The Bock’s Office: ‘Captain Marvel’ feisty fun in new turn for superhero saga
"Captain Marvel," rated PG-13Rating: 3 out of 4 stars Running time: 124 minutes Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn and Jude Law Now playing at Steamboat Springs’ Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig's West Theatre.
If you saw a little old lady on a busy train, would you offer her a seat or punch her in the face? Most of us might forgo cold-cocking the elderly, but the eponymous character of “Captain Marvel” has seen too much to assume the best of people.
As an outsider on the planet Hala, a young woman named Vers (Brie Larson) has found her place in the universe as a member of Starforce, a military group dedicated to protecting the people of the Kree from the Skrulls, a race of shape-shifters with whom they have been at war for as long as she can remember.
However, Vers’ memory isn’t the most reliable; she has little recollection of where she came from before being taken in by Starforce and her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), with whom she has been training constantly to control her latent energy powers. On a supposed rescue mission that results in an ambush, she is taken hostage by the Skrulls and tortured in the hopes of gaining crucial information that would help them against the Kree.
Instead, their new captive unleashes hell and easily escapes, though the nearby world where Vers finds herself stranded is a whole new adventure.
The planet that she knows only as C-53 — or, as its inhabitants refer to it, Earth — should only be a temporary stop as she awaits a rendezvous with her teammates, though between the enemies that have tracked her location and government agents who are most interested in her sudden appearance, the fight is on to get back home in one piece.
Yet, the more Vers seeks answers about why the Skrulls are so intent on finding her, the more she learns why Earth feels so familiar to her.
With her star on the rise, an Oscar winner like Larson makes perfect sense on paper to play the part of a powerful female hero, but it’s her dynamic personality that shows she’s more than capable of taking on such a big role.
With more than 50 years in existence, Carol Danvers — Vers’ full name, as she discovers — is the comic book mainstay we’ve been waiting to see burst onto the screen in full force, and Larson is just the one to embody her power and unapologetic nature, which is aided along but not dependent on the photon blasts that are only part of her abilities.
Seeing a super-powered being may be getting old for most of the audience, but for SHIELD Agent Nick Fury, it’s a new experience when he sees a woman in a laser tag suit blasting energy from her hands. A digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson has the most screen time yet as the man who will go on to form The Avengers, currently a mid-level worker with a full head of hair and a little more optimism.
Heavy is the head that wears the eyepatch, and we’re all waiting to find out how that accessory found its way to him.
With a niche for playing smug villains in the “Star Wars” universe and other franchises, Ben Mendelsohn makes a fine fit in thick makeup as Talos, the head of the Skrulls, who swiftly infiltrate Earth in the pursuit of their prisoner and maybe something more.
Meanwhile, Law adds the right kind of aggressive authoritative attitude as the leader of Starforce, though he’s outshone by Annette Bening as both an Earth scientist who keeps popping into Carol’s dreams, and the Supreme Intelligence, the faceless ruler of the Kree, which takes different forms based on every person’s perspective of whom they most respect.
Kinda telling that Carol doesn’t see her direct supervisor that way, ain’t it?
The tangled past of the character — who had the mantle Ms. Marvel when she first took on hero status — is well-reflected in the screenplay by director team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and co-scripters Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve.
Unlike the straightforward approach of most of the Marvel Comics entries, the narrative style is heavy on flashbacks, many of which are fuzzy on the details as Carol comes to find that not everyone she’s come to trust is deserving.
Set in 1995, nostalgia plays a big part from the moment she crash-lands in a Blockbuster Video — plenty of those left — and begins soaking up the culture that she didn’t even know she was missing, with the timeframe encapsulated in a ’90s soundtrack with TLC, Nirvana, Salt-N-Pepa and perhaps most appropriately in No Doubt’s “Just a Girl.”
Besides borrowing its musical cues — and a few key players — from “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the newest from Marvel Studios helps expand the ever-expanding universe with the first of its movies to be centered solely on a woman.
In case you’re wondering, “Elektra” came out before the studio’s formation, but would you really claim it if you had the choice?
Some pointed observations range from our hero being told to smile more by random dudes and regular harassment in her background as an Air Force pilot, but the most telling is a receiver in her neck that supposedly keeps her dangerous powers restrained, ultimately under the heel of her superiors.
But, since we’re talking about a gal who can jury-rig an intergalactic communicator out of a Game Boy and a payphone, you can imagine it’s only a matter of time before she hits her potential.
A few too many origin story weaknesses — not to mention attempts to parallel park its way into the Marvel timeline — keep “Captain Marvel” from truly fulfilling its goals, though not for lack of effort from its directors and star.
With a mantra of “higher, further, faster,” Carol Danvers will only soar more in future appearances, and the sooner the better.
Tony Stark still needs a ride home.