Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Screenwriters: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet, from a story by Nicole Perlman & Meg Lefauve, plus Boden, Fleck & Robertson-Dworet.
Samuel L. Jackson
Runtime: 124 mins.
Australian release date: 7 March 2019
Previewed at: Hoyts EQ, Moore Park, Sydney, on 5 March 2019.
Captain Marvel may be the 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it contains a number of ‘firsts’: it’s the first MCU movie to feature a female superhero as the lead; it’s the first to have a female director (even if it’s a role shared with a male); and it’s the first to include a pet, a ginger tabby named ‘Goose’, who has an important part. The film is based on a much-loved comic book series originally published in 1967 but producer Kevin Feige says, “We thought it was the right time to finally introduce Captain Marvel to the world. She’s one of the most popular characters and one of the most powerful characters in the comics and will now be the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” It’s an origin story of sorts, although not a linear one, because Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is already a fully-formed superhero when we meet her. It does, however, explain the genesis of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and how he came by his trademark eye-patch.
Starting in 1995, Captain Marvel follows the journey of Carol Danvers, a former US Air Force test pilot who’s become a key member of Starforce, an elite intergalactic team of Kree warriors under the leadership of the enigmatic Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). There’s a perpetual, interplanetary war going on in space between the Kree and the Skrulls, an alien race of shape-shifters who can adopt any form, whose leader is Talos (our very own Ben Mendelsohn under a prosthetic mask, but his distinctly Australian voice gives him away). As the war reaches Earth, aka C-53, Danvers finds herself alone on a planet she can barely remember and yet knows she has a connection to. To help her, she recruits a small cadre of allies to figure out the truth of who’s behind the war and get to the bottom of her vague memories, including old friend and colleague Maria (Lashana Lynch) and her daughter Monica (Akira and Azari Akbar), plus Agents Fury (Jackson) and Coulson (Clark Gregg). Add to this mix an occasional interaction with a mysterious off-world mentor (Annette Bening) and you’ve got all the elements of a planetary puzzle.
Co-director Boden says of Danvers/Marvel, “The character is flawed in certain ways and wildly human even though she is a superhero. She has a sense of humour as well as real grit. She’s sometimes a little bit cocky and sometimes a little bit irrational and doesn’t make the best decisions for herself… Having Brie Larson in this role is so important because she is such a strong, dynamic and complex person and woman. She brings so much of that to her work and this character.” Larson is terrific, engaging, funny and likable. She makes her superhero someone you feel you could relate to and who you want to meet again. Jackson (and Clark Gregg) was digitally de-aged in post-production, making him look as he would have in the mid-90s. It’s an effective trick, if a little unnerving. He, of course, has some of the best lines in the clever, amusing script because, up to this point in his career, Fury has never encountered beings with superpowers or aliens. His scenes with ‘Goose’ are particularly funny.
It goes without saying that an MCU movie is going to be technically proficient and have the highest production values, and Captain Marvel doesn’t disappoint. It looks fantastic - the cinematography, lighting, sets, design and costumes all contribute to the creation of worlds you can readily accept and the production design and art direction teams obviously had a lot of fun with the 1990s period setting. Remember Blockbuster video shops, Commodore computers, dial-up internet and pagers? You will when you see this.
Boden and Fleck come from an indie production background, so the Walt Disney Studio was taking something of a risk in employing them on such a big budget movie as this, as the studio also did when they hired Taika Waititi to direct Thor: Ragnarok. With the latter film it certainly paid off and it’s safe to say that it will work again with Captain Marvel. The directors and writers have come up with a worthy addition to the MCU, an amusing and light-hearted film but one with a timely message about female empowerment and equality. Oh yes, make sure you stay for the end credits!