Captain Marvel ★★★★½

Higher, further, faster, baby!

89/100

It’s crazy to think that a few years ago, I was discovering the comics of this unknown character to the general audience, a certain Carol Danvers, falling in love with her, adopting her name and now she’s getting her own major motion picture... And I can say that Captain Marvel is one of the most genuine and thoughtful adaptations that Marvel Studios has ever put out. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, both coming from the indie scene, Carol Danvers’ debut on the big screen carries subtle artistic sensibilities that make it quite the unique origin story, constantly interesting and of course, lots of fun.

Captain Marvel’s biggest strenght is something that’s not often the biggest takeaway of a superhero movie: its story. In the comics, Carol’s origins bounce between comparisons to Green Lantern and Superman, and the screenwriters here took the opportunity to completely revitalize it, eliminating the derivative elements in function to create something fresh and much more original, making it new even for those who already know her from the comics – but still managing to stay true to the essence of her formation.

On top of that, a well polished, intriguing plot is built, taking us from the period setting of the 90’s to the most imaginative corners of space – Hala, the Kree city as portrayed here, echoes Total Recall - and taking advantage of the expectations from both comic book fans and mere MCU fans to elaborate clever plot twists that subvert some of Marvel’s formulaic tropes, keeping the story always inventive – a few twists, however, might not particularly please hardcore comic book purists, which if anything only proves their worth. The narrative is explored through some distinct language artífices, such as the way Boden and Fleck play with non-linearity, juxtaposition and points of view; exploiting those factors to mislead the audience, hide the film’s secrets and paciently unveil them at the right time, also counting with one of Marvel’s most meticulous work of editing while at it – that being the key to formulate what comes to be one of the most interesting stories in the whole MCU.

At its center, the movie’s top priority: Carol Danvers, a Kree warrior in an empowering journey of self-discovery. The characters’ emotional arc is approached side by side with the mystery of her past, and although Carol is hugely charismatic right off the bat, the progression of her journey gradually fleshes out more of her personality and brings us closer to her. The whole arc of Carol learning how to control her gargantuan inner power comes across as a beautifully executed metaphor to develop the film’s themes of self-realization; how people let themselves be defined by other people’s projections of who they are supposed to be, and how breaking free from such a leash by realizing the meaning of your own existence yourself, no matter how hard it clashes with the surrounding expectations of you, is the only way to achieve true greatness. There was literally no better movie for Marvel to flert with these themes, as using such a relatable female lead to explore them only elevates their impact and catharsis.

Brie Larson plays such a character with glowing energy and such comprehesion of her that there’s no way to compare her to any other superhero performance; she makes her own icon in the form of the rebellious, sassy, brave and joyful Captain Marvel. This is one of the Best superhero castings of recent years, as Brie fully understands both the inner conflicts of Carol Danvers and the façade that she puts on to disguise them, and the result is a portrayal of the character that’s accurate to the most subtle of details.

Everybody else is also great, in well written and utilized roles throughout the movie. The main highlights are Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn and Jude Law – Sam Jackson has fun playing a younger, less experienced Nick Fury, and shares excellent chemistry with Brie, both forming a funny buddy cop pairing reminiscent of the 90’s; Mendelsohn steps out of the shoes of Rogue One’s Director Krennic and Ready Player One’s Nolan Sorrento (apparently the number “one” is a recurrent theme in the actor’s work) and explores new layers in the Skrull leader Talos; and Jude Law makes for an imponent, respectable presence on the screen, having one of the most interesting relationships with the protagonist. However, in the midst of so many great characters, Annette Bening doesn’t get to shine a lot, and Lee Pace’s Ronan is really only here out of fan service – but be prepared to completely fall in love with Goose, the cat, who steals every scene she’s in.

The film has a well balanced pacing, however more pacient through the first half while it builds the foundations for a cathartic third act. Even so, there’s plenty of action, humor and compelling character work going on to keep your eyes locked on the screen – and both action and humor are well executed in perfect tonal synchrony. The action is rather competent and well choreographed, and even if not particularly inventive in comparison to other VFX-heavy blockbusters of this kind, it’s still dazzling to see and boosted by the emotional attachment we form with the characters – and there are some WOW moments. The conclusion, though, might feel a bit anticlimactic.

If a great selection of songs in the soundtrack give you all the needed 90’s vibes, Pinar Toprak’s original score elevates the spectacle, making excellent use of synthesizers to create otherworldly motifs to the cosmic sequences, but also a powerful and inspiring main theme for Captain Marvel herself, that works on a strong crescendo towards a big blast at the film’s most glorious moments.

Captain Marvel might not have the batshit level of spectacle as, say, an Aquaman, but it’s a movie that prioritizes its two most important factors: the story, and the character. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck did an excellent job introducing this fantastic character to the rich MCU, and both the filmmakers and Brie Larson hit the jackpot in her characterization, conquering our hearts with her energy and leading us through an inspiring, intriguing and passionate story through the cosmos – but with a heart still rooted on Earth. Oh, Captain, my Captain.

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