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Marvel’s new Captain is Marvelous

After the wild success of last year’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp, Marvel three films on this year’s slate: the introduction of Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and the second Sony-Marvel collaboration Spider-Man: Far from Home.

Since the start of all the films, the uncomfortable nerd in me is watching these things I love make it to the big screen and holding my breath: is this one going to be the first dud? Quite simply, Captain Marvel is not that dud.

Captain Marvel is the origin story of Carol Danvers, a long running Marvel character who has seen and done a lot in her time. She has been featured in Avengers comics, X-Men runs, the cosmic universe, and more.

Her status as royalty was only elevated when 2012 writer Kelly Sue DeConnick took on Carol and set the task of making her one of the strongest characters in the Marvel universe, both in terms of power and in the stories being told about her.

Flash forward and it shouldn’t be a surprise that when Marvel was rightfully looking at its properties and wanting to elevate a female character with a film, they ultimately landed on Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. When they announced the casting of recent Oscar winner Brie Larson in the lead role, momentum picked up until this weekend, which saw the release of the film, which is anticipated to have a $165 million dollar weekend, which would rank it among the top Marvel releases.

So, how does Captain Marvel stack up?

In short, Captain Marvel is an excellent superhero film and one that you should definitely go see in the theater, as its visuals are worthy of the large screen. It won’t crack my top 3 Marvel movies but that is becoming more and more a tall feat; Marvel’s excellence in the large screen work of films makes it harder and harder to compete with itself. That said, it really is a quality film and it stands out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in a couple of ways.

First, Captain Marvel is largely a flashback to the 1990s and the film really embraces that. The soundtrack is great if you are of that era and it is used well. There were a couple times when I sort of giggled at the song choice but on the whole, it really works.

It also sets up some of the humor of the film, as we get jokes about pagers and the like and see an Arnold Schwarzenegger True Lies poster blown up when it startles the hero in Blockbuster.

And that setting means we also get to see younger Nick Fury and rookie SHIELD recruit Phil Coulson, which are nice shout outs to the audience that has been on this ride since Iron Man. You could argue that it was almost a necessity when they timed this movie to come out between the two epic Avengers movies but the screenplay seemed to really decide to make it work.

Second, this isn’t the pure comics origin of Carol Danvers. There is a fair amount that the writers tweak, shift, change and ignore outright to craft this story. And it winds up making a better movie and story.

This Carol Danvers is on a mission to recall who she is, having lost some memories. She isn’t a damsel in distress as she works through the memory loss; she is a powerful warrior and knows it. But she is trying to find herself and those answers help drive the plot of the film.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t some really great Marvel Universe shout-outs. I don’t want to spoil them here in this review but there are a couple characters and stories I think they set up for future Avengers and Captain Marvel movies.

Third, the casting is great. Some of the criticism I have seen says that Brie Larson falls flat but I would disagree with that. I think Larson does an excellent job of being a character who is searching and unsure of some things.

Sure, her Danvers isn’t the wild braggart that Tony Stark is but she also isn’t the sometimes stick in the mud that can be Steve Rogers. Larson has given Carol Danvers her own voice and it plays well, especially in her interactions with Nick Fury in a buddy cop style moments.

Ben Mendelsohn and Samuel Jackson both do good work and there are other famous actors that are, you know, fine, which seems weird to say of talented actors Annette Benning and Jude Law.

A standout newcomer to me is Danvers human best friend, Maria Lambeau, who is portrayed exceedingly well by actress Lashana Lynch, who is new to me but I am looking forward to her work in series Y, where she will be playing the iconic Agent 355.

And, lastly, a good tell of a Marvel movie is if you are excited to see what happens next with the character. And Avengers: Endgame cannot arrive too soon for me, as I want to see how Carol and her wildly powerful abilities are going to help in the world that the mad Titan Thanos has left at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.

You should definitely make it a point to see Captain Marvel before that and get to know the origins of the character who is likely going to be pivotal part of the MCU for the next decade of films.