Review – Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe with an enjoyable enough entrance, but the number of moving parts and identity themes make it tricky to completely engage with

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Brie Larson (Kong : Skull Island and best actress Oscar winner for Room) stars in the lead role as Carol Danvers in the film set in the mid 1990’s  . Danvers, or ‘Vers’ is a human member of the Kree starforce – a protective force for the Kree alien race. Suffering from nightmares that feel like flashbacks to her former life, we begin to see her trying to unpick the mystery of her past.

This plays out during battles with the Skrill – an enemy alien race, who have the ability to shapeshift and assume identity of others.  Early in the film, Danvers escapes capture from the Skrill and lands on Earth in Los Angeles, and is rapidly joined up with a younger Nick Fury to the one that we know so far (magic of de-aging Samuel L. Jackson via CGI) trying to unpick her questions about her own past, and also fighting the present threat of the Skrill.

The film has a real theme of identity, in terms of discovery, evolution, and the masking of it. We see Danvers trying to understand who she is, whilst part of that journey is about truly understanding who those around her are as well.

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The challenge the film has though, is that this is a relatively complex thing to hold on to with a non linear narrative and works hard to try and introduce an entire new world (ie, in terms of the Kree and Skrill) whilst unveiling mystery within it. There are a number of threads and whilst technically they are resolved by the end of the film, the engagement of the audience is reduced through this noise.

Larson’s performance is an interesting one – the problem with portraying a focussed warrior, is that it also means that she is far less engaging that the traditional heroes that we’re seen so far in the MCU. As a result, whilst she doesn’t put a foot wrong, she is somewhat hard to root for, and to develop a real liking for. Putting her next to Samuel L Jackson serves to help her get established in such terms, but at the same time, highlights the real difference in charisma between the two.

Supporting performances from Jackson, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn and Annette Benning all add a quality to the film, but can only so much with the tricky narrative and structure that the film is trying to work through.

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The film works hard to use its 1995 setting to build laughs where it can (certainly for those old enough to remember it well) and takes every chance it can to make pop culture or technology references to the period from Blockbuster stores to pagers. This nostalgic humour works for one part of the audience, but is lost on another.

It’s enjoyable enough as an addition to the Marvel world, but is low down on the list of the films of this shared universe.

6/10

 

 

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