Cat Power: A Review of 'Captain Marvel'
Like an interlocking piece of a gigantic puzzle, MCU’s (Marvel Cinematic Universe) Captain Marvel forms an essential part of what’s still to come later in the year, Avengers: Endgame, the all-star finale that promises to supply the answer to what the fates are of all these superheroes we’ve dutifully followed in all their permutations: origin films, stand-alone adventures, and previous Avengers installments.
As such, Captain Marvel is something that can’t be missed, but does it really satisfy as a stand-alone film? It’s entertaining, and there’s even a great story within the film; but there are many echoes of things we’ve seen in the past. And how do you judge this film when the most consistently interesting and compelling figure is an orange tabby cat named Goose?
The film opens with Vers (Brie Larson), a Kree warrior trained and coached by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), asked to approach the Supreme Intelligence in order to better understand her mission and purpose. It’s established that the Kree world is at war with the interloping Skrulls, and Earth (referred to simply as Planet C-53) was the setting for incidents that caused some of the flashbacks that Vers is now experiencing. As a result of this establishing premise; at one level, the film is an odyssey for Vers to discover herself, find out who she is, and why she is in possession of such power.
With Brie Larson tackling the role, there is a vibrancy and vulnerability that we don’t often see; it’s a super-heroine who’s asked to emote, act, and be more complex and textured than the others we’ve encountered carrying their own origin film. And when I say vulnerable, this isn’t in a physical sense but more to do with the mental fragility that lies at the core of Vers/Carol Danvers (the Earth person she discovers she was). Samuel L. Jackson as a young Nick Fury - the film is set in the 1990s - is her sparring partner on Earth, and along the way, he picks up his own one-cat entourage, the aforementioned Goose.
At a little over two hours, one could gripe about how long it takes for the film to really pick up speed; the strongest parts for me would be the middle section and the finale. But I think the bigger problem would be how, this late in the game of superhero films, we’ve just seen so many tropes and beats that so much of this film feels and looks derivative. One aspect of this would be how this seems to be Marvel’s answer to Superman, and that there are aerial dogfight scenes that are reminiscent of Star Wars. When Captain Marvel discovers she can fly and goes to battle, some of the scenes look like outtakes of Dark Phoenix. And this set of circumstances goes on Repeat mode, so we’re thinking of references, and ask "where did we previously see this?" Quite distracting!
But at its core, this is a piece of a larger puzzle; and it is exhilarating to see how it all fits. The Skrulls are shape-shifters, and we know Loki is one as well. The Tesseract makes an appearance. The story of why Nick Fury wears an eyepatch is given its turn in the spotlight. And the usual end-credits Marvel Easter eggs are not to be missed.
I believe this is one of those Marvel films that will leave audiences divided. The indie directors brought on board certainly made for a different vibe. But whether one ends up loving this film or believing it lacks the punch of the other Marvel films, one needs to watch this to better appreciate the full picture, and prepare us for how Avengers: Endgame will unfold
Photos from iMDb