The ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe has a need to keep adding new characters to stay fresh and fun. Also, considering that Avengers: Infinity War killed off roughly half the cast, heroes and humans alike, it seems like a good time to add some fresh meat onto the grill. Captain Marvel is not just an origin story of the next ballyhooed hero in the MCU, it’s an origin story about origin stories.
The film opens with Vers (Brie Larson) having a very bad dream. She just can’t seem to shake images of older wars fought and people, whomever they are, needlessly dying. When she awakes in a cold sweat, she decides to engage her mentor, and fellow Kree team member, in some light sparring and wordplay. Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) has a good repartee with Vers, but is also teaching her to be a warrior and to deny her uncontrollable emotions.
When she’s unable to do so, even in late night friendly training, Yon-Rogg makes Vers visit the Supreme Intelligence. Everyone sees someone different, someone they admire. Vers happens to see someone played by Annette Bening, but she cannot remember who this woman is or what she admires about her. Might it have something to do with her unshakable dreams?
Soon after the visit with this mystery guru, Vers and the rest of her team are called up on a mission. It’s a dangerous one, as the Kree people are deep into a long and costly war with the Skrulls. These shapeshifting nemeses are the sworn enemy to the Kree, and they will stop at nothing to defeat them. By a quick turn of events Vers is captured by the Skrulls, forced to re-experience some of her long-forgotten memories, and yanked to planet C-53 (Earth) with the Skrulls hot on her heels.
Though much of Captain Marvel is a fish-out-of-water story, where Vers experiences 1995 in America for the first time, the film has enough to differentiate itself from other superhero movies that have already covered similar territory. The point gets across, gets a few laughs, and then it moves onward.
Most of the film is about Vers trying to save Earth, which just so happens to hinge on her own history here. Along the way, she meets Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and together they try to outrun and outsmart Skrull leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). The bits with Vers and Fury lean heavily into the buddy comedy they should one day star in together, and it’s a joy to watch them simultaneously poke fun at one another and develop a deep respect.
The fact that Captain Marvel is so bent on proving the validity of hero origins, in an origin story, slows down the action a little bit. Comic fans and cinema fans alike tend to gobble up the initial making of their next favorite hero, and this all feels like a battle that need not be fought. We’ve already accepted these types of stories as essential canon, and additional evidence isn’t needed.
Captain Marvel has plenty of fight scenes in space with blasting 90s music on the soundtrack. The use of No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” feels a little indulgent here, but it’s admittedly appropriate and punchy enough to keep the film’s mood light and tangy.
Like so many other contemporary superhero movies, the concept of “good” and “bad” gets appropriately messy. One of Black Panther‘s greatest strengths was a justified (albeit dramatic) villain. Captain Marvel never quite makes it to the level of that now Academy Award winning film, but it does make its own strides toward taking a straightforward plot and turning it just enough so that new truths emerge.
Captain Marvel is by no means the next best superhero movie. But it is a lot of fun, and a solid foundation for a character with plenty of potential in the MCU.