Captain Marvel (2019)

Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Writers: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Annette Benning, Ben Mendelson, Lashana Lynch, Clark Gregg, Jude Law

Cert: 12

Captain Marvel steps out into the world of sci-fi with this latest edition from the MCU, as we travel between advanced alien civilisations and the less advanced world of mid 90s America. Sophisticated yet simple, Captain Marvel takes the form of a taught origin story not only for the titular character, but also for the Avengers themselves as we learn even more about their beginnings.

Following a quick blurry vision of Earth we take our first trip to the planet of Hala, the capital of the Kree civilisation. This film can perhaps boast some of the best special effects so far, with the Kree home-world being a vibrant technological landscape complete with glimmering skyscrapers and vast spaceships - Guardians Of The Galaxy fans in particular will enjoy these opening scenes - it is almost a shame that we don't spend more time here before the story is relocated elsewhere.

Earth in 1995, however, feels a lot more familiar, the whole film bathed in a wash of nostalgia which is happily present throughout, but never forced down the viewers throat. Captain Marvel has absolutely nailed the 90s feel, complete with a Blockbuster video and computers so infuriatingly slow it's a wonder we ever got anything done. This particular setting also helps to displace the film from the wider franchise. Just as a journey to another part of the galaxy can be a refreshing detour from the seemingly perpetual destruction of NYC, a trip back to the 90s can also provide a novel cinematic setting. While certainly being anchored to it, there is a refreshing amount of distance between it and the main timeline, making this an easy film to watch in its own regard, with a substantial understanding of the franchise being helpful, but not essential. Still, there are plenty of links to the MCU, meaning this latest addition is firmly cemented within the ever-expanding world of Marvel superheroes.

Despite being more than 20 films in, the MCU continues to offer unique and exciting sights and experiences with each film it produces. You'll find no stagnation or recycled material here, as new powers and new technologies offer up entirely new kinds of fight scenes, with a superb level of choreography to match. A few of the earlier fight scenes are a little hard to follow, at times moving far too rapidly, but this is something which is quickly rectified with the later ones being exceptionally thrilling and involving.

Brie Larson delivers a hammer blow of a performance, proudly and confidently heading this first female led addition to the male dominated MCU. Larson provides us with a tenacious but tender Carol Danvers, powerful in both mind and body, and endlessly righteous throughout. Just as her MCU predecessors and so-to-be co-stars such as Downey Jr and Evans have carved out their own iconic take on their respective characters, Larson has grasped her assigned personage with both hands and shaped Captain Marvel into another distinctly charismatic and unique member of the ever-growing MCU roster. Unlike the majority of the previous films, however, Larson's character also carries with it a powerful and uplifting message to young girls everywhere - one which is stated loud and proud against everyday sexism present across the world.

Samuel L Jackson's portrayal of a more youthful Nick Fury is far removed from the more cynical and world-weary one we are used to. He could almost be described as the comic relief, providing the film with plenty of hilarious moments, being able to bring a level of humour to a role which has previously been restricted to the franchise's more serious moments. From the moment he encounters Larson's character, Jackson is obviously relishing this opportunity to let his hair down a little. This film also fills in a lot of Fury's mysterious past, supplying even more flesh to the bones of this now huge franchise.

The chemistry shared between Larson and Jackson is unmistakably genuine, with their continued back-and-forth being both warming and hilarious. The two build a formidable alliance and friendship over the course of the film, with Larson's cutting sense of humour perfectly balanced against the surprising but welcome goofiness of Jackson's Fury.

Mendelson offers a typically fantastic performance as the Skrull leader Talos, introduced to us as the shapeshifting enemy of the righteous Kree civilisation. While the quality of his performance is to be expected, what is not is his character's contribution to this story; one which is surprisingly thoughtful and tender, and turns a typical MCU formula on its head. Jude Law, meanwhile, delivers a solid but simple performance as Larson's on-screen mentor, while Annette Bening is superb, if not underused, as a brilliant pilot/scientist shown only in flashbacks.

Complete with a deeply touching tribute to the late, great Stan Lee, Captain Marvel ticks all the boxes for what we expect to be in a top-tier MCU film, while adding and ticking a few extra boxes of its own. Thrilling and emotive but lighthearted throughout, Captain Marvel punches its way into this extensive franchise, establishing Carol Danvers and a formidable member of the team.

In one line: Powerful and told on a suitably epic scale, Captain Marvel makes quite an entrance as it submits a thrilling story told with a sublime blend of action and humour.

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