Never has the arrival of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ felt more urgent than while watching ‘Captain Marvel’. While the space-faring alien-human hybrid (Brie Larson) hasn’t featured in any of the promotional content for the April 14 release yet, she’s been largely set up to be the one who’ll help what’s left of the Avengers win the war against Purple Man Thanos and bring some of their fallen heroes back.
So it goes without saying that ‘Captain Marvel’ had its work cut out for it since the day audiences watched Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) pull out a beeper and send out a distress beacon as he turned into dust after the Great Snap in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’. The good news is it lives up to the hype. The bad news? It’s cookie-cutter Marvel at its best. So even if they satisfy every little expectation you had going into the cinemas, best believe that you’re coming out happy but not entirely buzzing with the thrill of having watched something altogether new. But this, really, is a minor gripe.
Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (sharing screenplay credits with Geneva Robertson-Dworet) channel their indie filmmaking experience to make a film about two alien races fighting it out on little ol’ Earth seem extremely relatable. Think ‘Top Gun’ meets ‘Men In Black’, a healthy dose of buddy cop hilarity combining with rogue soldier vibes, all set against the high stakes of intergalactic battle.
Even the scene-stealing, cuddly cat you see in the trailers is named Goose, after Anthony Edwards’ character in ‘Top Gun’, so you know the film knows its Roots. And it’s exactly this kind of heart-on-its-sleeve bravado that endears ‘Captain Marvel’ to you. The biggest moments of ‘Captain Marvel’ are at most times its quietest ones, the ones that tell you about resilience, loyalty and life-long friendship.
‘Captain Marvel’ begins while telling us about the war between the Kree, an ancient and noble warrior race, and the Skrulls, sly, shape-shifting guys that lend the movie the ability to give us gems like our titular hero bashing what looks like a sweet old lady’s face in. Larson’s Captain Marvel (who is referred to as Vers, pronounced Veers, through most of the movie) is Kree, and more importantly a member of the elite Kree military unit called Starforce, headed by Yonn-Rogg. A covert operation on a Kree border planet, featuring Gemma Chan’s Kree warrior Minn-Erva, leads to Vers’ capture and the Skrulls’ min-probing technology unlocks her memories of being Carol Danvers, a human, a discovery that leads her back to C-53, or Earth.
As the trailers will attest, Vers crashlands straight into a Blockbuster store, immediately setting the scene for a full-blown 90s throwback, complete with a ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’-inspired soundtrack, featuring hits by bands like Nirvana and No Doubt. From here on, it’s a fight to uncover her history and unlock her true potential, as the Kree and the Skrulls come to a head far away from either’s homes.
Helping her on this journey are Fury, a decidedly young version of him with both eyes intact, a still green Phil Coulson and Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), Carol Danvers’ best friend growing up and at the Air Force academy. If there’s one takeaway from all of ‘Captain Marvel’, it should be its practiced portrayal of female friendships. By not giving Danvers/Vers a half-baked romantic partner, the character is given the freedom to grow into its own minus unnecessary drama and cliched expectations. Also, Rambeau and Danvers kick the Bechdel Test so out of the park, you wonder why more women don’t talk to each other in movies. The result is just electrifying.
Larson and Jackson also share easy-going chemistry that sets the general tone of the film quite early on. The quips keep coming fast, and maybe, just maybe, after having watched 20 full MCU films before this one, the humour can sometimes feel little overdone. Again, a minor gripe.
Special mention must be made of Ben Mendelsohn’s main Skrull guy, Talos. He brings a breeziness to the character and you feel, at once, charmed, even if you don’t want to be. And while we were so excited about Annette Bening’s casting in the movie, her half-baked turn was cringeworthy and we can only thank God that we probably never have to see her in an MCU film again. Bring Talos back though, we want to see more of that bizarrely British-accented alien bloke.
There are many reasons you should be watching ‘Captain Marvel’, least of all that it sets up one of the most hotly anticipated movies in the last two decades. And it does so well. But now more than ever there’s a need for heroes who will show us what a world where you can respect each other, free of racial and gender bias, could look like. ‘Black Panther’ did it recently. ‘Captain Marvel’ takes it one step further. Trolls will say these movies are pandering. Trolls are wrong.
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‘Captain Marvel’ is out in the UAE on March 7.