Review: Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel – or as I shall now think of it: “all the gaps in the Marvel narrative to date neatly plugged and answered”! - is a fitting prelude to the years truly big Marvel event. That, of course, is the long awaited finale to the current story arc as it all comes together in Avengers Endgame.

Knitting up the threads

Questions like: where DID Shield obtain its tesseract from? (you know: the one that Loki stole in the first movie). No. No spoilers here. Though you will have to wait til the very very end of the film (as in, after ALL of the credits have gone) to find out.

Back story, too, to Ronan, villain of Guardians of the Galaxy: and not a few insights into the Interstellar politics that underpin the events of Avengers Infinity War – which is where we first learn of the existence of Captain Marvel.

And why DOES Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) wear an eye patch?

Captain Marvel: where it all began

Most of all, though, this is an origins film and therefore, as exciting and as limited as all in that genre. Exciting? Yes. Because this is nothing less than the history of the character widely acknowledged, canonically speaking, to be one of the most powerful characters in play. Give Thor a run for his money? Oh yes! Take on the Hulk with one hand tied behind her back. Absolutely.

And yet: maybe it is just me. Or maybe origins films are a bit limited. Because there are certain obligatory building blocks that need to be crow-barred into place. Certain conventions to follow. And these slow down what might otherwise be a truly fast paced film.

That is why both Suicide Squad and Justice League are flawed: because they attempt to cram not just one, but multiple new character stories into the limited space available.

As for Captain Marvel (Brie Larson)? She awakes from a recurrent dream. Or nightmare. In it, she has survived some sort of catastrophic crash, only to find herself under attack from an alien/member of the villainous race known as the Skrull.

Fast forward some unspecified number of years and she is now partnered with Yon-Rogg: a member of the elite Kree Star Force; and about to go on her first real mission against the Skrull.

So who is Marvel? Or Vers as we are first introduced to her: blue-blooded Kree (literally!) or red-blooded earth woman? The key here is all about recovering memories – and doing so in good time before the real enemy stands up and takes her out.

The answer, it seems, lies somewhere on earth, where Vers lands after a failed mission. Earth: but not of today. Rather, we are back in the 90s, so allowing the scriptwriters to work in some much appreciated humour about dial-up internet. How did we ever put up with it?

A hero emerges

In the end, Marvel, whose real name turns out to be Carol Danvers links up with Fury and a seriously young Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), taps into the real extent of her powers – which are truly cosmic in scope – and then whips off across the Galaxy on a mercy mission. Thus neatly explaining why she has yet to appear in the Avengers story.

Although, of course, the real issue is one familiar to fans of Golden Age sci-fi, such as the work of author E E “Doc” Smith: and that is power inflation. Because as the years go by, it is inevitable that the threats and therefore the heroes set to save us from them will gradually grow more formidable. Marvel is a truly cosmic superhero and, I suspect, difficult to work into any narrative much less than the truly apocalyptic scenario set up in Avengers Infinity War.

Because, to be honest, watch Danvers stand up to a fleet of hostile spaceships and then explain how it ever makes sense to line her up alongside the Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff. And that is in no way to diss Natasha. Merely to suggest that setting her alongside Marvel is about as sensible as arming one half of your army with slings, the other with nuclear weapons.

Finishing touches

Two nice additional touches. The film is dedicated to Stan Lee, the originator of all origins, and marks the fact that Lee finally passed on from this mortal realm last year.

Second, is the fact of its launch on International Women's Day. Because Cap Marvel is another powerful woman hero to add to the line-up. Because at the end, having downed the (male) villain with little more than a flick of a finger, her riposte to his demand that they fight on his terms is the magnificently feminist: "I have nothing to prove to you."

And that works well as rebuke, if rebuke were needed, to the bitter boys – the anti-feminists – who hated that another film starring another strong female has materialised in their universe and they have been reacting – how else – by inundating film review sites with one-star reviews before it even came out.

Three and a half stars.