“Captain Marvel” Review


Marvel Studios


Lauren Bulanek, Op/Ed and Shark Stories Editor

Warning: Possible spoilers ahead.

Captain Marvel takes the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) higher, faster, and further than ever before. Captain Marvel is directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, making it one of the only MCU films with a female director. It was released on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019, and is currently in theaters. Carol Danvers, often referred to as “Vers” in the film, is portrayed by Academy Award Winner Brie Larson. Jude Law plays Yon-Rogg and Nick Fury, commonly known as “Fury,” is played by Samuel L. Jackson. The film even brings back Agent Phil Coulson and features the second-to-last heartwarming Stan Lee cameo. Even though the MCU is known for its elevated portrayal of comic book characters, Captain Marvel takes the MCU to new heights with its unique storytelling, a strong female lead, and ambitious character development, making it easily one of the top ten Marvel movies so far.

The film follows the story of Vers, an extraterrestrial Kree warrior, played by Brie Larson, who finds herself entangled in an intergalactic battle between the Kree and Skrulls. During this, she faces an internal battle over her personal identity due to recurring memories of a past life as a U.S. Air Force pilot (during 1995, a time when women weren’t allowed to fly combat missions) named Carol Danvers. Captain Marvel tries to uncover her past and harness her superpowers with the help of Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson. 


The cover of Captain Marvel #10. Joe Quinones/Marvel Comics

The storytelling style of the film is different from previous Marvel movies because the audience gets to discover who Carol Danvers is just as she does. This device transports the audience into Carol’s shoes and allows them to see the 1995 Marvel universe the way she does – with an overwhelming sense of wonder. Since the plot is driven by Carol’s sense of identity, the viewers not only get to watch Captain Marvel’s character develop but they also get to watch it form. The unique take on her origin story respects everything that made her a best-selling comic book character and focuses on everything that makes her an empowering woman.

Staying true to Carol Danvers’ comics, the film manages to play with moral questions while still staying light-hearted. The film dabbles with the idea that the heroes are the ones whose motives are known and the villains are the ones whose good deeds go unrecognized, through its portrayal of the morally complex war between the Kree and the Skrulls. Though the war was a heavy and major plot point, the direction of Captain Marvel balanced these elements through its unique characters and well-timed jokes. Unlike many of the heroes and villains in the MCU, Carol Danvers, Talos, and even Yon-Rogg aren’t just dark, brooding figures fueled by depression and trauma (whatever character that made you think of, you’re right).  They are all dynamic, well-written characters that manage to have a large amount of development in a short period of time. This alone makes Captain Marvel much more than just another superhero movie; the film contains many of the key elements of the comics, such as action, science fiction, philosophical plot lines, and, of course, Carol Danvers’ infamous light-hearted comedy.

The humor captured in Captain Marvel is unlike anything else in the Marvel cinematic universe, staying true to Carol Danvers’ quick wit in the comics. The jokes are clean and avoid references that go over the heads of younger audiences. Instead of using blue comedy (sorry, Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy), the film relies on well-written jokes and comedic timing. They even use environmental storytelling for many jokes, which I had never seen before in the MCU. Additionally, the well-timed jokes last throughout the film without taking away from impactful scenes (once again, sorry Guardians of the Galaxy).


One of Kelly Sue Deconnick’s comics // Marvel Comics

Captain Marvel is the first female superhero movie in the MCU, making it incredibly groundbreaking for Marvel and expanding Marvel’s target audience to women. Though there are many strong women in the MCU, Carol Danvers is the first one to get her own film. The recent comics that inspired the film were written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who turned Carol Danvers into Captain Marvel we see on screen. Additionally, it is one of the only Marvel films directed by a woman. The film features a diverse cast both in and behind the scenes, reflecting a much-needed shift in the film industry. Marvel has finally realized it is no longer the 1960s and has instead focused on the future. 

Marvel Studios
Captain Marvel addresses sexual harassment in the US Air Force

Carol Danvers’ on-screen portrayal in 1995 is incredibly empowering for female audiences; in the film, Danvers becomes a U.S. Air Force pilot in a time when women weren’t allowed to fly combat missions and faced even more sexual harassment and assault in the U.S. Military than they do today (good things it’s 2019 and only 2/3rds of the women in the US Military experience sexual harassment and/or assault, am I right ladies?). The film features scenes of Carol Danvers experiencing sexism and sexual harassment, such as the scene where she is harassed by a male member of the U.S. Air Force, which every woman can relate to in some manner. Carol Danvers has the ability to get stronger emotionally, mentally, and physically with every hit she takes. Like many women, the more you try to knock her down, the higher she will rise. Her empowering message of always flying higher, further, faster is reflected in many cinematic parallels throughout the film and thrives in the essence of her female audience. Since the film largely speaks to women, it hasn’t received as much high praise from male critics as other Marvel films, but Captain Marvel is easily one of the strongest characters in the MCU. Perhaps she is strong enough to break the glass ceiling. 

Chuck Zlotnick/© Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL
Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) on set


Carol Danvers’ infamous squint // Marvel Comics

Although I thought Brie Larson wasn’t right for the role of Carol Danvers due to her controversy, she managed to prove to me she wasn’t just cast for name recognition. Her incredible acting almost perfectly portrays Carol Danvers, all the way down to her infamous squint in the comics. Though I will miss Carol’s piercing blue eyes, Brie Larson manages to bring Carol’s unique personality to life. With Samuel L. Jackson playing a younger Nick Fury, the dynamic between the two actors gives certain scenes the warm feeling of a buddy comedy.


Marvel Studios

The film takes place in 1995, and the cast behind the scenes deserves recognition for making nostalgic aesthetics thrive. Nothing during the film seemed out of place. Everything in the film, from the cars to the latest technology, is accurate to the time period. Even the stores, such as Blockbuster and Radio Shack, draw the audience back into 1995. The costume design for every character honors 90s fashion; the background characters even had unique 90s fashion. Captain Marvel’s suit steps away from the gravity-defying bathing suit of the 1960s and trades it in for a fresh, colorful style inspired by the U.S. Air Force 1990s flight suit, to pay homage to Carol Danvers’ roots; even the suit’s colors are inspired by the U.S. Air Force. Though there have been some complaints that her suit isn’t as sexual as it used to be, it’s a relief Marvel has started valuing realistic body armor that doesn’t objectify women. 

From the fashion to the soundtrack, the aesthetics of the film never seem out of place. The soundtrack to the movie is full of bops, including, “Whatta Man” by Salt-N-Pepa, “Only Happy When It Rains” by Garbage, “Come as You Are” by Nirvana, and “Just A Girl” by No Doubt, just to name a few. The soundtrack completes Carol Danvers’ 90s grunge aesthetic, complemented by Carol Danvers’ leather flight jacket, flannel, and “S.H.I.E.L.D.” baseball cap. The rest of the film’s score, composed by Pinar Toprak, fits in with the scenes perfectly and helps to move the audience. 


Stan Lee tribute in Capitan Marvel

Though there are many heartwarming scenes in Captain Marvel, their tribute to Stan Lee is one of the greatest tear-jerkers in the film. Instead of running the typical Marvel introduction that features characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this intro only featured Stan Lee. In the end, the black screen read, “Thank you, Stan.” Since the creator recently died at 95, this homage to the man behind Marvel was incredibly touching.  Later on, Stan Lee’s cameo, the second-to-last one he will ever make, left the audience with a mix of emotions. The cameo featured Stan Lee sitting on the LA Metro, reading a script of the 1995 film Mallrats, with the line, “Trust Me, True Believer.” Lee’s cameo in Mallrats is one of his most famous ones outside of the MCU. Though Stan Lee doesn’t say anything during this cameo, his simple nod to Carol leaves the audience with a powerful message.

Captain Marvel takes a new approach on Marvel’s cinematic universe and is one that is worth watching. Carol Danvers is the strongest hero in the MCU so far, and the only one that has notably shown that you can be powerful and emotionally vulnerable. Though the storytelling and characterization of a strong female lead aren’t typical for the Marvel cinematic universe, they are essential. Captain Marvel is an empowering, groundbreaking film that is worth watching. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.