Lady Marvel fans, rejoice! Not only does the MCU finally welcome its first solo heroine, but “Captain Marvel” is, in fact, the best Avenger of them all.
Set in the pop culture wonderland that was 1995, “Captain Marvel” tells the story of Vers, an elite member of the Kree Starforce. Vers is separated from her team while chasing a band of Skrulls, a race of shape-shifters en route to Earth to carry out a mission with catastrophic possibilities.
But once on Earth, Vers finds herself searching for answers about a past she has long forgotten as a US Air Force pilot named Carol Danvers.
Brie Larson is the perfect Captain Marvel. Armed with wit and powers she is still learning to control, Vers is, in many ways, a fish out of water. But the story wisely avoids spending too much time retreading territory we’ve seen with earlier characters. Larson’s Vers is a hero that doesn’t take herself too seriously. Not consumed by ego like Tony Stark, and not a girl scout a la Steve Rogers. She joins the universe as a distinct and fully formed new character. Her addition, while later than it should be, is a welcome one.
Calling her the best Avenger sets a high standard and adds a label from which Larson herself might shy away. But Vers is more powerful than Thor and can do anything Iron Man can do, without the suit. Her strength would rival the Hulk’s, and her strength of character is equal to that of Captain America. Captain Marvel is basically a Super Avenger, and no one could take on that kind of job like Brie Larson.
After arriving on Earth via the roof of a Blockbuster Video, it isn’t long before Vers reluctantly joins forces with a local government agent named Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Once the two team up, “Captain Marvel” also becomes an origin story for Fury as we learn the background, like what led to his proposal of the Avenger Initiative. The movie also becomes something of an unexpected buddy comedy as the two work together to stop the Skrulls. Fury also befriends a cat named Goose, and if cat adoptions don’t skyrocket this weekend, it is certainly not his fault. Samuel L. Jackson has never been more endearing than when he gets googly-eyed over that orange ball of fur.
Jude Law is Yon-Rogg, the Kree commander of Starforce. He is a serious military leader, but clearly admires Vers, a protegee he has spent years training. Law relishes his role as a mentor who always knows just a little more than his mentee. He possesses charm and swagger and knows how to wield both.
The cast enjoys a bounteous harvest of talent with additional members Ben Mendelsohn and Lashana Lynch. Mendelsohn plays Talos, a Skrull leader who is also one of the best shape-shifters of his race. He adds a welcome layer of humor and unpredictability that makes him a villain not totally unlike Loki. But he is also not the same, either.
Lynch is Maria Rambeau, another AF pilot, and Carol’s best friend. She is wise and provides a sense of home and belonging that Vers has been missing for a very long time. The friendship between Carol and Maria is the kind that crosses over into sisterhood. It is a bond that is pure and unbreakable; that cannot be broken by distance, time, or duty.
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck co-directed “Captain Marvel.” They also co-wrote the screenplay with Geneva Robertson-Dworet. Robertson-Dworet has written only one script before this, last year’s “Tomb Raider.” But she is already a sought-after scribe with several new projects in the works.
Anna Boden becomes the first woman to direct an MCU film. Much like the Captain herself, Boden is welcomed into the collective, even if it is later than it should be. She and Fleck have worked together as a writing and directing team for more than a decade. It might have been a daunting task for a pair of indie filmmakers to take charge of a major studio film with a $100 million+ budget. But their history with character-driven stories like “Half Nelson” and “Mississippi Grind” make them the right team to introduce Carol Danvers to the world. This is a big, loud, vibrant movie. It is also a personal story about a complicated woman with a lot of questions. They provide the right balance of both.
The script is funny and energetic. It possesses moments that some men have already called “too on the nose,” but every woman just nods, knowing, because she has been there. The soundtrack is the exact mix every 90s girl played loud and on repeat, singing along at the top of her lungs. The 90s nostalgia is present and delightful, and never feels intrusive or distracting.
Many are looking to “Captain Marvel” to accomplish for women what “Black Panther” did for people of color. And in some ways it does. While her story asks some important questions and tackles significant issues, it may not become a universal rallying cry. This is a film that takes its rightful place in the MCU. Unlike “Black Panther,” it generally requires more affinity for the franchise in order to fully embrace it. But with the most impressive powers in the universe, she is well-suited to lead our heroes into the next phase.
One thing is certain about this final film before we catch up with the Avengers. Thanos has a big, big problem. Captain Marvel is the best Avenger and she’s coming for him.