Vers is a human inhabitant of the Kree homeworld. She is a member of an elite military unit called Starforce where she is mentored by her superior Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Vers has extraordinary powers but no memory of her past. Her first mission goes awry and leaves her stranded on earth in the 1990’s where she begins to recall a past life. With the help of young shield agent Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and a ginger cat named Goose (Reggie, Archie, Rizzo, and Gonzo), she begins to unravel her past and take on the invading, shape-shifting Skrulls.
Captain Marvel is under a great deal of pressure. Not only is it Marvel’s first fully female-led superhero movie (and is of course, therefore, the subject of a hate campaign who want nothing more than for this film to be a huge disappointment), but it’s also a significant step towards Phase Four of the Marvel cinematic universe. The character bears Marvel’s name itself and is clearly meant to become a significant presence in this universe. It is a relief then that the film starts and is immediately enjoyable and engaging,
The most important thing Captain Marvel achieves is to give the audience an interesting and likable new character. Brie Larson is naturally charismatic and charming as the confused hero. There’s a commanding and defiant strength in her easy smile. She is portrayed failing and falling repeatedly, but triumphs through perseverance and self-belief. She’s a very welcome addition to the MCU. Perhaps the most exciting part of the film promises her future interactions with the rest of the Avengers team. Here’s hoping she becomes an integral part of whatever the future of the Avengers is, preferably its leader.
Of course, a great hero needs weakness to make them relatable. Aside from her aforementioned memory loss, Vers’ crisis is one of identity. She is told throughout that her instincts are incorrect, that she must second guess herself to remain logical. The war she fights is one she has inherited and perhaps does not fully understand. She has her mission and a need to prove herself, both of which she must shed by the end of the film if she is to triumph and become Captain Marvel.
Representation is important and it cannot be understated just how thrilling it is to see Captain Marvel in action, especially in her bright red and blue uniform. She’s an entirely feminine presence but without being objectified (I wish I didn’t feel the need to clarify that). It’s easier to get behind and feel good about than the slow-motion upskirt shots from the Zack Snyder produced Wonder Woman. Larson’s steely gaze and cocky smile make you feel she could do anything, and it’s important to see women in that role, especially for the kids for whom this material was always intended.
Captain Marvel is not as exciting or bold in its narrative as Black Panther. It’s a very effective but fairly standard Marvel film, which is to say it’s very funny, has some effective emotional moments (especially involving Vers’ best friend partner and her child) and that the action could be better in terms of impact.
It’s really its main character where this film rises above so many of the rest. The humour doesn’t feel out of place here. Vers is a believably sassy character who likes to tease those around her. It doesn’t feel forced as it did with Doctor Strange or Ant-man. Her friendship with Nick Fury not only forms the heart of the film but perhaps represents Samuel L Jackson’s finest work in the MCU so far.
Captain Marvel will not set the world alight or change the genre forever. It shouldn’t need to. It is a very good Marvel film at a time when they just so happen to be in their stride as a creative entity. It’s also a terrifically entertaining action film with a huge heart and a brilliant new hero. I can’t wait to see what this character will do next (after she defeats Thanos, of course).