Captain Marvel review: Soaring into the future of the MCU


Higher. Further. Faster. Reviewing Captain Marvel. Potential spoilers are ahead.

In a sentence, Captain Marvel delivered on everything it promised.

In a slightly longer sentence, Captain Marvel was a brilliant depiction of a female superhero, a deft introduction of a new face to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a bright, funny, and nostalgic nod to all of the franchise’s longtime fans, and a powerful, inspirational story about looking for a home, finding one’s self, and what it really means to be a hero.

Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, played by Brie Larson, is likable from the jump, not falling prey to any of the cliches that so often plague women in films. She has depth, she has vulnerability, she has determination, power, and fight. She doesn’t give up, but sometimes she’s lost. She accepts her flaws gracefully and fights to embrace what’s right tirelessly, though, again and again, forces try to quell the fierceness of both her powers and her spirit.

In this way, Captain Marvel is the ultimate female superhero. Every woman who sits in the theater to see Captain Marvel will recognize the struggles Carol goes through, high flying abilities, flame throwing hands, galactic threats hanging over their heads, or not. Every woman will have experienced the sensation of being told their emotions are a problem, that they will never be good enough, that someone else should be credited for their achievements, and it is this resonance that makes Captain Marvel so glorious. Reality is enmeshed in the fantastic, and together they become something transcendent.

In her origin movie, Carol is growing, but throughout the movie, the embers sear, and it is clear a full conflagration is coming for the world of the MCU.

But importantly, Captain Marvel feel right at home among Marvel’s last decade worth of movies, while still bringing a flavor all its own. While watching, it’s easy to imagine Carol meeting the rest of the Avengers, settling in among the team… or what’s left of them. While Captain Marvel feels a little differently than the rest of the movies, a little lighter, a little snarkier, a little less weight of the world, but still with a nod to drama and monumental stakes, it also feels just the same as the rest of the movies, painted cleverly with that familiar brush of brilliant lines, world-building, and just enough nods to the greater universe to tie everything together. In fact, there are subtle elements of Captain America in Captain Marvel herself, an echo of Steve Rogers’ fighting spirit, always ready to get up for one more blow, even as an underdog. “I could do this all daypractically echos behind some particularly reminiscent montages, and, as Steve might in fact be passing on the Captain torch very soon, that could be exactly the intention.

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Stealing the show was also one Nicholas J. Fury, not yet Director. Samuel L. Jackson delivered an incredible performance, and most of the comedic brilliance of the movie was down to him. He was likable, charismatic, warm, and a lot more blundering than the Fury the audience have come to know and love… which perhaps added to the overall impact of his character. Fury’s relationship with Carol is point perfect, one built on mutual respect and built trust, a possible progenitor to his future mentorship of one Natasha Romanoff. Phil Coulson was also a gem, popping up now and again at just the right moments. Unlike Fury, Coulson comes almost entirely unchanged to the Phil Coulson of the Avengers, which was another hilarious and emotional beat played perfectly.

And, of course, the 90s are not to be underestimated. From Blockbuster, to Radio Shack, to a thousand other references, not to mention the genius soundtrack of the movie, the 90s were a character all their own in Captain Marvel. For many MCU movie-goers, this was a very resonant decade, a period of growth, or of youth, a fond time, a moment with a real feeling, and a real heart. And this time lived again, perfectly recreated, for two hours, a few more heartbeats of an era gone by. Altogether, the backdrop shone and was the perfect choice for this movie filled with feel-good moments, a little grunge, and a little cheese.

Ultimately, the themes of this movie are universal, offering answers to questions like what does it mean to have a home? What does it mean to find yourself? And what does it really mean to be a hero? Through the lens of Carol, these questions find answers that are both satisfying and sincere, reminding the audience that the best way is always the truest one. And whether you’re a superhero with blinding powers, a human with a heart, or maybe even a cat, it’s the choices you make and the forces that you let lead you that matter in the end.

So, what could use a tweak?

Mainly, while the relationship between Carol Danvers and her best friend Maria Rambeau is indeed beautiful, and portrayals of female friendships are important, making them “best friends” and not romantically entangled seems like a miss for Marvel. The duo have clearly spent their whole lives together, Carol has clearly raised Maria’s daughter as her own, and they are the strongest emotional force of the movie. As the old adage goes, if one of them was a man, they would have kissed already. The movie practically went there, it just didn’t go all the way.

That said, the relationship was incredibly meaningful, and it was refreshing, and absolutely the right note, not to entangle Carol romantically otherwise at this point, and simply have her wipe the floor with anyone around her. Kudos on that wholeheartedly.

Finally, it would be a mistake not to call out the cutest hero of this tale, Goose the Cat. Goose, you’re a champion, you steal the show!

As a final protip: There are two after the credits scenes, so DO NOT MISS OUT!

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Higher, Further, Faster… But we can’t forget, “More.” And after this movie, more Captain Marvel is exactly what everyone will be crossing their fingers for.

Onwards… to Avengers: Endgame.