Review: Captain Marvel

*SPOILERS ALERT*

Higher. Further. Faster.

Marvel’s latest offering more than fulfils its tagline. Captain Marvel soared above doubt, boycotts, and smear campaigns to a staggering $455 million worldwide box-office taking on opening weekend. And it’s easy to see why – it’s MARVELlous.

The film is essentially Captain Marvel’s origin story, which has led to criticism about the plot being ‘predictable’ at times. People forget that the heroes we love had their own ‘basic’ origin films. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) burst into the universe in a way that stands up to her peers, and shows she has the ability to drive this legacy beyond Endgame.

With the backdrop predominantly mid-90s America, writers (and directors) Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck continue Marvel’s preferred lighter tone. They aroused comedic nostalgia with slow Windows loading bars, crashing through a Blockbuster and the throwback soundtrack. While it’s weird to see a de-aged Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) with hair and two eyes, him and the cat, Goose, form an iconic duo (and now I need more). Fury’s friendship with Carol Danvers is also a highlight: the hero’s personality shines in the moments of teasing Fury. A favourite was Fury singing ‘Please, Mr Postman’ into a washing-up brush, sparking Danvers’ sassy “keep singing, maybe it’ll come back to me”.

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Going in, it’s not hard to see a potential issue looming over Captain Marvel: Danvers is overpowered. This can make it hard to ensure everything isn’t a walk in the park for her. However, Boden and Fleck managed this well, offsetting it by restraining Danvers a lot of the time – for example, fighting in handcuffs, which shows her talent. She isn’t only her inhuman powers, she’s a force in herself.

Larson is Captain Marvel’s powerhouse. Her acting is impeccable, expressions constantly portraying Danvers’ dynamic personality, even via the subtlest inflections. Interestingly, her expression came under fire before release. Some ‘fans’ photoshopped smiles onto the posters, because she had “the same face in every one”. Funnily enough, this doesn’t happen to Captain America or Thor when they always look serious on posters. It’s the classic ‘you should smile more’ that most women have heard. Little did they know this was already in the movie, with Danvers told the exact same… before she stole the guy’s motorbike. Queen.

As Marvel’s first female-led superhero film, it inevitably brings a feminist element to it which could either be handled well, or supremely badly. I shouldn’t have worried.
Bechdel Test? Smashed.
Male gaze? Nope.
Unnecessary heterosexual romance? Forced chemistry must’ve been a victim of Thanos’ snap.
Women’s costumes? No oversexualisation, practical but cool, and the Kree outfits are equivalent to that of the men.

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It wasn’t preachy; it was just empowering. It showed well-characterised women: Danvers shows vulnerability and care, as well as what can only be described as raw badassery. The rebellion against the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening) included a montage of Danvers crashing and getting back up, and I had chills. Her emotion, a weakness she’d been told to repress, is revealed to be what gives her strength and power, unsettling the perception of the unstable ‘over-emotional’ woman. At long last, whilst fighting Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) she realises she doesn’t need to play by his rules or ego – she has nothing to prove.

Monica (Akira Akbar) illustrates an amazing example set for the younger generation – especially through her admiration of the friendship between her mother, Maria (Lashana Lynch) and Danvers, as well as their skill. I’m ecstatic that children have these powerful, dimensional characters on such a massive platform. Honestly, seeing the representation of women on screen in Captain Marvel made me cry. Danvers says she’s been fighting with one arm tied behind her back, and then we witness what she can do when she’s free. This is what happens when women have the opportunity to create, and I feel cheated knowing that we could have had this content all along.

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As a long-time Marvel fan, I’ve waited for the introduction of Skrulls – a shape-shifting alien race. I loved the subversion of villain expectations, replacing it with a refugee narrative which feels relevant to our world. The film becomes about family, with Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), leader of the Skrulls, striving to be reunited with his. When he comments that more of their kind are separated and strewn about the galaxy, you can’t help but think of the families separated at the American border, along with the wider refugee crisis. The unexpected shift in the Skrulls’ story provides a commentary of which we needed reminding.

It’s impossible to discuss Captain Marvel without acknowledging Stan Lee. The first film following the legend’s death naturally features a cameo that’s now bittersweet. But another tribute was heartwarming: the opening Marvel logo replaced its depictions of characters with photos and clips of the universe’s biggest and most beloved hero of all.

Thank you, Captain Marvel. Thank you, Stan.

Katie Burdon

 

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