Review: Brie Larson is a superheroine in Captain Marvel, a passable origin story

Nick Fury doesn’t sport an eyepatch for a significant portion of Captain Marvel’s running time. How and why he ended up wearing one is just one of the many mysteries surrounding the Marvel Cinematic Universe that ends up getting solved over the course of this film, as is that regarding the origin of the Avengers Initiative and how it ended up getting entitled thus. It’s the beginning before the end, so to speak – the Russo brothers’ final installment in the superhero series is due for a theatrical release next month – and most of the fun in watching Captain Marvel lies in getting to see how some of these (long unresolved) threads tie themselves up, as well as in trying to predicate how this film will lead up to what is arguably the most hotly anticipated cinematic event of the year.

Carol Danvers doesn’t know who she is. Her life is a blank, she says, frequently punctuated by flashes that feel all too real but are hard to contextualize, and it’s this warrior’s proclivity for self-doubt that truly renders her vulnerable. Hers is a colourful existence: she’s described at alternate points in the film as a renegade soldier, an Air Force Pilot and an undercover operative of an alien tribe that refers to itself as a race of ‘noble warrior heroes’.

The film is set in 1995—a time when Blockbuster video rental stores were still all the rage – and so we see Danvers using AltaVista in an Internet café and coming to terms with the sluggishness of a Windows 95-enabled system. Brie Larson throws herself into the part, all gusto and earnestness, and this is a role that sees her swing from rope to rope, leap onto train tops and tackle ballistic warheads with the ease of a pro – one who boils a tea-kettle with her bare hands when she’s not busy blasting photon beams through the chests of her enemies. The ‘villains’ here are insidious shapeshifters who can transform into any lifeform ‘right down to their DNA’, and part of her mission is not to fight wars, but to end them.

Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck needed to keep the proceedings a little less inert though. The stakes here are never quite urgent enough, and as a result this tale of tenuous, shifting alliances gets tedious beyond a point, far too staid and by the numbers for its own good. The film’s visual palette also feels occasionally lacklustre at times, its already tangible dullness even more conspicuous with the addition of 3D glasses. A character asks another to go “higher, further, faster”, and this film needed to as well.

It’s a good thing we have a digitally de-aged Fury— and a cat—to save the day. The famously silver-tongued S.H.I.E.L.D. agent remains as quick-witted as ever, and it’s his droll repartee with Larson that results in some of the film’s best moments. “Grunge is a good look for you,” he remarks after the latter has just stolen a motorbike and disrobed a mannequin, and even Brad Pitt’s name is invoked to hilarious effect here. Fury has a soft corner for stowaways that mew, and so we’re acquainted with a creature named Goose, who as it turns out, might not be so feline after all. A well-timed scratch can make a world of a difference, as we soon discover, but there’s more to this kitty than his claws.

The end credit sequence, as always, is one that will elicit many a squeal of delight, and while I will not delve into any explicit spoilers here, it must be said that most of our affirmations regarding Avengers: Endgame might not entirely be unfounded. The trailer for that film promises as much, of course, and this is as great a time as any to be a Marvel nut, even if the future is likely to be just a tad straightjacketed. Some roulette wheels are destined to spin only in one predetermined direction. Those who fell down yesterday will invariably stand up tomorrow.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Shreehari H. is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.

Brie LarsonCaptain MarvelMovie Review