Skip to content

Movie Review: Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel is the 90s action film we didn't know we were missing

Captain Marvel
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
In Theatres

Let's get this out of the way early - I really like Captain Marvel. Now some of you can go about your day. You can go back to work or playing word games or writing comments online that will incite great conversations and debates. 

Now, the rest of you that are in for the long run, let's dig into this comic book movie. Let's work together and try to answer some Big Questions and maybe finish this day a little bit better than we were when it started. Working together, I think we can achieve great things. 

So, what do I like about Captain Marvel?

I like that it very much feels like a 90s action film. I like that the film, while set in the 90s, doesn't overdo the 90s references. Everything from the soundtrack and the set design and attention to detail all hit that sweet spot. The humour, the pathos, and the quiet moments are handled in a way that was fashionable twenty years ago. And Captain Marvel is paced like a 90s action film, taking time for world building and character moments. And yet it somehow still feels like a piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

I like the way it fits together as its own film and how it fits into the giant storyline that Marvel Studios has been telling us since May of 2008. Like the best of the MCU stand-alone films, a person could walk into the theatre completely blind to the rest of the films and their interconnectedness and enjoy the heck out of Captain Marvel. And for the rest of us that have been watching this story develop for almost eleven years and over twenty one films, there is more than enough for us to dig into after the credits roll. I'm not going to go into any kind of plot synopsis or high level overview or anything. I personally went into Captain Marvel not only ignorant about the character but somehow I managed to escape anything remotely related to the movie and the surprises and twists and turns all caught me off guard and surprised me. Usually I don't care about that sort of thing, spoilers are going to happen. But I think this movie works better with the peril sensitive sunglasses on beforehand. 

What else do I like about Captain Marvel?

I like that even though it is set at the time of peak irony, there's not a whiff of irony anywhere in the entirety of its running time. I like that it has stand-up-in-the-theare-and-cheer moments. I like that everyone involved can say things like Starforce and Kree and Skrull and Supreme Intelligence completely straight. I like that it wears its love of its source material on its sleeve. 

I like the cast, from the top of the call sheet to the bottom. I like all of their performances, from the top of the call sheet to the bottom. I like the easy chemistry between the cast.

There's really nothing that I can say about Brie Larson that isn't going to come off as hyperbole. She can do broad comedy, she can win an Oscar, she can be in a movie with a giant ape, she sang my favourite Metric cover of ever. In Captain Marvel, she is never less than real, never less than honest. Even when performing in completely digital landscapes, she sells the emotional realism of the moment. Samuel L. Jackson's ability to find new depth to a character that's he's been playing for almost eleven years is almost supernatural at this point. I didn't know who Lashana Lynch was before the movie, now I want to see her in everything. Annette Bening is her Annette Bening-ness, all class and gravitas. 

But for all of the serious heavyweights in Captain Marvel, for all of this acting talent bringing their A-game, Ben Mendelsohn is the capo di tutti capi here. He steers into the character in a very Ben Mendelsohn way, in the least expected manner. Without chewing up the sets, he grabs our attention and never, ever lets go. Remember when he stole Killing Them Softly from a cast that included James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta and Sam Shepard and Brad frickin Pitt? Yeah, he's that good here. 

What didn't I like about Captain Marvel?

It's overstuffed, the movie tries to do too much. It's a film that's been in development for something like 6 years, and, at moments, it feels like it. A lot has to be crammed in between telling the origin story and tying it in with the rest of the MCU and setting the stage for Avengers: Endgame. It's a lot to ask of a movie, especially a comic book movie where there is no shorthand for the character - for most of the audience this is their introduction to the character. There is no spider, no bat cave, no exploding planet, no radioactive whats-it to be shown over the opening credits to get everyone on the same page. More isn't always better, and Captain Marvel might have jumped from "I like" to "I love" if it had a few less i's to dot and t's to cross. But does it take away from the fun? Not really. 

And that's about all I can think of that's a negative. Captain Marvel slays with its easy charm, it's the 90s action film we didn't know we were missing.