Captain Marvel gives Wonder Woman a run for her money.
Taking place in a time before the Avengers assembled, Vers (played by Brie Larson) is a member of a task force of the Kree Empire. It is during a time that the Kree is at war with the Skrulls, a race of green shapeshifters. Clearly, we're no longer in Kansas. We discovered that Vers is an amnesiac and also possessed abilities that her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) cautions for her to keep in check. During a mission went awry, Vers is kidnapped by the Skrulls and in an escape attempt, Vers lands on Earth.
There, Vers meets with a younger Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), an agent of SHIELD as they try to evade capture by the Skrulls while trying to discover Vers' history on earth.
Here be spoilers…
What we like
As an aside: after the Captain Marvel preview, I talked with a female acquaintance and asked her what she thought of it. She still prefers Wonder Woman to Captain Marvel. I disagree and went all out explaining why. After a while, it dawned on me that it looks like I was masnplaining to her why I thought Captain Marvel is the dog's bollocks.
But I do enjoy Captain Marvel. And I like Wonder Woman too but Captain Marvel is a better progressive representation for female leads.
I had doubts about Brie Larson being Vers aka Carol Danvers aka the titular Captain Marvel (a moniker that she's never referred to throughout the movie). But she plays the role with such aplomb that I cannot imagine anybody else who can fill the shoes.
If you follow Larson's Instagram, you can see her going through the paces: she went through strength training, consulted with actual pilots at Nellis Air Force Base, slogged through plyometrics, and so on.
But the movie doesn't hinge on Larson's commitment; the supporting cast like Samuel L Jackson's Nick Fury and Lashana Lynch's Maria Rambeau also carry the movie. Danvers' laissez–faire attitude and smart mouth are reminiscent of Gilmore Girls, where the interchange is snappy. It's fun to witness but if not reined in, the tone of the movie would have taken a different direction. Directors, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who came from humble indie roots, fastidiously know when to dial down the blitheness and draw out the emotional beats.
Yes, Carol Danvers is nigh powerful but her experience navigating a male-dominated workplace that is the airforce and being put down by adults that 'girls shouldn't be like boys'… these are relatable and still remains a modern problem.
That's where Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel differ. While the former has the Amazonian sleep with Steve Trevor, the latter has Danvers, unshackled by any romantic notions, pursue her goals. That's not to say that Wonder Woman getting some is wrong. That's fine. But in a culture where it's a common trope in films that a woman is never complete unless a man is involved, watching Danvers achieve her goals without the distraction of romantic love is… refreshing.
Another pleasant surprise is that the Kree/Skrulls war isn't what you think it is. If you've read the comics. In the comic books, the Skrulls are already on earth and they have already infiltrated the human race. It was rumoured that a Skrull invasion would be the next Marvel movie event but… well, to say more will ruin the enjoyment.
What we didn't like
According to Danvers, one of the ways to suss out whether someone is a Skrull, is to ask them personal questions—if a Skrull impersonates someone, they are privy to only the recent memories of the person they are mimicking. So, there's a scene where Danvers interrogates Fury to determine with he's a Skrull or not. He's answering everything that she's throwing in his way but how does she know if he's telling the truth? She doesn't have his bio; she only has his word. It's like a website putting up a security question, asking you to key in your age and you lie about it.
Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson)
What to look out for
There are the Easter eggs for the comic book fans like the first cinematic appearance of Monica Rambeau (Akira Akbar); in the comic books, she'd became a superhero and temporarily adopted the name, Captain Marvel. Kelly Sue DeConnick, the writer behind the comic book run that inspired many elements of the movie, makes a cameo. When Carol alights after the train slows to a stop, you can spot the red-haired DeConnick among the crowd.
Of course, there is the usual Stan Lee cameo. But this one takes the cake. As Danvers searches for the Skrull in a train car, she stops next to Lee, who is poring over a script as he mutters the line, "trust me, true believer" over and over to himself. The title of the script he's reading is Mallrats, a Kevin Smith-directed movie that Lee cameos in. This will make the year that Danvers is in 1993.
Oh. And keep an eye out for Goose the cat.
Captain Marvel is out now in theatres.