One of the things that has become so impressive about how Disney rolls out the Marvel Comics Universe films is how each film’s release seems to come at the exact right moment.
That is the case with the latest entry “Captain Marvel.” The 21st movie in the franchise doesn’t just serve as an origin story, it is the bridge between last year’s “Infinity Wars” and its conclusion that comes out next month, “End Game.”
“Marvel” succeeds on both levels, a fun throwback with some nice work from Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, as well as a great way to get audiences jazzed up for next month’s big Avenger finale.
Larson stars as Carol Danvers – a member of a unit known as Starforce in the Kree Empire who has recurring visions of a life she thinks she once had.
Carol is taken hostage during a mission to fight shapeshifting aliens known as Skrulls but manages to escape – winding up on Earth.
Since it is still the 1990s, 1995 to be exact, her presence on the planet draws the attention of the U.S. government – particularly S.H.I.E.L.D. and one of its best agents, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
With the help of Fury, Danvers sets out to learn secrets of her past and how it all connects to the Skrulls and Kree Empire – and their seemingly endless conflict.
“Captain Marvel” was co-written and co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the duo behind indie films “Half Nelson” with Ryan Gosling and “Sugar.” While their previous work wouldn’t suggest the fit for “Marvel,” it actually works well, as the filmmakers bring that same human element to this story (even with all the aliens and superhero stuff) that they did to those two films.
This isn’t your typical origin story in the sense that it’s a personal journey for Danvers that has a little more depth than normal. Larson proves to be the perfect person for this role, which is significant for being the first female lead in a Marvel film. She brings the right mix of toughness, spunk, charm and self-awareness that makes Danvers instantly likable (and her superhero alter-ego the perfect weapon to thwart Thanos in the next Avengers film).
Larson does most of the heavy lifting, but there is plenty of support around her.
Boden and Fleck have a lot of fun with the 90s timeline, with lots of pop culture references and a nostalgic soundtrack that covers the period quite well.
Jackson gets to have a good time with a more subdued version of Fury, while Jude Law – as Danvers’ Kree mentor – Annette Bening and Ben Mendelsohn are also fine in their respective roles.
“Marvel” also features a scene-stealing cat named Goose – don’t worry, it’s a running joke with a pretty clever pay-off – and enough nods to past films that I really came to appreciate how much long-term planning it feels like the filmmakers have done with this franchise.
There is also a nice tribute to Stan Lee, with “Captain Marvel” the first film to be released since his passing. Seeing the tribute reminded me how far this whole series of films has come since “Iron Man” and how far we still have to go.