At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Captain Marvel

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Superhero/ Stars: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law/Runtime: 124 minutes

I feel it must be said that despite the comic book genre of film becoming more and more popular as time has gone by, there is a specific kind of film within this genre that is a real thorn in the side of the filmmaking community. I am of course referring to the superhero origin film. For those of you who don’t know the origin story exists as a first opportunity for film audiences to interact with either an established hero, but different actor (Batman) or a new hero and a new actor (MCU all the time). Along with that though, the origin story is also designed to showcase for audiences just how this particular hero or group of heroes is distinguishable from all the other heroes on the big screen. Yet despite all the positives that come attached with these particular movies, there is also one distinct weakness that the vast majority seem to share. This weakness is the fact that by this point during the reign of the comic book movie it is difficult if not impossible to observe that the vast majority of these films all choose to utilize the same exact narrative framework. A framework that I might add features a first act that usually consists of 45 minutes to an hour which then gives way to heroic activities alongside crushing loss, and is concluded with a third act which then shows us as audience members both how the hero or heroine grows as a result of said defeat, and becomes stronger, but is then able to put their main adversary down once and for all and everybody cheers and then the credits roll and we all head home…

Yet even though I think it should be clear as day to the world that this particular type of telling a narrative will not be going anywhere anytime soon, I also feel that there is a way to diverse them enough that ironically is already being utilized for that very purpose and that cure is known as variety. By that I mean we should still give creative minds the ability to showcase a character’s origin on the big screen. To do so however they will have to utilize ways of telling the story in a way that is different than the ones that have been done 95% of the time previously. In that regard then I can honestly applaud Captain Marvel and feel that this is a film which Hollywood should definitely look to as an example of this. I say that because the cast and crew involved in the making of this film have all done a wonderful job at showcasing a new hero’s entrance to the MCU yet setting it within a fun and plot-twist abounding journey all set in that riveting era known as the 1990’s.

The plot is as follows: Captain Marvel is noteworthy in that this particular origin story does not start with our heroine being involved in a tragic incident and subsequently acquiring phenomenal abilities. Rather this film starts with her being an amnesiac and being a long long way from Earth and residing on a planet known as Hala, but for Marvel fans this is better known as the home of an alien race that is known as the Kree. It is also worth mentioning that she also already has specific abilities including superhuman strength as well as the talent of firing unique blasts of energy upon balling up her fists. Indeed if she is really lacking anything specific, it would be a real and genuine sense of just who exactly she is and as such she has chosen to go by Vers. Yet despite her incredible, Bourne Identity-esque issues when it comes to knowing who exactly she truly is, there are some things she does know. She knows that she is a Kree proud and true and she knows she is proud to showcase her immense, borderline zealous dedication side by side with her commanding officer Yon-Rogg in an elite military outfit known as Starforce that has been the first responders for a long time in a very old conflict. A conflict that has seen the Kree tangled up with a group of extremist shapeshifters known simply as the Skrulls (insert giddy Marvel fanboy giggle here). Thus it is due to this long-fought war that Vers finds herself involved in an assignment with her unit that quickly and terribly goes awry when she is both captured and imprisoned by the leader of the Skrulls himself. Suffice it to say an escape is very much in order; however in the process of doing so Vers finds herself crashing and subsequently stuck on Earth. An event which will not only see her crossing paths with a young federal operative by the name of Nick Fury, but also set her on a path towards learning more about herself and her ties to our planet…

Now be it the tweaked narrative format, the fact that this story is a period tale due to being set in the 90’s, or the fact that there are quite a few links to the greater MCU at play here I think it’s no lie to tell you there is a lot in play within this film. Yet despite all of that this film’s main objective is always in service of helping our main heroine grow and evolve. In that regard I can honestly say this film is extremely successful with a majority of the praise for that going to the terrific performance given by Miss Brie Larson. Indeed I know there will be a lot to figure out due to the fact that a lot is going on with Danvers in this film, but nevertheless Larson manages to do a wonderful job of securing every aspect of this heroine from her dedication to justice all the way to an undying snarky sense of humor. Plus the way that this film sets up the various holes in her memories means that as Carol finds out things so do we as an film-going audience. Indeed it really is a fantastic odyssey to see Carol learn not only who she is, but what she truly is capable of yet I feel it wouldn’t even be half this good if we didn’t have Larson’s confident and truly human performance at the helm of it all.

With that being said of course it is now common knowledge that no MCU solo film is a genuine solo-type effort; rather they are more ensemble-like in nature. To that end, I feel it should be said that Captain Marvel is especially impressive with particular regard to the supporting cast they have brought together in order to bolster and support the lead. This includes Samuel L. Jackson once again as super-spy extraordinaire Nick Fury. Yet I feel that this not only is easily one of his best turns as Nick Fury yet, but that Jackson is also managing to make movie history with this particular go-around. This is because despite the fact that we as audiences have been witnesses to some truly astonishing magic acts courtesy of visual effects in the world of movies, including some in other MCU installments like Ant-Man, but what this movie is able to pull off is truly a marvel, pun intended, as we get a version of Jackson that looks darn near identical to how he did back in the mid-90’s. Indeed the effects work on display here is absolutely phenomenal and when you watch the wonderful back-and-forth between Fury and the titular heroine in this there astonishingly is never an instant where you find yourself drawn out of the film simply to appreciate the visual effects magic on display. Suffice it to say this is most definitely a leap forward that could change the face of movie-making for all time and the fact that an icon of cinema is leading the charge is just simply icing on the cake.

Yet even though the fantastic bond between our titular heroine and Nick Fury is easily this film’s most dynamite relationship I feel it is safe to say that every actor in this really manages to bring their 100% A-Game to this film and the end results are always special. For example we get perennial bad guy Ben Mendelsohn as the antagonist in this yet the film manages to completely flip what you might be expecting from the actor as well as the character. Indeed in his turn as Talos, Mendelsohn does a wonderful job of giving the guy a leader’s conviction yet at the same time mixed with a distinct wry sense of humor that really mixes up the distinct style that his scenes bring and it definitely makes them a lot better as a result. We also get Lashana Lynch who, in her role as Danvers’ best friend and fellow pilot during her days in the Air Force, does a wonderful job of providing this film with an equal measure of both heart and emotional gravitas. Indeed if there was ever a representation of the resonance that this story can possess it is definitely her and her character.

Of course as you may have guessed already dear reader there really isn’t a lot of meat to this particular movie from a story perspective as compared to a sequel since with a sequel the character’s roots have been set, and now you are free to do whatever you want with the character. With that being said though, another key aspect that isn’t as strong as audiences might like is the sub-genre arena. Indeed while other titles in the MCU were able to truly soar by being able to tap into their very specific inspirations in regards to style, I am sorry to have say that if you were hoping for any particular 90’s movie vibes for this film, then you will be very disappointed. That is because not only are these vibes nowhere near as strong as you might want them to be, but that they also don’t provide this film with that additional flair that the best of the best when it comes to the MCU is known for providing audiences with.

Yet while this film does find itself not really possessing that usual best-of-Marvel flair and style, I will say that at least this movie does try to do as much as it can to fully utilize the distinct 90’s aesthetic that it has been blessed with being set in, and as someone who grew up in the 90’s I have to say that this was an absolutely brilliant decision. Indeed just the soundtrack in and out of itself, a soundtrack that coincidentally features such artists as R.E.M, and Nirvana among others, will be enough to put a smile on the faces of those who remember that era. Yet I feel like audiences will also get a kick out of the small details from Game Boys to Blockbuster that manage to pop up throughout this movie’s runtime.

All in all I definitely think the fact that I haven’t gone through everything that this film has to offer audiences should be a hint towards just how much this film manages to contribute as a movie-going experience. Indeed to be fair this is a film which is still stricken by a few inevitable quirks and flaws due to being an origin story, but nevertheless this movie manages to sidestep enough of those proverbial cinematic landmines in order to emerge as yet another standout in the MCU. Indeed Captain Marvel does a wonderful job at expanding an already phenomenal universe unlike any other, and delivers a hope that this particular superheroine’s story is far from finished, and I for one can’t wait to see where they take her next. On a scale of 1-5 I give Captain Marvel a solid 3.5 out of 5.