Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.
Eight months have passed since the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp, the last entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, and ten months since Nick Fury activated a mysterious pager before dissipating into dust in the post-credit scene of Avengers: Infinity War. This feels like an eternity in superhero movie time, but the franchise returns this week with Captain Marvel, an origin story of sorts for that pager, and the first movie in the series to feature a female superhero in the lead.
The movie serves not only as an origin story for that pager and Captain Marvel herself, but also Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and, to a lesser extent, Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. With the story taking place in the mid-‘90s, Coulson is just a rookie with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fury is a desk jockey thinking about a new line of work. That all changes when a woman comes crashing through the roof of a Blockbuster Video store, wearing a mysterious space suit, and talking about some intergalactic war.
This is Vers (pronounced “Veers”) and she is a warrior from the Kree home world. After a mission to rescue one of the Kree agents from the evil Skrull army goes wrong, Vers finds herself on Earth searching for a mysterious scientist named Dr. Wendy Lawson. The Skrulls are also searching for Lawson, whom they believe has discovered the light speed technology that could help them turn the tide in the war against the Kree. While searching, Vers begins to have strange visions of a life she may have lived before. A life lived here on Earth.
Although Captain Marvel is technically an origin story, it isn’t of the straight-forward, ordinary-person-gains-superpowers-and-must-learn-to-control-them type. It is actually structured much like the original Thor film from 2011. After opening with a battle on a distant planet, the hero crashes down to Earth spending the next hour or so as a fish out of water, rediscovering who they are before finally using the full strength of their powers to save the day. But where Captain Marvel has an advantage over Thor is that its middle stretch is a very entertaining buddy flick with Vers and Fury.
Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson have wonderful chemistry and you can truly tell that they enjoyed making this movie together. The film uses de-aging technology to make Samuel L. Jackson appear as he would have in 1995 and for the most part, with Fury at least, the technology is hardly noticeable. The same cannot be said when the same technique is applied to Clark Gregg, who at times looks like a completely computer generated version of himself instead of an actual human character. The movie also finally gives us the backstory behind Nick Fury’s damaged eye, a reveal that was definitely a surprise, even if it was handled somewhat anti-climactically.
Brie Larson is an excellent fit for the title character. The Oscar-winning actress trained for nine months, learning judo, boxing, and wrestling, and her training shows. She is quite believable in all the movie’s fight scenes, especially the latter ones when she has discovered her full powers and wields them not just with force, but with joy and amusement. And I should mention that she spends the majority of one major fight scene defeating her enemies all while holding onto a “The Fonz” lunch box. It’s perfect.
But Larson is also great in the scenes where she isn’t kicking butt. I especially enjoyed her performance as the recently crash-landed alien soldier who can’t be bothered by the pesky human agents that are getting in her way. And, again, her chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson is a highlight of the film. You can see why Fury would want to page her in Earth’s darkest hour.
As good as she is, though, she is still almost outshone by her feline co-star Goose. Aided by some admittedly shaky computer effects, Goose steals just about every scene he is in. All that was missing was a great Top Gun reference (beyond the name itself, that is).
Having grown up in the nineties, I can vouch for the movie as a fun flashback to a time I knew oh, so well. In addition to the many era-appropriate musical selections, the film also brings back memories of video stores, dial-up modems, and early search engines. It makes for an enjoyable journey back in time.
Captain Marvel is a fun, comedic adventure, which saves most of the franchise’s heavy lifting for the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. But even while having fun, the movie delivers an excellent message about never giving up, hitting its emotional stride with a terrific rising up after falling montage that perfectly encapsulates its title character. It may not be top-tier MCU, but it is an entertaining appetizer for the main course that is coming with Endgame.
Captain Marvel opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16, the AMC Kent Station 14, the Century Federal Way, and Regal’s Stadium Landing 14 in Renton.