** SPOILERS AHEAD **
In an interview in 2014, Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, was asked about the potential of having Black Panther and Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He responded that both characters were certainly being developed, especially considering the public’s obvious desire to see those characters on the big screen. “I think that’s something to pay attention to,” he said.
In the past year, both characters were granted solo films. Black Panther was an immediate hit, and its impact on film and the public was the same as the original Avengers. Captain Marvel, on the other hand, has not received the same accolades. I honestly have no idea why this is the case.
Captain Marvel is a classically Marvel movie, with the same familiar structure and purpose. It begins with a flashback to the central incident of the film. Carol Danvers, who is played perfectly by Brie Larson, has collapsed onto the ground. Smoke eerily surrounds her, indicating that some fight has just ended. We meet a woman with gray hair, who we later learn is an essential figure, Mar-vell/Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening). In the distance amongst the smoke, a figure ominously moves forward -- his identity remains unknown until the end of the film. This scene, like all Marvel movies, perfectly sets the tone of the movie. Just as Avengers began with the iconic shot of the tesseract to establish its procurement as the core of the film, Captain Marvel leads with a focus on determining the identity of the hidden figure moving forward in the smoke.
This is the first Marvel movie that I believe has perfect pacing. It establishes the Kree planet of Hala without excess, and smoothly continues to Earth. We learn about Captain Marvel through her own developing self-awareness as she regains her memory, making the frequent flashbacks more interesting than the simple plot interjections that Marvel often uses to catch the audience up to speed. Most importantly, they make the assumption that you already know Marvel stuff. They waste no time in giving a history lesson on S.H.I.E.L.D, Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, the tesseract, or even Ronan the Accuser. Captain Marvel’s ability to blend MCU history with new canon, such as the hilarious way that Fury lost his eye, is only one reason that it should be considered amongst the best of Marvel movies.
Captain Marvel is so organically based in the common female experience that it’s not even necessary to acknowledge that Captain Marvel is a female superhero. There’s no love interest. It doesn’t have the silly jokes about being a woman that Wonder Woman awkwardly threw in. For director and writer Anna Boden, Captain Marvel is a woman, so of course she must experience things that only women experience. But, she is also a human (well, technically Kree). The worry that Captain Marvel would be a feminist manifesto was completely unfounded and proven wrong. It’s a story about a superhero who wants to do good, much like our favorite Captain America. And guess what? She’s a woman.
I saw many similarities between Captain Marvel and the Captain America trilogy. They have very similar backgrounds and motives. Both Danvers and Rogers were respected figures in the U.S. military. They believe in doing the right thing, no matter what. Their focus on righteousness is so unwavering that it should be considered part of their superhuman abilities. And when they believe in something, they believe in it wholeheartedly. But if they learn that their beliefs were incorrect (for Cap, it was trusting S.H.I.E.L.D, and for Danvers, it was trusting the Kree), they use that information to reform their beliefs and become better individuals. For these reasons, they are immediately the most admirable characters in the MCU. It will be quite something to see them battling their ideologies in Avengers: Endgame.
It’s also important to mention the amazing role of Talos, played by Ben Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn was able to create a character who was despicable and hilarious in the beginning, yet honorable at the end. Talos showed the audience the intricacies of war and the importance of understanding both sides, and tested our ability to change our beliefs when presented with new information. His performance will make many hope that Talos will reappear in the future, hopefully as an important figure in the oh-so-desired future Kree-Skrull War.
Of course, Captain Marvel is not a perfect movie. It is well-executed, but safely so, not taking the narrative risks that we saw in The Winter Soldier and Infinity War. Carol Danvers’ unwavering determination is a Marvel cliche nearly made annoying by Captain America, who Marvel quickly repositioned as an ideological outsider to ensure that he wasn’t one-dimensional. Talos -- a villain that we first hate, then love -- has a character arc that was already explored with Loki. Energy manipulation and interesting time periods aren’t anything new, either -- that’s what we’ve seen in the newer X-Men movies.
Captain Marvel’s ability to seamlessly wind itself into the long-standing fabric of the MCU is the reason why it should be receiving more praise. Unlike DC Comics, who reduced Wonder Woman to an easily consumed girly version of herself, Marvel successfully establishes Captain Marvel as a superheroine with emotional depth and formidable superhuman capabilities. When she arrives in the after credits scene demanding that the Avengers tell her Fury’s location, we immediately regard her as the most powerful hero in the room. We leave the film removed of any doubt that Captain Marvel could not be a central figure in Endgame. Between her powers and her connections with the alien world, Captain Marvel will be a valuable addition to the Avengers team.
Overall, I would compare Captain Marvel to Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. While it doesn’t necessarily break the mold, it introduces a new essential character with a compelling storyline and beautiful graphics. It firmly places Marvel’s future out in the galaxy, which is a very exciting new frontier for them to pursue. And it definitely isn’t as bad as many are saying. In fact, it’s a compliment to Marvel that a movie like Captain Marvel would not be considered a huge success. They’ve been able to create so many instant classics that we expect them to give us multiple Infinity Wars every year.
Captain Marvel is the perfect film to get audiences ready for Avengers: Endgame. We needed a film like this before we are completely destroyed by that heartbreaking blockbuster.