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Thursday, 7 March 2019

Captain Marvel

(M) ★★★½

Director: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck.

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law.

The new ticket inspectors were a bit full on.
Despite the Marvel Cinematic Universe being a money factory and the biggest film franchise of all time, there's a lot riding on Captain Marvel. The main reason for this is that normal well-adjusted comic-book movie fans are hoping the film makes a metric shit-ton at the box office and gets plenty of critical kudos to silence the dickheaded horde of tiny-cocked, neckbearded incels who are too insecure to handle a female-led superhero movie or star Brie Larson suggesting it would be nice to have more diversity among critics.

The good news is Captain Marvel is good. It's not mind-blowing, but it's damned good fun, has a great sense of humour, and does more than enough to keep you guessing and entertained.

The plot centres on Larson's outer-space warrior, who is part of an intergalactic battle between two alien races. In between fights, she's been struggling to remember her past and learn more about the incredible power she has.

When a mission goes wrong, she finds herself stuck on Earth chasing some rogue aliens led by the devious Talos (Mendelsohn). Teaming up with government agent Nick Fury (Jackson) may be her only hope of catching Talos, but it also might help her uncover her past.

Firstly, it's awesome to see Marvel finally give us a female-led film. While it would have been nice to get a Black Widow or Scarlet Witch movie before now, the wait has certainly been worth it. Captain Marvel doesn't skimp on the girl power, but it doesn't make a big deal about it. And in reality, it's about overcoming adversity, disproving the naysayers, and getting back up when you get knocked down - core themes from the superhero subgenre for as long as its been around.

Captain Marvel's biggest strength is Larson. She's a firecracker, injecting humour and bravado with a lightness of touch that keeps things fun and firing. The film is at its best when she's teamed up with Jackson's Fury, who is an old hand at this, but seems like he's having the time of his life. Law also seems to be relishing his big superhero moment, while Mendelsohn does his best to bring some humanity to his role despite being buried under layers of prosthetics.

The film works best when Jackson and Larson are together. Their pairing harks back to the buddy cop action-comedies of the '80 and '90s, but this is the closest the film gets a distinctive style or identity like, say, the psychedelic Doctor Strange, the tribal-futurism and black power of Black Panther, or the first two Captain America films, which were heavily influenced by Raiders Of The Lost Ark and '70s spy paranoia films respectively. 

This leaves Captain Marvel feeling a little samey and occasionally generic. While its '90s setting and soundtrack help set it apart, it sometimes feels forced, particularly in its unsubtle wedging of Nirvana and No Doubt into two key moments. It obviously hopes to ape Guardians Of The Galaxy's Awesome Mixtape Volume 1, but it doesn't work anywhere near as well. 

But Captain Marvel has enough going for it to overlook its stylelessness and occasional heavy-handed musical moments. For starters, its plot is genuinely surprising, and the way it weaves its amnesia mystery is refreshing for a superhero movie. In place of the usual origin story, we have the origin as a question that we have to find the answer to, and the way that answer is wrapped up into the film's wider plot (and indeed the entire MCU) is intriguing. 

Captain Marvel has its flaws, but most of these only stand out because other MCU films have done these things better. Its connectivity to the wider franchise is good, but it suffers a little by comparison. Still, Captain Marvel is a funny and fun introduction to one of Marvel Comics' mightiest Avengers. 

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