There have been 20 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 19 of them have centered on a male lead. One of them (released last year, no less…) at least had a female character listed in the title.
The 21st movie in the MCU, and the first one that features a woman as the lead and title character, had big shoes to fill. Lest we even get into the fact that Avengers: Infinity War ended with 50% of all life in the universe being destroyed, and Captain Marvel being the potential solution…
So, to back up a moment… The character of Captain Marvel goes back a long way, but the version being portrayed in the movie, Captain Marvel, is a more recent addition to the comics. Carol Danvers’ version is described as one of the most powerful heroes in Marvel comics, one that apparently was difficult to bring to the MCU because the whole thing had to be grounded in some semblance of reality first, before the space-faring characters from Guardians of the Galaxy, or Thanos, could really be brought into the fold.
And so, it was decided to hold off on the power of Captain Marvel until later in Phase 3 of the MCU, giving time for stories of Captain America, Iron Man, and the other Avengers to come to a close (and end some contracts along the way). In some ways, I think this was probably the right decision, as her entrance onto the scene is given a great deal of weight: literally reversing Thanos’ “snap” and fixing the events of Infinity War as no one else could.
Oddly, they had to spin things back to the 1990s in order to set things up, so the movie is something of a “period piece,” complete with landing in a Blockbuster Video and waiting for a CD-ROM to load on an old Windows machine. As a child of the 90s myself, I very much appreciated this, though I could imagine many of those details flying over my kids’ heads someday.
The trailers didn’t inspire me with a ton of confidence for Brie Larson‘s performance. I can’t put a pin on why, exactly, as I’d seen her in other movies and thought she did a great job. Perhaps it was knowing that Brie Larson and trying to square that with the characters across the MCU I’ve grown to love over the last 20 movies. Still, those concerns were dashed aside early on: she did a great job and Marvel Studios can absolutely build a franchise around her. Her comedic timing was quite good, despite the fact that she isn’t known for her roles in comedies. Her buddy-buddy banter with Samuel L Jackson was also very good (and the make-up job they do to “de-age” him was really, really impressive).
The other characters were pretty good, though somewhat predictable. Ben Mendelsohn has been in a lot of stuff recently and was good here, despite having his face covered in a prosthetic for most of the movie (and he was surprisingly funny in the role, too). Jude Law didn’t have much heavy lifting to do for his role, but he did alright. Annette Bening hit the interview circuit over the past few weeks and was able to hold back spoilers regarding the nature of her character, which was actually pretty good from a story perspective. Let’s just say that, among these three characters, there was a lot of bouncing back and forth between who is bad and who is good, and it kept the audience guessing to an effective degree.
Ultimately, it was a good movie. It got predictable at points, but again, it’s the 21st movie in a long line of films, so it’s to be expected. Still, the acting was great, the movie was funny, the build-up to “letting Captain Marvel” loose at the end was earned, and she proved herself to be a bad-ass.
Good thing Avengers: Endgame comes out at the end of April…