Movies

Movie Review: Captain Marvel

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Captain Marvel, one of the most anticipated movies of the year, bridges last year’s Avengers: Infinity War with the ending of the Avengers founding members’ stories, Avengers: Endgame, set to premiere on April 26, 2019.

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the first Marvel’s female-led movie is curiously set in the 1990s, more than 10 years after Iron Man birthed the interconnected superheroes universe.  The main question is, of course, Captain Marvel’s whereabouts.  Where has the most powerful superhero been in the last two decades, and especially when all could really use a lending superhand before Thanos decimated half of the universe’s population?  MCU gives an explanation that makes sense in this origin story.

Speaking of origin story, in addition to traveling into the past, the movie adds a fresh spin by opening the story in the middle of a hero’s journey.  Living in Planet Hala, Brie Larson is Vers, a noble warrior of a humanoid alien race Kree.  She’s a part of an elite squad Starforce, led by Commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes).  The Krees have been locked in battles against shape-shifting aliens, Skrulls, with Talos (Ben Mendelshon) as their leader.  The Skrulls appear to have been gallivanting across galaxies, taking the forms of native inhabitants and invading planets.

Vers has had recurring nightmares, flashes of images that she couldn’t understand.  Yon-Rogg teaches her to control her emotions and impulses in order to be the best version of herself.  While escaping from a space battle with the Skrulls, Vers crash lands on Planet C-53, or Earth as we know it.  Los Angeles, 1995 is chock full of nostalgia.  Blockbuster videos, Radio Shack outlet, Pacific Bell pay phone, Alta Vista web browser, paper map, and all the retro style and music.

Vers runs into fresh-faced, two-eyed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.S., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Oldboy) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg).  The digitized de-aging of the two are surprisingly believable.  Not the hardened agent we know, Fury here has more of a laid-back attitude and humor.  He’s never seen a superpowered being prior to Vers.  The duo quickly and comfortably fall into buddy cop roles in their effort to thwart the Skrulls who follow Vers to Earth.

The Skrulls are after a light speed engine created by a Kree scientist, Mar-Vell, or also as known as Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) of the United States Air Force.  The device is said to have a vital role in ending wars.  Dr. Lawson has a connection to Vers’ past life as a USAF test pilot, Carol Danvers.

Vers and Fury trace Carol’s life back to the last person who saw her alive six years ago, fellow pilot and best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch).  Carol’s close bond with Maria adds dimensions to Vers’ character, reminding her of who she is, her humanity and indefatigable spirit as strength.  Carol discovers how fierily powerful she truly is when she sees the truth and frees herself from what’s holding her back.  Having ties to the Air Force and the space inevitably take the action higher, further and faster into the skies. 

If the story seems straightforward, it’s not.  A phenomenal twist flips everything on its head.  Larson’s Carol is very low-key, defying a typical portrayal of a hotshot pilot.  She’s more reserved than brash, placid than cool, wistful than cheerful.  Law’s Yon-Rogg may be more than meets the eye.  Mendelshon’s Talos is one-of-a-kind foe, utterly sympathetic and humorous.  The future is not black or white.  An adorable fury friend named Goose steals the scenes with her hilariously indescribable power.  The post-credits pick up where ‘Infinity War’ ends and a prequel to how a certain cosmic cube appears on Earth.

The movie has all the familiarity of a Marvel movie and is cleverly tied to the cohesive and expansive Marvel Universe.  Yet from a storytelling perspective, it’s refreshingly different, which is quite a feat for being the 21st movie.  Captain Marvel is an entertaining blast from the past and marvelously empowering.

Copyright (c) 2019. Nathalia Aryani

Nathalia Aryani

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic (rottentomatoes.com/critic/nathalia-aryani). She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com.

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