Ben’s Breakdown | “Captain Marvel”
Nightmares, memory flashes, shoot-outs, voices, killings… Kree warrior Vers wakes up from a bad night of sleep and seeks out her commanding officer Yon-Rogg for some fight training. Vers uses her special power during the combat training and now she must report to the Supreme Intelligence. It’s a familiar face, which she finds disturbing. There’s no time for her to think long on that as her squad has just been given an assignment to find and extract a Kree operative, only things don’t go as planned on that mission. She finds herself at the mercy of her enemy and escapes, only to end up on a planet she doesn’t understand. It’s backwards. The people are technologically inferior. It’s Earth. However her patchy memory is playing tricks on her. She is reached by a very young agent of an organization called S.H.I.E.L.D., and with his help she tries to locate someone who might help her understand what is going on. However, she ends up learning more than she could have bargained for.
From the onset Captain Marvel provides a lot of confusion. From the chaos of Vers’ (Brie Larson) nightmares and broken memories to suddenly being thrown into her warrior life for the Kree this movie raises far too many questions in such a short period of time. The entire time that Vers is in the service of the Kree is puzzling to say the least. This story takes place some years prior to the events of Iron Man, so understanding the Kree, especially what we know of them early on in Guardians Of The Galaxy was almost enough to pull me out of the movie watching experience. However, once Vers is stranded on Earth and then starts to investigate her past does all of this start to form some context. It’s almost as if directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are trying to have us see this story through Vers’ eyes. That’s not to say that there isn’t any action during her time on Earth, for the Kree enemy, known as Skrull, are now also on Earth and are pursing her (Given that this much has been revealed in trailers it doesn’t become so much of a spoiler anymore.). However, her true transformation doesn’t happen until she learns who she is, and that her name is actually Carol Danvers. Ironically during her time with the Kree she has continually tried to get on the path that would make her the most powerful version of herself that she could be, but it isn’t until she learns who she really is that she’s finally able to take that true first step. It’s almost as if the moral of this story is taken from that key line in Hamlet that says, “To thine own self be true.”
Another interesting element to this movie is the backwards world building, meaning that since this story takes place in the past of the MCU the writers have to find a way to craft specific details so that they’re not only compatible with its overall canon, but that it will fit seamlessly in with the rest of the MCU, and that it does. Starting with S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Nick Fury, we see someone here who is unquestionably idealistic and perhaps a wee bit naïve, but Samuel L. Jackson is clearly comfortable enough with this role that he was able to find those character nuances of the Director Fury we all know and love, and sort of deconstruct it just enough to give us someone that we can find both new and recognizable at the same time. Clark Grant is another welcome reminder of the more recent days of the Marvel movies, as well as with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as a very much “wet behind the ears” Agent Coulson. However that’s where the more comfortable parts of this movie’s world building ends, for it does something that is in complete opposition to some of the canon that has been established in the comic books. This will undoubtedly cause a major rift among die-hard Marvel comic book fans, but as I have said in past reviews, these movies are not made for the die-hard comic book fan such as myself, rather they are made for the movie going audience who really doesn’t know much about the minutiae and is only looking to watch a really well told story. In this area Captain Marvel succeeds. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, as evidenced by some of the trolls that have been working hard at getting people to not see this movie, but it will unquestionably have a lot of appeal to everyone else.
Brie Larson as Carol Danvers looks as if she was born to play this role. She has a roughness around the edges that gives Carol some believability, even when early on as Vers and she doesn’t remember who she is, Larson plays her almost as the proverbial bull in the China shop, which is highly appropriate within the context of the movie as Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg has to continually remind her of her need for control. But after she pieces her life together we see a different rough and ready Danvers. Instead of running headlong into trouble and essentially tripping over her own two feet in the process, Danvers becomes the kind of hero who still runs headlong into trouble, only this time she does so with grim determination and grace.
This is probably the greatest message that this movie has, and it is that women should not let others tell them that they’re not good enough. Through flashbacks we see that Danvers had a lot of adversity while growing up, and in her sketchy memory she sees plenty of images of her falling down. However, during a most desperate moment in the film she finally remembers more. She remembers standing back up and dusting herself off. This isn’t what makes Captain Marvel so powerful. It’s what makes Carol Danvers powerful, and in that moment of pure self-actualization does Captain Marvel come forward as the most powerful superhero in the Marvel pantheon (according to Kevin Feige).
As I was leaving the theater I heard another critic bemoan that Carol had no character arc. I would disagree. Her motivations are all based on what she knows and understands. As she comes to learn and remember more we start to see a different type of hero come forward. Her hero’s journey is certainly different than what we see with other superheroes, but it is there nonetheless. Simply by observing her character at the beginning of the movie and seeing that she is changed and evolved towards the end clearly speaks to her character arc.
Despite the first half of Captain Marvel being somewhat uneven, its second half redeems the entire movie giving audiences a movie that will be a game changer much the same way that Black Panther was also a game changer. It has all of the Marvel hallmarks we’ve come to enjoy, from incredible world building and detail, to perfectly placed jokes and humor, to breathtaking action, and even to that special iconic moment where Captain Marvel truly makes her first appearance. That moment happened in Superman: The Movie, it happened in the most recent Wonder Woman, it happened in the first Avengers movie, and it happens here. It is a moment for not only women to cheer, but for all fans of strong superheroes to cheer.
Captain Marvel receives 4 out of 5 Flerkins!