Set in the 1990s, Marvel Studios' Captain Marvel is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that follows the journey of Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes. While a galactic war between two alien races reaches Earth, Danvers finds herself and a small cadre of allies at the center of the maelstrom.
“Captain Marvel” mostly takes place in the mid-1990s, and feels like it was made then, too, in terms of its technical prowess and emotional depth. This is not a compliment. As for the former, perhaps that was intentional—yet another example of wallowing in period nostalgia alongside the grunge chic and girl-power anthems. The prolonged intro in space and the big action sequences have a cheesy, retro feel to them that can be amusing but also inscrutable.
But co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have made their names writing and directing indie dramas featuring richly drawn characters facing real stakes. “Half Nelson” (2006), about a drug-addicted middle school teacher, is the movie that put Ryan Gosling on the map and earned him his first Oscar nomination. “Sugar” (2008) is one of the most intimate and insightful movies ever made about baseball. You’d rightly expect that their depiction of the title character—real name Carol Danvers—would be complex, compelling and abidingly human, despite her otherworldly superpowers. But while Larson is tough, plucky and skilled with a well-timed quip, her chief character trait seems to be rebelliousness. That’s a little limiting. (Boden and Fleck co-wrote the script with Geneva Robertson-Dworet, and all three share story-by credit with Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve.) Additionally, she has forgotten who she really is, so her interior life is as much of a blank to her as it is to us.
Despite her fighting spirit, Carol often finds herself as a pawn trapped between various worlds where she feels as if she doesn’t belong. At the film’s start, she’s living and training as a warrior on the Kree planet of Hala. Her mentor, Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg, is constantly reminding her not to let her emotions get the best of her—a pointed commentary on the sexist notion that women are too emotional to handle tough jobs. And “Captain Marvel” is full of such less-than-subtle messaging. But after the shapeshifting enemy Skrulls, led by the swaggering Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), take her prisoner during a battle, she escapes and lands on a different planet: our own. Specifically, she finds herself a fish out of water within the urban sprawl of Los Angeles.
Starring: Algenis Perez Soto, Annette Bening, Ben Mendelsohn, Brie Larson, Chuku Modu, Clark Gregg, Colin Ford, Damon O'Daniel, DeWanda Wise, Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Chan, Jude Law, Kenneth Mitchell, Lashana Lynch, Lee Pace, Mckenna Grace, Raul I Torres, Robert Kazinsky, Rune Temte, Samuel L. Jackson