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Review: Captain Marvel – “A super important, super empowering superhero movie”

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Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson), Captain Marvel is the latest Marvel Studios movie — and the last before Avengers: Endgame — introducing us to Carol Danvers a.k.a. who Nick Fury paged at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.

Brie Larson (Room) is Captain Marvel, Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) returns as Nick Fury, and the pair are joined by Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One), Jude Law (Closer), Annette Bening (American Beauty), Lashana Lynch (Brotherhood) and Clark Gregg (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).

Starting with a touching Marvel logo tribute to Stan Lee, Captain Marvel continues to not put a foot wrong and get everything right. The film is technically an origin story but goes about its business like no superhero movie has so far.

We first meet Carol — known as Vers — when she already has powers. A soldier for the alien race called the Kree, she is under the tutelage of Yon-Rogg (Law) and the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence (Bening). She is sent on a mission and captured by the Skrulls – shapeshifters who can imitate anyone, and the sworn enemy of the Kree.

As a Skrull named Talos (Mendelsohn) attempts to hack her memory for military intel, previously locked recollections of being a US fighter pilot surface in Carol and we, like her, are hit with a disorienting barrage of her memories. After escaping she travels to Earth to stop Talos’ Skrull infiltration and to find out who she is slash was before – uncovering her own origin story as we go along – while photon blasting Skrulls and teaming up with two particularly well-known agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Carol meets 1995 Nick Fury (Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Gregg). The de-ageing effects have been cropping up and being perfected in the Marvel movies for a while now and reach their peak here. Young-ified Jackson and Gregg look perfect and after the initial surprise and delight, you don’t even notice the effects anymore.

The mid-90s setting is played not only for big laughs and nostalgia but also to provide Captain Marvel with a brilliant soundtrack full of needle drops from the likes of Elastica, Hole, No Doubt and Garbage that feel way cooler and less forced than in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Speaking of Guardians, we’ve seen Marvel’s space-y stuff in that and Thor: Ragnarok already, but Captain Marvel’s intergalactic aesthetic also manages to feel unique to itself – cleaner and more streamlined, with dogfights that are more technical, skilled and pulse-pounding thanks to the flying of Danvers and the piloting of her friend Maria Rambeau (Lynch).

Lynch’s character grounds Carol and helps her reclaim her humanity, while her interplay with Rambeau, Fury and Talos is natural and often hilarious. It feels like Marvel’s tone is moving away from the Whedon-esque now and more toward the Waititi-ish, with weird small asides and gestures taking you aback and making you laugh very loud.

It’s not all fun and games though. While there is plenty of action throughout, Captain Marvel leans into the drama a lot more than usual, making for some wonderfully rewarding moments as loyalties change, new alliances are formed, and Brie Larson forges a role-model.

Captain Marvel is an excellent origin story that’s like a mixture of Top Gun, Superman and Men in Black and is full of enthralling surprises, twists and links to the MCU. Carol Danvers is an inspiring and extremely powerful new hero and Thanos is toast – Captain Marvel will save us.

Captain Marvel is released in the UK on the 8th of March.

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