It’s the first time Marvel Studios (aka Disney) has been behind the superhero curve. Eager to release their first solo female superhero, they managed to tie “Captain Marvel” (changed from an original male character to female) into the ongoing “Avengers” saga rather quickly. Oscar winner Brie Larson (“Room”) is an ideal champion for this sarcastic, tough trail blazer both on and off screen. Marvel goes the route of an X-Men film for this origin story prequel, taking its audience to the mid-90’s and wallowing in pinball machines, Blockbuster stores and grunge band rock music. The de-aging special effects used on Jackson and Gregg are more impressive than the intergalactic battles, which quite frankly slide into “Star Wars” territory a bit too often. Groundbreaking it is not, but “Captain Marvel’s” most impressive work might be forthcoming when she joins “Avengers End Game” this spring.
It’s 1995, Vers (Larson) from the planet Kree, has crash landed on C-53, otherwise known as Earth. This planet, very different from her own, all seems a bit familiar to the woman who can emit forceful blasts of plasma from her fists. Her mission is to track and destroy enemies called Scrolls, shape shifters who can morph into anyone they come in contact with. Her trail of destruction leads to a run in with SHIELD agent Nick Fury (Jackson), a glorified desk detective, desperately trying to comprehend all these alien forces fighting on his planet. Vers and Fury apprehensively work together until they understand they are both on the same side. Every second on Earth gives Vers more recollection about her life as Captain Carrol Danvers. Trying to understand her past, Kree becomes impatient with Vers sympathy towards the enemy, sending in her mentor Yon-Rogg (Law) who is following orders from Kree ruler Ronan (Pace).
Like many of the lesser known superheroes, there is a lot of expositional explaining before “Captain Marvel” can get to what audiences really paid for, the fight scenes and Marvel Comic Universe inclusion. The backstory segments, which eat up the first third, are arduous, challenging patience and viewer endurance. No amount of Larson charm can cut through the dense and groggy space garbage subject matter that feels more like “Star Trek” in parts than Avengers. When “Captain Marvel” finally gets to Earth, the film finds its footing. Yet it’s only after the first of two credit sequences that we feel the gravity of “Captain Marvel’s” importance on events yet to come. Can the first and original “Avenger” save the doomed superhero’s from Thanos in the upcoming series?
With so many superhero movies clogging cinema, it’s difficult to carve out original space for a new commodity. Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson”) face an uphill battle and this entry often times feels like it’s trying too hard. Marvel Studios has never understood that less is more and bigger seems to be the currency in which they measure everything. For sure “Captain Marvel” is more interesting and entertaining than “Ant-Man,” “Thor,” “Hulk” and to a degree many of the rival studio superhero films because most viewers are discovering this character for the first time. Her specific personality, which is written more in the vein of Larson’s own, than what I remember in the comic books, is unlike anyone else in the Marvel Universe. I hope Larson can balance superhero status and continue work in indie films, which most of the other “Avengers” have abandoned at this point.
Final Thought – New character, familiar territory; “Captain Marvel” doesn’t break much new ground.