic book movie opening ever. Never underestimate how many women want to see themselves on screen. Given the weight of expectation upon it I’m also relieved that Captain Marvel is a fun, quirky, offbeat origin story/buddy comedy with a killer soundtrack that combines the fish out of water humour of Thor with the nostalgia of Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s easily shot into my top 5 of the MCU alongside Captain America: Winter Soldier, Thor Ragnarok, Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy.

We first encounter Captain Marvel (initially known as Vers) on the alien planet Hala where she is part of an elite Kree task force which includes Jude Law (commanding, charismatic and filthy hot), Gemma Chan (all blue and snarky like a grumpy Smurf) and Djimon Hounson (reprising his role from Guardians of the Galaxy. Vers is an amnesiac, found and trained by the Kree who has flashes of a more Earth bound past. When she is captured by the Skrulls (scary goblin looking shapeshifters who can turn into anyone) the ensuing battle leaves her stranded on earth in 1995. Teaming up with Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson digitally de-aged in stunning fashion) and a cute ginger cat called Goose (who steals the entire film) she must try and track down Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) who is the key to recognising her past. But Talos (Ben Mendelsohn seemingly on a mission to appear in every franchise ever) is in hot pursuit.

The movie assumes you will have watched the Guardians films and makes zero attempt to bring you up to speed explaining who the Kree or Ronan the Accuser is (Lee Pace reprising his role). It very much hits the ground running and hopes you’ll keep up. The 90’s setting is mostly an excuse for a killer soundtrack of grunge classics and so we’ll giggle at the retro references (Blockbuster video, “state of the art” pagers, dial up, CD roms that take an eternity to load) but it’s still good fun watching Larson wander around in a Nine Inch Nails shirt boggling at the ancient tech. Casting may hint at certain narrative turns but the plot likes to keep the audience on its toes.

Brie Larson is charming, sweet, believably tough and surprisingly funny as Carol Danvers. I’ll confess I had concerns before seeing it about whether she was the right choice for the role. She is a phenomenally talented actress (after all she’s not just Marvel’s first female lead she’s also their first Oscar winning lead) but can come across a little chilly on screen. In Skull Island (the cheerfully daft King Kong movie which also features Samuel L Jackson in an unhinged performance) Larson gave off the vibe of someone who was quite annoyed at being paid large amounts of money to hang around in a beautiful location and chat to Tom Hiddleston. Oh the humanity Brie however did you cope? But thankfully as Carol Danvers she is warm, spiky and very charismatic. One of the joys of the film is her chemistry with Samuel L Jackson. I would happily have just watched a buddy comedy of the two of them bickering back and forth, breaking into army bases while Jackson coos over pussy cats. They’re a fantastic, effortlessly charming duo.

Jackson himself seems to be having the time of his life showing a very different side of Nick Fury. This Fury has both eyes and hasn’t yet been worn down by life and the pressures of keeping the world safe. He’s a more carefree Nick Fury who sings, cracks endless jokes and really loves Goose the cat. Jackson would steal the show if it wasn’t for tough competition from Mendelsohn. Using his natural accent for once he’s one of the rare few who have overcome the many prosthetics Marvel aliens require to deliver a well rounded performance. Mendelsohn gets some of the best lines which he dutifully delivers with killer comic timing. It’s a really fun performance.

Lending strong support is Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau. Lynch is quietly commanding and the sequence where she reminds Carol who she truly is bought a tear to my eye. It’s still somewhat rare outside of a weepy to see female friendship portrayed on screen and with a few short scenes we do truly believe that Danvers and Rambeau were best friends and that she has been grieving her loss terribly.

I felt like some of Annette Bening’s scenes may have ended up on the cutting room floor. Given the importance of her character she gets slightly short shrift. However can we give it up for the fact that Marvel have quietly now for some time been casting brilliant mature actresses in positions of authority in their films? Angela Bassett in Black Panther, Michelle Pfeiffer in Antman and the Wasp, Glenn Close in Guardians, Jenny Agutter in Captain America: Winter Soldier and now Bening. It’s a very welcome trend.

In fact for all that people are going insane online about this here “womens film” one of the things I rather loved about Captain Marvel is how rarely the fact that she is a woman is an issue. Nobody questions her authority or position or capability just because she happens to be female. Representation matters. How is this a hard concept to grasp? It’s nice to be able to see a woman on screen being just as cool and tough and capable as the men folk. While Danvers isn’t denigrated for being a woman, throughout the movie she is told repeatedly that she is too weak, that she is too emotional, that she will never succeed as she is. It is only when Danvers ignores those negative voices, ignores everyone telling her what she should do and decides instead to truly become herself that she becomes a god. That’s a message I can get behind. But my favourite sequence wasn’t Danvers in all her fiery, glowy glory kicking butt but a simple one showcasing her humanity and her determination. We see that every time Carol fell in her life she got right the hell back up. And that made me weep. Because women? No matter what is thrown at us we ALWAYS get back up.

So in response to all the furore and nonsense spouted by the idiots on line I have only one thing to say – Her name is Carol Danvers. And she has nothing to prove to you.

Captain Marvel is now on general release worldwide.