Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Captain Marvel *** (2019)

In the lead up to the impending release of Avengers: Endgame, the MCU has introduced Captain Marvel as a new central character. Brie Larson does an admirable job as the first female led in a MCU film, a triumph in the face of online trolls trying to organize boycotts. Set in 1995, before most of the previous films have taken place, Captain Marvel is a prequel that keeps things light, but adventurous. 

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, primarily known for character driven indie dramas like Half Nelson and Mississippi Grind, do manage to bring their sensibilities to the film. If there's a great strength to Marvel movies it's that they are character driven, much in the vein of the original Stan Lee comics. While I typically find the action sequences in these films to be less than spectacular, too much CGI and fast cuts, the franchise as a whole has done a remarkable job of bringing these characters to the screen.

Samuel L. Jackson is excellent as a younger Nick Fury in the days before he assembled the Avengers. Meanwhile an intergalactic war is going on across the universe. "Vers" (Larson) is an intrepid pilot in the space force with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) as her mentor. The first 15 minutes of the film are very Flash Gordon, featuring some stellar space battle action. Through a series of events Vers ends up back on Earth in 1995, sensing she might have led an entire life there, but her memory has been erased (like Jason Bourne). The obligatory 90s references never gets too tedious (Blockbuster Video, Flannels, and Radio Shack). 

The nagging issue of Captain Marvel is that it tries to do way too many things: keeping up the MCU narrative, introducing a major new character, and a story line involving a war in space. In essence, the script had to serve as the opening act for Endgame. Brie Larson was given a challenging job of balancing all these threads, unfortunately at the expense of developing her character. More of her backstory, which we're given in all too brief flashbacks, would've have helped. There's just too much plot to cover.

Script gymnastics aside, Captain Marvel is an enjoyable film. In terms of visuals and dialogue, it stands up with the best of the MCU. Boden and Fleck also added a subtle 90s action aesthetic with nods to Terminator 2: Judgement Day and other blockbusters of the decade. 

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