Her energy beams travel in straight lines, her morality is as straight as an arrow, and so are the fighter jets that she flies. Now that there are a few vacancies to fill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe we welcome to the screen Captain Marvel. Just as her twin-from-another-service-branch Captain America is unflinching and unswerving upon introduction so too is our dear Captain Marvel -- almost one archetype in two slightly different pajamas. Film noir this most decidedly is not.
Because of the way that this movie has been constructed, like the Superfriends glass Citadel of Truth, any real discussion I have of this movie has to come with copious amounts of SPOILER SPACE. I'll have some comments below this to give my opinions of the action but seriously, if you are planning to watch this and don't want to know any of the plot beforehand please skip to the end marker below.
Captain Marvel is well-constructed to be one of the capstones of the progress that has been made throughout the 2010s. Within the first five minutes this movie jumps through the Bechdel test swimmingly. We meet Veers, the future Captain Marvel, on the Kree homeworld meeting the Supreme Intelligence while getting worked over in a sparring match by her slightly smug trainer. Shortly after both her and Sensei Douchebag get called into a covert op.
Sensei Douchebag happens to also be Colonel Douchebag, the leader of this covert op, as this group of Kree are taking on some Skrulls to exfiltrate an embedded agent on another planet. Veers gets captured by the Skrull so that they can tickle her medial temporal lobe with the machinery that Syndrome left over from The Incredibles a few years back.
After getting a few images out of her mind, Veers (so-called until she grabs the superhero mantle later) breaks free to try to kill some of the more expendable Skrulls. She plus four Skrulls ends up crash-landing onto Earth since the Skrulls had indications from Veers' memory that this was where they needed to go.
They happened to crash-land on Earth in the mid-90s. Between this and the Guardians of the Galaxy films, there are times that it feels like superhero movies are both nostalgia trips as well as chronicles of adults cruelly arrested in their development by outside factors. After getting all misty-eyed at both the Blockbuster and the Radio Shack in the mini-mall, more action scenes unfold.
It is here on Earth that we also meet Young M*thaf*cka, Samuel L. Jackson, who is made up as if he's straight out of the 90s too. He looks young enough to be Morgan Freeman's great-grandnephew. After a car/train chase including some shapeshifting Skrulls, Nick Fury and Veers make it back to SHIELD HQ to witness an alien autopsy and work on their plans from there.
The next setpiece has to do with the airforce base where the previous Carol Danvers used to be a test-pilot on a rather secret project. She pulls records along with yet another action sequence, where it's established that the Skrulls have infiltrated SHIELD. Also tagging along at this point is a pleasantly plump orange tabby cat. After this checkpoint, we move on to Louisiana to one of her coworkers and former friends, RAMBO! Well, it's her name but it's not the Sylvester Stallone one you might be thinking of. By the way, at this point Indiana Jones would be jealous of all of the various hops that the movie has taken. I almost wish they'd included a map.
Here in Louisiana we find out the one and only real swerve that the movie gives us, other than "Rambeau" not being spelled with an X at the end. (Come on Marvel, product placement!!) If you haven't respected the SPOILER SPACE warnings above, you may want to make sure to skip from here...
In this movie, the Skrulls are attempting to be peaceful. Yeah, it doesn't match very well with what they were doing in any of their earlier setpieces from the space station to the car chase to the airbase. Don't think about the first half of the movie when they start talking here. It'll just make you kind of head-hurty. They had plenty of opportunites to not act like overly-militaristic death squads but well, y'know, they didn't.
Anyway, we find out more of Veers' swiss-cheesed memory (cut to Sam Beckett nodding sagely) where it turns out that she was a test-pilot for Earth technology that was probably three full jumps ahead in the tech tree than Earth could have handled or was capable of. Of course the research is manned by an alien, "Mar-velle", but still she's working with late-80s technology here -- this backstory happened just a bit after Li'l Petey Jason Quill was yoinked. After a convenient plot device where one of the Skrulls upfits a US Air Force plane for extraterrestrial flight, we get some SPAAACE.
So now that we have the Kree and the Skrull effectively doing their respective heel and face turns, Captain Marvel now comes into being. She, RAMBOeauxxx, and M*thaf*cka all go up to a hidden spaceship orbiting Earth which happens to have a ton of other Skrulls hanging out as refugees. (Where's the beef here? Or the veggies? Or fruit? Are they cannibals?) The Covert Ops Kree team follows behind, another action sequence follows, and then we finally get the last pieces of the plot of the abduction of Carol Danvers -- after she crashed her plane on the last go-round testflight she destroyed the core that would power light-speed flight. The resulting radiation all seeped into her (rather than Sensei/Colonel Douchebag) and instead of destroying her, gave her microwaves shooting from her hands.
After she destroys the Denver Boot keeping some of her powers in check she wipes the floor with the Kree and sends what Skrull are left on their merry way as Team Marvel blasts off again! Nick Fury on the other hand has had his superhero cherry completely popped and starts descending on his path to paranoid spymaster, but not without some KITTIE SCRITCHIES first.
Ordinarily I would put up the "over" sign here but I really have to discuss the Kree/Skrull flipflop first. I can't discuss this outside of the spoiler space though because it really is the only swerve in what is otherwise one of the straightest drives in cinematic history. This is not Se7en, this is not Inception, this is a plate of cheeseburger plus macaroni. It's not even gouda mac or anything. You're either going to like it or hate it. It is what it is and it won't compromise for you.
I had to reach back to my childhood for the next reference, but the Kree are at least protrayed as stereotypical star-bellied Sneetches. If you don't have that Kree star on your chest you're not worthy. The Skrull are definitely putting up a massive fight on their end too, and the movie did not do a great job of defining what either side is "for" other than Skrull desire to not be ruled by Kree. There are white hats and black hats in this movie but that's all they are... without the extensive comic backstory you wouldn't think anything of this switch really.
I don't know how much of the extended metaphor will apply -- the Kree and Skrull-eetch battle may just be one of aesthetics only while the universe burns elsewhere for instance. As well, Skrulls are rather famously previous antagonists and frankly it still seems as if there's time for them to be antagonists once again... but if you're looking for that level of nuance you're not in the right spot.
SPOILER SPACE OVER
The point in this movie though is that you're not coming into the theater for a rich plot. You're coming into this theater for action, possibly for some amount of 90s nostalgia, maybe for Marvel being "brave" enough to send a woman to lead a film ten years after they really should have to keep their street cred and two years after Warner/DC proved that it can be done exceptionally successfully.
It's just that this is pretty much the last major film before the last Avengers film comes out in literally a month. This movie effectively introduced a character and *possibly* some sort of basis for further plot development, but really it's up to the next movie to carry the story far more than they should have to. There's some comedy in here, quite a crapload of action, and the actors (Brie Larson and Sam L. M*thaf*cka) do well in their roles.
The moment of truth -- is this film worth your money? For the first time, sure. This is a summer blockbuster walking amongst the crocuses of March and there's a reason that they put so much budget into blockbusters. You're not coming for the writing though, you're coming for the kicking and for Samuel L. Jackson's immaculately Bondo'ed face -- which probably took a third of that budget.
To this reviewer art is more impactful if it can be savored more than once and brings something fresh, new, and novel to a conversation. Will this movie do that? Naw. You will rewatch this film under two circumstances -- viewing the entirety of the MCU or if you want to see a rock-em sock-em action flick. It is what it is. This movie travels into a straight line, like Captain Marvel's punches or Captain Marvel's energy beams or Captain Marvel's morality.
Without the allure of the MCU I would rank this movie closer to a 2. It gets extra points as well for the action stuff when you just want to shut your brain down after a full day of adulting.
Final Rating -- 2.8