Marvel Studios went higher, further, faster with its first woman-fronted film.
Captain Marvel follows Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), or Veers, a Kree warrior who is torn between her sense of duty to her people and a former life she can’t remember. Set in the ’90s, the movie is a prequel to all but one of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is set to a killer soundtrack of high energy hits from the decade. As Danvers’ origin story unfolds, insight is also offered into the background of other characters and details that resurface in other Marvel movies.
Dressed to kill in alternating practical fighting gear and a quintessential ’90s grunge look, Larson is literally and figuratively on fire throughout the film. Skepticism of her ability to play the hero arose following the release of the first Captain Marvel trailer, but any critics were surely silenced by her powerful performance. Larson perfectly portrays the internal struggle Danvers faces, while embodying the thematic struggle women so often face when they’re told they simply must control their emotions.
The film is thematically striking without being overly heavy-handed, examining women’s roles in war, the workplace and interpersonal relationships in moving but nuanced ways. It critically considers the damaging effects of imperialism and a country-before-all ideology, adding a touch of timeliness that’s particularly thought-provoking without feeling pretentious.
That thematic profoundness, however, doesn’t detract from the clever humor that keeps the film light and fun. Danvers and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) have a buddy-cop like bond, cracking clever jokes at one another while evading the bad guys. It’s satisfying to at last learn a bit more about Fury’s backstory, and his relationship with Danvers (and its implications for Avengers: Endgame) makes it all the better.
Visually and sonically, the film is stunning. As it seems all movies set in space must include, there are definite nods to the Star Wars franchise in the action-packed fight scenes on solid ground and in the air. But the most tender moments Danvers has alone and with friends are captured just as movingly, with close camera angles that add a touch of intimacy among the otherwise action-packed two-hour film.
It’s easy to want to compare Captain Marvel to Wonder Woman, the other major woman-led superhero blockbuster to hit the screen in recent years. But rather than comparing the two, it’s fulfilling in heart and soul to consider the impacts of both films in relationship with one another. Little girls are growing up seeing women save the world, and themselves, without a man’s help.
Carol Danvers is dangerous in the Marvel universe, but the idea she embodies is the most dangerous of all: women are powerful beyond measure.