Captain Marvel (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): Meet Captain Marvel

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“Captain Marvel”, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), is alternatively familiar and refreshing. Although it is your typical superhero origin story, there are a number of nice changes and variations for distinguishing itself from many other recent MCU flicks (this is the 21st MCU movie, by the way). and it surely brings some fresh air to the franchise along with its feisty female superhero character.

At the beginning, the movie shows us its title character’s struggle with her amnesiac status. Currently called “Vers” (Brie Larson), she has been a member of an elite military unit of a powerful alien race named Kree, but she still does not remember much about her past in the Earth before brought to Kree’s home planet six years ago, and she only frequently dreams a bit about a mysterious figure who seems to be quite important to her.

Not long after Vers and other unit members including her commander/mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) are sent to some other planet for their latest secret mission, she happens to be captured by a bunch of shape-shifting aliens who have been the enemy of Kree for many years. Their leader, named Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), attempts to extract those forgotten memories from her, but, of course, she soon shows them how powerful she is as a warrior whose fists can shoot explosive bursts of energy to her opponents, and she comes to escape from Talos’ spaceship when it almost arrives at the Earth in the late 1990s.

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After crashing down right into a local video rental shop in California, Vers encounters a S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) agent named Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who initially does not believe much what she says to him but then comes to realize what is going on as getting himself involved more into the situation. Talos and other shape-shifting aliens are still chasing after her, and it is apparent that Fury is the only guy who can help her finding what exactly happened to her six years ago.

Based on what she vaguely remembers from that mysterious figure appearing in her dream, Vers and Fury go to a secret US Air Force military base, and they soon come to learn more about not only that mysterious figure but also Vers herself. It turns out that Vers is actually a military jet pilot named Carol Danvers, and she has a close friend/colleague named Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), who is certainly surprised to see her again when Fury and Danvers come to Rambeau’s residence located in the Deep South.

The movie becomes less interesting during its third act as dutifully following its genre conventions including a big climactic action sequence, but directors/co-writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who previously made a string of acclaimed independent films such as “Half Nelson” (2006) and “Sugar” (2008), seldom loses their focus on story and characters even at that point, and they also did a competent job of handling several action sequences in the film. Although these action sequences look rather modest compared to what we saw from other MCU films such as “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018), but they are presented well with enough fun and excitement at least, and I particularly like a little wry sense of humor observed from the chase action sequence unfolded in and around a moving subway train.

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Above all, the movie is firmly anchored by the strong lead performance from Brie Larson, a talented actress who initially drew our attention via her breakthrough turn in “Short Term 12” (2013) and then advanced further with her Oscar-winning performance in “Room” (2015). While believable in her character’s gradual development along the story, Larson imbues her role with rebellious spirit and determination, and I enjoyed how her plucky acting resonates with numerous feminist touches in throughout the film such as a brief moment showing how her character was frequently underestimated and discouraged by men around her. As we follow her bumpy quest for finding herself and her past, Danvers comes to us as a strong woman who comes to discern that she does not have to prove herself to others at all, and we come to cheer for her a lot when she is finally on her full-throttle mode later in the story.

Larson is surrounded by a number of good supporting performers. Samuel L. Jackson, who looks quite younger here in this film thanks to lots of special effects on his face, ably complements Larson, and the most humorous moments in the film are generated from their effortless interactions on the screen. While Ben Mendelsohn, who previously worked with Boden and Fleck in “Mississippi Grind” (2015), looks sneaky as often wearing a lot of makeups on his head, Annette Bening and Jude Law fill their respective functional roles as demanded, and Lashana Lynch has a few good moments with Larson as a woman who is as brave and resourceful as her dear friend. In case of a certain cat in the movie, which is actually played by four different cats, it steals the show right from its very first scene, and it will surely give you extra entertainment if you are a longtime cat lover like me.

Although it is one or two steps below what was achieved by “Wonder Woman” (2017) or “Black Panther” (2018), “Captain Marvel” is fairly entertaining despite several weak aspects including its predictable third act, and it certainly brings some diversity to its genre territory as required. In short, this is one of better MCU films, and I sincerely hope that its heroine will go further than whatever she will do in the upcoming Avengers movie.

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