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Captain Marvel - DVD Review

Captain Marvel

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

BRIE Larson’s Captain Marvel arrives in cinemas just over a year after the cultural phenomenon that fellow Marvel superhero Black Panther became… and carrying a similar weight of expectation.

First and foremost, she’s the first Marvel title to be built exclusively around a woman, thereby offering plenty of opportunity for female empowerment within the genre. She’s also entrusted with being the saviour of the now torn apart Marvel Cinematic Universe in the wake of that Thanos finger click at the end of Infinity War. But first, she has to establish herself as a credible force by way of an origins story.

Overseeing this are the writer-director team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, whose CV thus far extends to indie gems such as Half Nelson and Mississippi Grind. And, for the most part, it’s mission accomplished.

Captain Marvel is another winning entry into the MCU, with Larson emerging as a highly appealing kick-ass heroine with brains to match her brawn. She’s witty, she’s passionate, she’s resolute and – crucially – she boasts a tremendous humanity over and above her special powers.

Her journey to super heroine is cleverly constructed too, with Boden and Fleck opting for a fractured narrative rather than a potentially plodding linear approach. Hence, Captain Marvel – aka Carol Danvers – has a mystery to solve concerning her identity and how she came to be so powerful, especially since her erratic memories offer glimpses of life as a former fighter pilot and a plucky kart racing young girl.

She must do this while sorting out a war between two alien civilisations- the Krees and the Skrulls – which brings her to Earth, mid 90s, and into a mutually beneficial alliance with SHIELD’s Nick Fury ( Samuel L Jackson).

With so much to juggle, it’s hardly surprising that Captain Marvel struggles with some elements, not least balancing the more character-driven inclinations of its co-directors with the obvious need for fan-pleasing spectacle and certain genre conventions.

As a result, the film exists in the shadow of the more trailblazing likes of Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok. It does have some left field leanings and is capable of surprising. But it’s nowhere near as consistently daring as the direction of James Gunn or Taika Waititi.

Captain Marvel

That said, it is proudly feminist without feeling overdone. It’s reflected in more artistic ways, such as having the character be sexy without having to flaunt her sexuality, or get knocked down but rise back up again against stereotypes and doubters.

It’s reflected, too, in the decision not to saddle the character with a love interest. Rather, Danvers’ great love is for a former fighter pilot friend (played by Lashana Lynch) and her daughter, whose belated presence allows Boden and Fleck to really explore the character emotionally.

And it’s even reflected in the film’s soundtrack choices, which reference some of the great female singers and bands from the 90s, from Garbage and L7 through to Hole.

That’s not to say the film places feminism above all else. There is some male bravado, too, supplied by the likes of Jude Law’s Kree ally and Samuel L Jackson’s looser, younger Fury, both of whom enjoy some terrific chemistry with Larson (the latter, especially). And Ben Mendelsohn’s Skrull leader is also great value.

The action scenes, meanwhile, are suitably muscular, particularly when calling upon Larson to show off her martial arts skills. But even when more reliant on special effects (to less engaging effect), the film leaves you in little doubt that Thanos could have his work cut out in keeping Marvel at bay.

It’s just a shame that the final third of the film does pander a little too heavily to superhero convention, with big, effects heavy battle scenes the order of the day. Boden and Fleck do manage to inject some nicely offbeat humour into some of this, while nodding to real world events such as refugee crises (for those willing to pay attention) and making Danvers’ big coming-of-age moment suitably rousing. But there is an inevitability to some of what happens too.

That said, a mid-credits scene does bring the character nicely into line with the next big chapter in the Marvel universe (Endgame), while leaving you excited to see more from her. Overall, Captain Marvel is a crowd-pleasing success that keeps the next phase in the MCU in very good health.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 132mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: July 15, 2019