“CAPTAIN MARVEL” (PG-13)
Moviegoers who believe it makes sense to walk before running will be happy enough with this ‘70s sort of throwback origin story that takes a long time to become marvelous.
Those more in favor of hitting the ground running will probably wonder why they can’t marvel sooner and longer during this latest launch of a Disney/Marvel Studios franchise.
Both camps will probably agree that Brie Larson is a great pick to play the superhero who takes most of this film to find the powers that make her glow with a power that puts her in the upper echelon of Marvel heroes.
The film starts out with a bit of dazzle, putting Larson as “Vers” amidst the Kree warriors where she’s training to fully come into her powers.
She and her trainer, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), spar in a session where he tells her that she’ll never fully become a true warrior if she doesn’t let go of her emotions. Even then, this fighter who knows that she was transformed into a Kree deep down doubts that’s true.
The pair joins a host of others who travel to a planet looking for a Kree agent who’s been tracking some key information, and an amazing-looking battle of futuristic weapons ensues.
Larson’s Vers is captured by Skrulls, a shape-shifting people the Kree are fighting a long war against. When a machine is used to plumb memories she’s seen flashes of before, it nudges her closer to truly remembering them.
Escaping from the Skrull ship with some nifty fighting, Vers falls to what turns out to be Earth. The fact that she falls into a thriving Blockbuster Video store puts it squarely into the 1990s.
It’s then that the film really bogs down, shifting from the typically effects-heavy Marvel hero tale to more of an odd, buddy-cop sort of tale with Larson’s character playing off the guy she soon meets, one Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
From dull car chases to Vers’ ever-so-slow remembering of her earlier very human life on Earth as Carol Danvers, the film loses its momentum with a succession of instantly forgettable scenes and mundane dialogue.
It’s only when Vers/Danvers/Captain Marvel finally realizes who the good guys truly are, and rides a personal awakening to fully come into her powers that she and the film blast off again. All the special effects that have been missing in the middle are trotted out in a major way in an ending that gets the blood pumping.
Also effective in a more subtle way is a brief montage of earlier moments in Danvers’ life, put-downs and hurdles in her youth that show she was always a fighter in her quest to become an Air Force pilot. The way the brief segment unfolds makes it clear that Denver’s transformation is more about her trusting in herself and her power than some sort of hokey female empowerment.
Despite the film’s slow spots, Larson is dynamic enough, and there’s enough action to make the journey worth taking.
And by the time the film ends—stick around for two segments during/after the credits—it has succeeded in creating Captain Marvel that is marvelous indeed.
Fans who feel differently about the film may well argue over whether the long, slow build-up to an eventual dazzle was the best way to go.
There was a lot of back story to tell and this Carol Danvers needed a long, personally instructive journey to become this Captain Marvel character who will play a major role in the “Avengers: Endgame” film premiering next month.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language. 124 min. [MC, PV, RF]