As we sat through what felt like 73 coming attractions at tonight’s showing of Captain Marvel, it seemed that 64 of them were from the Marvel Comics cinematic universe. Is there no limit to the imaginative stories and money being made by this enterprise? Perhaps eventually the entire cast of characters will become as impotent as The Hulk in Avengers: Infinity War, but all signs indicate that this will not be anytime soon.
The experience began with a very nice short video tribute to Stan Lee, whose passing just short of age 96 during November of 2018 came at the continuing zenith of his creative success. But that didn’t prevent him from appearing in his traditional cameo early in this film, grinning like a Cheshire Flerken (more on that later). One wonders how many features still in production were able to squeeze him in during his last days. Or maybe they’ll just create him in a digital studio.
There are plenty of explosions and battles between seemingly indestructible heroes and villains here. And unless I’m becoming numb to the violence, this isn’t the gory stuff of Deadpool. Sure, they get tossed around and shot with energy weapons, but they play dead nicely without being dismembered or tortured first. And much of the blood is blue – a hallmark of the alien Kree race we’re familiar with as fans of Agents of Shield. Comic book violence has evolved along with everything else, but a PG13 rating reigns in the graphic boundaries while expanding the potential audience to next generation fans.
There’s always an air of excitement in a theater prior to a Marvel feature. Yet it’s surprising how few hardcore fans there are. They’re the ones who stay for the teaser after the movie ends, and after an interminable wait, the sneak peak following the credits. The theater cleaning staff patiently waits for the small group of faithful to exit before beginning their rounds, but they show up a bit early just in case no one stays. It’s a geeky I-know-something-you-don’t few moments.
Brie Larson plays the title role nicely, balancing pretty with powerful, joking along the way, and handling some very physical action sequences. If not mistaken, I noticed that she appeared to be somewhat knock-kneed when filmed from behind while running, making for an awkward, sprinting Pee Wee Herman gait that was only seen once. She’s not able to run like Tom Cruise, nor does she need to, actually spending more time flying and doing the superhero fall-from-on-high, thundering touchdown that’s become so popular. I guess when you slam one leg and a fist into the ground it breaks your fall. I would just severely injure a knee, ankle and wrist.
To sum up Captain Marvel is to hum along with Gwen Stefani’s I’m Just a Girl, which accompanies a lengthy battle sequence. It’s a nice selection from 1995, the year being portrayed in the film. Brie (Carol, Vers or Captain Marvel) and former best-friend/test pilot Maria Rambeau, played by Lashana Lynch, relive their power-couple Top Gun days at the urging of Maria’s young daughter. She very cutely challenges, “You have a chance to fly into space and battle aliens and you’re gonna stay home and watch Fresh Prince with me? What kind of example is that?” Thankfully they didn’t dredge up Spice Girls for the soundtrack, also from the same pop music era, and also loaded with girl power. It was very clear that these are strong, capable women.
If you like coming of age stories of any kind, a mystery that requires unraveling, or a superhero origin story, this film elegantly intertwines genres through all three initially somewhat confusing subplots. Once we get that sorted out, it’s all good guys versus bad guys on a cosmic scale that eventually dovetails into the Marvel universe. Although the name of the title character required explaining, “It’s Mar-Vel,” we can overlook one clumsy moment in an otherwise well written journey.
Other actors of note include Annette Bening (married to Warren Beatty), who has been working steadily in a number of forgettable films, Jude Law, who effectively plays a good guy gone bad, and Ben Mendelsohn, who seems to be showing up just about everywhere since his role as the troubled son Danny on Netflix’s amazing Bloodline series, where he suppressed his Australian accent. After Captain Marvel was over, I found myself wondering why only some aliens have accents.
For fans that have been along for the ride for a while, there are lots of tasty treats (might that red Mustang fly at a later date?) and familiar faces, a couple of which were digitally made younger. Ever-loyal Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) hasn’t looked this good in years. Likewise for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), whose befriending of a cat (a Flerken if you’re a Kree) is adorable and gets some of the best laughs in the film. Oh, cats and their hairballs!
Captain Marvel was a quick two-hour prequel, a visually engaging trip with lots of color, cool tunes and non-stop action. It stands on its own if you’re just stepping into Marvel territory, but really delivers if you’ve been there many times before.
Captain Marvel (2019) runs 2 hours, 3 minutes and is rated PG13
Should I see this movie?