Captain Marvel — a review (and a farewell salute to MCU Phase 3)

CaptainMarvel

Yeah, yeah. I know.

Captain Marvel wasn’t the last movie in Phase 3. It was, however, the last one I watched, this morning.

To be perfectly honest with you (and I always am), I delayed watching this movie because I didn’t think I would like it. I’ve never been a fan of Captain Marvel in the comic books, whether the character was male or female. I’m not really familiar with the entire mythology of the character. I do, however, have a vivid memory of a black female Captain Marvel some time in the 1980s, and I believe there is a reference to her in this movie, which I will talk about later.

To dive a little deeper into honesty mode, I also had an abiding belief that the mere existence of this movie was a knee jerk reaction to the #MeToo movement and the DCEU’s release of Wonder Woman. The MCU needed to release a movie with a powerful female lead in order to one-up the competition.

For the record, I’m not saying that these events didn’t motivate the decision to greenlight this movie. What I am saying, though, is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is the end result.

This is a good movie. And, suddenly, I’m a Captain Marvel fan.

The character is retconned into the MCU by being a part of it from before the beginning of Phase One. The bulk of the action in this movie takes place in the 1990s, and it becomes not just the origin story of Captain Marvel, but the origin story of the Tesseract, the Avengers Initiative, and even Nick Fury’s missing eyeball. In effect, this is really a Phase One movie, not Phase Three.

Okay, I know you’ve all seen this movie by now, but that’s all the spoiler material I plan to divulge if you’re a johnny-come-lately like I am. It’s going to be difficult, but I’m going to try.

The first fifteen minutes of the movie almost had me convinced that my apprehensions about it would prove to be correct. It’s not that it was a bad fifteen minutes, mind you. It was great special-effects laden science-fiction-fantasy that put us on an alien world from the jump, and introduced us quickly to several main characters. Brie Larson is introduced to us as a Kree warrior called Vers. Her handler-trainer-unit-commander is the disconcertingly non-blue Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Seriously, most of the Kree are blue, but some are the normal human spectrum of colors as well. What’s up with that? Then we get Annette Bening as the avatar of the Kree’s ruling AI, the Supreme Intelligence, but we’re told the image is someone who’s very important to the Vers character, even though she doesn’t remember who she is. Vers is having flashbacks centered around her missing memories, and we see that she has glowing Iron Fist powers like Danny Rand, and that she is a member of an elite commando unit fighting the Skrulls that also looks like a diversity poster.

It’s not that this wasn’t all well done and exciting. It was. I just didn’t feel up to watching two hours of outer space hijinks. The Guardians movies scratched that particular itch.

The mystery plaguing the Brie Larson character also kept my attention. I was confused already. This is where my unfamiliarity with the Captain Marvel backstory began to tell on me. I thought the Kree had already been established as MCU villains, both in the movies and on Agents of SHIELD. I knew that Skrulls were go-to Marvel badguys, but my knowledge of the whole Kree-Skrull conflict was limited. Like I said, confused.

Vers is captured by the Skrulls and subjected to some sort of mind probe. The Skrulls are searching for some particular coordinates in her memories. Along the way, they help her dredge up more memories of a life she’s forgotten. This is going to be important to the story.

When the action moved to the planet Earth, I felt—literally—on more solid ground. As an added bonus, the time period is the mid-1990s, which tickled whatever area of my brain is devoted to nostalgia. It really doesn’t feel like this was a quarter-century ago to me. Vers, who we later come to know as Carol Danvers (really, this can’t be a spoiler), crashlands inside a Blockbuster Video store, which is our first visual cue that this is set in our past. The video store is almost directly beside a Radio Shack as well. I know that they technically still exist, but not like during their heyday. During college, I worked for Radio Shack, back when it was still part of the Tandy Corporation. Ah, memories.

The time period also allows us to get a retro soundtrack, ala Guardians. Yes, I heard Nirvana, REM, and Beck, but the fact that the soundtrack was dominated by female acts wasn’t lost on me. I heard Heart, Garbage, Hole, No Doubt, Salt-n-Peppa, TLC, even Lita Ford. And, it’s a great soundtrack.

We’re then introduced to a pre-eyepatch Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), both of whom are de-aged using computer effects that have apparently advanced to an infinite degree. Seriously, this is the best I’ve ever seen. Of course, the special effects are phenomenal throughout the movie, but we’ve grown to expect that.

The story becomes something else on Earth, a large component of it being an investigation into Carol Danvers’ past, which leads us to Project Pegasus and Captain Marvel’s true secret origin, and eventually to Louisiana, to the home of Danvers’ fellow squad member and friend Maria Lambeau (Lashana Lynch). Lambeau seems to be channeling the accent and hairstyle of the Popeye’s Chicken spokeswoman. Lambeau’s daughter is a feisty young lady named Monica (Akira Akbar), who I believe grows up to be the ’80s Captain Marvel I recalled earlier.

The Kree villain Ronin (Lee Pace) makes a return appearance, setting up what will presumably be the inevitable sequel.

That’s it. That’s all I can share today without giving everything away. There’s action and humor and a few surprises in store for you if the Internet hasn’t ruined them for you already. I can’t say that this has been my favorite MCU movie yet. That title still has to go to the first Avengers movie, I think, if you asked me this morning. But, Captain Marvel is up there, high on the list. With the events of the movie still fresh in my mind, it may even be battling for the #2 spot. Time will tell.

As I reported earlier, this movie concludes my trip through Phase 3 of the MCU as well. I have now watched every MCU movie produced to date. I have personally added to the billions of dollars that have flowed into the Disney coffers. With a new Star Wars movie about to come out and Phase 4 looming on the horizon, I am destined to add more.

Firewater’s Add-Me-To-Your-Feminist-Agenda Report Card: A

A

I’m late jumping on the bandwagon, but this was a rousing, entertaining, and welcome addition to the MCU. Now, onward and upward. Higher, further, faster.

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