Captain Marvel Review: A Reminder of Why We Fell in Love with the Avengers

Pop Culture

Captain Marvel Review: A Reminder of Why We Fell in Love with the Avengers

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

After the smashing success of Wonder Woman last year, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has presented its first superheroine. Captain Marvel adds Brie Larson to the ever-expanding family of heroes, and provides a peek into the origins of the Avengers. Set in the ’90s, the film packs a nostalgia-heavy punch, buoyed by a peppy, riot-girl soundtrack. We’re also introduced to a young, wide-eyed (and two-eyed) Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), before he ever learned that superheroes and aliens exist.

Vers (Larson) is of the Kree alien race, made up of “warrior heroes” who are tasked with taking down the Skrulls — shapeshifting aliens who are considered intergalactic terrorists. When she is captured by Skrulls, Vers escapes to Earth, where Fury finds her. But the Skrulls are hot on her heels, shapeshifting into humans and even SHIELD agents, forcing Fury and Vers to team up against them. But whether you’re talking about the Skrulls, the Kree, or Vers herself, nothing is quite what it seems. Even as Vers’ commander warns her against the Skrulls, who forcibly mine her memories, her formidable powers are being controlled by the Kree.

Vers as the newly minted Captain Marvel.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

From the outset, Captain Marvel has the bygone charm of an old-school superhero movie. Vers kicks plenty of ass in between her struggles to reclaim her identity on Earth and take control of her full powers. The plot is complete with evil aliens, space battles, and even the Tesseract, a glowing blue Infinity Stone that pops up in practically every MCU film. Most lately, baddie Thanos used it to decimate half the universe’s population in Avengers: Infinity War, set a couple of decades after Captain Marvel.

It’s because we already know these details that the stakes in Captain Marvel are never too high. There is no impending apocalypse, no motley crew of heroes, and SHIELD is not the looming institution it becomes in films set later in the timeline. The film feels almost quaint in its simplicity, and the touch of indie directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck is evident. It’s a welcome palate-cleanser before the guaranteed plunge into the overstuffed chaos that Avengers: Endgame, releasing next month, will be. To recap, we’re going into a seriously dire situation, with half the Avengers lost to a cosmic genocide and Thanos still at large.

To tell the tale of Captain Marvel, then, is a bold choice, when well-loved women characters like Black Widow and Scarlet Witch have a lot of backstory still left to unravel, and a lot more to lose. But, as usual, Marvel’s releases are not films so much as chapters in an ongoing story — and Captain Marvel makes the perfect prologue for Endgame. We already know that she is the Avengers’ secret weapon against Thanos, and we get a thrilling glimpse into just how powerful she can be.

A Young Nick Fury gets to know Vers.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Still, there’s more to Captain Marvel than just table-setting for Endgame. Vers, who goes on to realise that she’s not actually Kree at all, but the human Carol Danvers, is the mother of the Avengers Initiative. Through Vers, Fury recognises the need to assemble a group of superhumans like her who can deal with extraterrestrial threats. And Fury himself only shows traces of the hardened commander-general he becomes. It’s cute to see him floored by the Skrulls and Kree, who, compared with the invading aliens he meets later in his career, are almost cuddly.

From the outset, Captain Marvel has the bygone charm of an old-school superhero movie.

And some of the film’s best moments come from the dynamic duo of Fury and Vers — who could give even Jai and Veeru a run for their money. Both have the same pronounced renegade streak that you see in the future Avengers. Vers is a guns-blazing wild card, and Fury helps her escape from his SHIELD superiors with no regard for the consequences. It’s this principles-over-protocols approach that is the genesis of the Avengers Initiative. Here is where the perennial questions over what makes a hero begin, and continue on to Endgame.

More than just Carol Danvers’ origins, Captain Marvel takes us back to the humble beginnings of the MCU, before we come to its operatic end. In a decade-deep franchise that can quickly become overwhelming, it serves as a timely reminder of why fans fell in love with the Avengers in the first place. Is it required viewing before Endgame, or even the best stand-alone film that Marvel has to offer? No, and definitely not. But it’s a solid look at the making of a superheroine, and a great way to get hyped for the splendour of Captain Marvel, the Avenger, that we’re bound to see. Bonus: At long last, we get to see how Nick Fury loses an eye.