Before we find out if she is the key to defeating Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, Carol Danvers makes her MCU debut in the 90’s throwback, Captain Marvel.
Starring Brie Larson as Carol, she is a cocky fighter pilot in the Top Gun mold who ends up being taken into space by the Kree and becomes a Kree warrior named Vers with no memory of her former life on Earth except for brief glimpses and dreams. “Vers” is part of a squad led by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) who are fighting the shape-shifting Skrulls in an intergalactic war. While on a mission to rescue an undercover contact, Carol is captured and the Skrulls uncover details in her memories of a possible lightspeed engine on Earth. Carol escapes and gets to Earth and teams up with a younger, two-eyed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to find the engine and also uncover her past. The opening 30 minutes or so are pretty dense in both trying to explain Skrulls and diving deeper into Kree society, including the concept of the Supreme Intelligence that controls their society and it also unleashes most of the 90s nostalgia in the first few scenes of Carol’s arrival back on Earth, although once it breaks the seal of 90s music, almost every scene begins with a new track, some of it more on the nose than others. Once Carol is teamed with Fury, things level out and it becomes a fun, almost buddy cop sci-fi movie as the pair retrace Carol’s past and learn what’s really going on. Being a prequel, there are lots of easter eggs and cameos from characters who will be bigger deals in the future like Coulson and Ronan the Accuser but there’s not really any major, game-changing details revealed besides the existence of Carol herself and the fact that Fury could call her in an emergency via the pager we saw in Infinity War.
Brie Larson is a lot of fun as Carol and, as mentioned above, she has a cocky swagger throughout the movie and drops some action hero one-liners and has a great back and forth with Fury. It’s great having Samuel L. Jackson back in such a huge role, that last time probably being Winter Soldier outside of some cameos, and the de-aging technology has somehow progressed again and is utterly seamless. There is not a second of Captain Marvel where you question the effect of seeing The Negotiator era Samuel L. Jackson and it brings us closer to a possibly disturbing future where it won’t matter what age actors are or even if they are still alive. Ben Mendelsohn is great as the lead Skrull, Talos, and he puts a fun spin on the bad guy schtick we’ve seen from him in movies like Rogue One, Ready Player One, and Robin Hood. Lashana Lynch is also great as Carol’s best friend Maria Rambeau and Carol rediscovering their friendship is the emotional drive in the second half of the movie. The characters that kind of get short shrift are Carol’s Kree squadmates. Much like Thanos’ Black Order or the Warriors Three, only a few of them are named and none of them really have much personality or distinguishing features. Even Korrath (Djimon Hounsou), who we met in Guardians, just sort of fades into the background of the squad.
Action-wise, Captain Marvel does a great job of showing Carol’s powers and the cosmic side of things in the MCU is usually always fun and interesting. The movie suffers a bit of the same thing Black Panther suffered from in that some of the action, particularly an opening sequence and a big fight toward the end, are shot in a dark and murky way that makes it hard to tell what is happening but there are sequences where Carol fully unleashes her powers that are great. The shape-shifting of the Skrulls is done extremely well too and it adds a fun tension to scenes where you cannot be sure who might be a Skrull or not, which is the best part of their appearances in the comics.
Captain Marvel is a solid, fun entry in the MCU that does a good job of introducing Carol Danvers and her powers and how they might be used to save the universe in Endgame. It’s not up to the level of top tier MCU like Infinity War, Winter Soldier or Civil War but even only the solid MCU movies are still fantastic blockbusters and Captain Marvel has spectacle and humor and it expands the timeline and cosmic side in some fun, if not totally significant ways. If nothing else, it adds even more anticipation to the mega-event that is Endgame.