Starring Brie Larson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Samuel L. Jackson, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg
Written by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet
Story by Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve, Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet
Based on the “Captain Marvel” comics by Stan Lee, Gene Colan; Carol Danvers by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Produced by Kevin Feige
Executive produced by Stan Lee
Cinematography by Ben Davis
Edited by Elliot Graham, Debbie Berman
Music by Pinar Toprak

Disney’s and Marvel’s “Captain Marvel”—a superhero movie based on an otherworldy-yet-very-earthly superhero named Vers who possesses special powers of energy that are literally part of her anatomy and genetics and give her great strength and power—is fun, funny, fast-paced, action-packed, smart and, even amid all of the out-of-this-world science fiction aspects, quite down-to-earth in its approach, feelings, mood and atmosphere—all the while remaining quite entertaining. Much like “Wonder Woman,” “Quardians of the Galaxy,” “Ant-Man,” “Doctor Strange” and the better origin-story fantasy and sci-fi movies, “Captain Marvel” excels because the inherent, interesting, layered and smartly complex story, script and dialogue are all centered around a basic good, strong story, and that story carries the movie consistently forward at a good, brisk, breezy pace.

Brie Larson, too, remains down-to-earth as Vers, the very relatable, likeable, attractive, tough, independent and earthbound-traveling alien main character, and “Captain Marvel” stands out as having one of the more likeable, non-irritating performances by Sam Jackson! The story is a solid origin-story, the writing isn’t necessarily original or deep, but it is down-to-earth and real, the direction isn’t necessarily original or inventive, but it is competent, well-paced, well-timed and the directors (there are two) keep things moving at a good pace; the acting is stand-out, with a great A-list cast of actors working with chemistry, energy, distinction, class and charisma. The production and art design are impressive, with some great shots, great action scenes and outstanding special effects. Kudos, as always, to the army of special effects crews. Additionally, besides standing on its own as a solid, entertaining origin story movie, the film ties in directly to the continuing “Avengers” over-arching story line—but only slightly, and not enough to district from that foundation origin story that carries and propels the film.

And there is a great, touching, emotional tribute to Marvel editor and creator Stan Lee at the start of the opening credits. And Stan Lee makes one of his last cameo appearances in the film, too.

“Captain Marvel” tells the most original, interesting and intriguing story about an alien woman known as Vers (the likeable, cute and physically fit Brie Larson, bringing a type of lower-key presence and style to superherodom), a member of the Kree Empire, a civilization alien to Earth, who is a soldier suddenly subject to random flashes of memories that she has no clue about. She doesn’t know the occurrences occuring in these images flashing into her thoughts, she doesn’t know why she’s having these thoughts, and she doesn’t know the people or the places in these thoughts. Meanwhile, the Kree are battling another civilization, a creepy race of shapeshifters known as the Skrulls. Kudos to the writer who came up with the name Skrulls. Vers is captured by the Skrulls on a mission, and when she escapes, her ship goes out of control and she crash lands in, of all places, Los Angeles, during, of all times, the 1990s. Hilariously, Vers crash lands in a Blockbuster Video store. Nice job, writers—nice job. Landing in this time period, of course, sets the stage for an array of fish-out-water jokes, 1990s popular culture jokes, 1990s technology jokes, and of course some great, fun opportunities for the talented production design, art direction, set dressing, costume, wardrobe, hair styling and make-up crews on the film. Along with everything else that shines in “Captain Marvel”—and there’s much that shines in this movie—the period production design elements provide a fun running gag and help to plant the movie in another time period that, one realizes while enjoying the movie, was so much better in so many ways than today’s popular culture, technology and sociological and political climates. That’s not a bash on current times or a cynical statement—it’s just true.

As Vers makes her way around 1995 Los Angeles in true fish-out-of-water fashion, various Kree and Skull friends and enemies constantly chase her, follow her around—and attempt to capture her. They’re all after Vers’ inherent energy abilities—what makes her operate the way she does, which is operating with immense strength, speed, power, energy and even the ability to fly through the air and somehow fly around in outer space without withering, dying or exploding into pieces. Apparently, whatever made Vers a superhero is a hot commodity in the universe. Meanwhile, Vers slowly but surely proceeds to elude her various captors—and figure out the legacy and background of the flashes of memory that she keeps having in her mind.

As all of this is going on, Vers is introduced to two likeable U.S. government agents, Nick Fury and Phil Coulson, who originally arrive on the scene to figure out what, or who, exactly, crashed into the friendly neighborhood Blockbuster Video. Fury is wonderfully portrayed by an actually likeable and youthful Sam Jackson—who is likeable here thanks to not just the script presenting Fury as likeable, but because for once Jackson seems to be acting in a restrained, controlled, adult, mature manner that doesn’t involve cussing, yelling, screaming, bugging his eyes out, throwing his arms around or being eternally angry and irritating. This portrayal of Fury—as it should be—is, as noted, wonderfully restrained and positive, providing a strong sidekick supporter for Vers on Earth. Coulson, too, is likeable—actually, very likeable—but one of the few nitpicks with the movie is that the Coulson character, and its portrayer, the equally restrained Clark Gregg, are under-represented. Since Coulson is so likeable, it would have been wise to include him in every more scenes in the movie. Nevertheless, the presence of a more positive, less irritating, less angry Jackson as Fury and the pleasant Gregg as Coulson add some more positive characters to like in the movie—and “Captain Marvel” has a bevy of likeable characters to enjoy, latch onto and care about—all of which help lift up the movie.

One major aspect to note about Nick Fury in “Marvel:” Sam Jackson is actually digitally aged backwards twenty-five years, so he appears in 1995 Los Angeles as a very young-looking young man! The movie marks the first time that Marvel Studios has digitally made someone younger for an entire movie—and it’s good to report that the technique works in the movie!

Thus, Nick Fury, who subsequently takes on a greater, more important role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in later years and later times and later movies, gets his own mini origin story in “Captain Marvel” and, presto, there’s yet another likeable aspect of the film to enjoy!

Additionally, the chemistry between Vers, Fury and Coulson is great to watch—all three of them work and act together well, there does appear to be some genuine chemistry and connection between the actors and the characters, and it’s nice, actually, to see Fury and Coulson, who are confused and bedazzled here as they are initially being introduced to these aliens that eventually will come to populate Earth with all sorts of stories and missions and operations and whatevers, continually learn about what actually exists beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Imagine being a humble government agent investigating strange, unexplained activities on the planet in 1995—and suddenly running into a beautiful, sexy young woman with strange energy powers who one day abruptly crashes in to the neighborhood Blockbuster. You’d be intrigued, confused and bedazzled, too–and Jackson and Gregg portray these varying emotions well.

Soon enough, Ver’s back story slowly but surely comes together—linking her powers, her memory flashes, her home planet, the Kree Empire, the Skulls, Fury, Coulson, the U.S. government, the U.S. military, and others in her orbit and other orbits. How and why the film’s able and clever writers, Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet, working from a story by Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve, Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet, are so smartly able to combine and bring together these various stories, on multi-layers of story, back story, plots and sub plots, is impressive—and always fun. For once, it seems that many writers cooking in the superhero universe movie kitchen have been able to come up with a dish well-served, tasty, intriguing and fun to sit down and enjoy. Of course, the writers are working from original story ideas and editing from Stan Lee, Gene Colan and Roy Thomas.

Speaking of Stan Lee, as noted, “Captain Marvel” marks one of the last fun cameo appearances in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, as Lee sadly died on Nov. 12, 2018, at the age of 95. Disney’s and Marvel’s wonderfully elegant ode to Lee in the opening credits is beautiful, and Lee’s cameo in the movie is an equally beautiful moment. Don’t worry, it’s not giving anything away to note that Larson as Vers gives a look to Lee in the scene as if to simply say, “Hey, Stan—thank you, and we love you. Brie Larson thanks you. We all thank you. And Captain Marvel thanks you and loves you, too.” Lee’s great smile and happiness in the moment says wonders about him, his life—and how and why he worked so hard to create all of these great, fun characters, stories, comics and universes. So, yes, Stan Lee, the world—all worlds—thank you and love you. Excelsior, Stan Lee, excelsior.

As Vers, Fury and Coulson, and others come together to put together all of the puzzle pieces of Vers, her memory flashes and the layers of story and plot skullduggery, treachery, diabolical dealings, spying, espionage operations and other shady dealings of the Kree, the Skrulls, and others on Earth and beyond Earth, the film gathers a nice, fast-paced—but not too fast-paced—momentum, with plenty of character development, story development and, yes, action and special effects consistently carrying the movie forward. That’s about all that can be said about that, though, for to reveal too much more about the story and plot would give too much away for the twenty-two people left on Earth who haven’t yet seen the movie.

One sociological observation does need to be academically and journalistically noted about “Captain Marvel” and Brie Larson’s portrayal of Vers: The movie has absolutely nothing—nothing—to do with gender politics, whether it’s pro-woman, anti-woman, pro-man or anti-man. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. That’s not what the movie is about—on any level. “Captain Marvel” is not a statement on any level about gender on any level. That’s a fact. And the movie is not even notable for having a lead female superhero—because that’s been done before, many, many, many, many times. Apparently some wayward movie fans have short memories—or, point-blank, a general dumbed-down lack of knowledge about movie, television, book, comic book and popular culture history. Strong, powerful, leading female superhero characters have been around for decades and centuries and millennium in popular culture—and it’s absolutely nothing new. The era of strong leading female mythological characters goes back centuries in stories, myths, tales, urban legends, mythology, folk tales, books and oral histories—centuries. And in just the last fifty years, it’s wise to note that actress Lynda Carter played Wonder Woman on television in—are you ready?—the mid-1970s, starting in 1975–which now happens to be forty-four years ago. Carter played Wonder Woman on an hour-long series, “Wonder Woman,” for four years—from 1975 to 1979. Additionally, it’s notable to note that several strong, powerful women played Catwomen on the “Batman” television show—still considered by many to be the best rendition of Batman in all of film and television—from—are you ready?—1966 to 1968. That’s fifty-three to fifty-one years ago. And if you want to include all of the powerful mythological women who appeared in Greek mythology—and these characters are literal inspirations for many characters, stories and ideas in the modern-day superhero, comic, book, sci-fi, television, film and animation universes—then you have to go back more than two-thousand years. And then there’s the various leading women superheroes in the Marvel, DC, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Harry Potter, Divergent, Twilight, Lord of the Rings, King Arthur worlds. And then there’s Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman” movie from just two years ago, 2017. So it’s clear from simple history that “Captain Marvel” is not necessarily presenting anything crazily new by having a leading female in a superhero movie. That’s not putting anything down—it’s just noting real popular culture history.

Sometimes, a female comic book superhero is just a female comic book superhero, and sometimes, a male comic book superhero is just a male comic book superhero, as Sigmund Freund might have said if he was a comic book, book, film and television superhero fan.

So go see “Captain Marvel” at the theaters—and without the unneeded, rip-off, over-priced and moronic Imax, enhanced sound, 3D or other add-on-charge bells and whistles—and enjoy the movie for exactly what it is—a fun, funny, down-to-Earth, enjoyable and entertaining superhero comic book science fiction fantasy action adventure movie.

John Hanshaw

John Hanshaw

founded WFI in the Fall of 2007. He has worked in film and television for over ten years at such institutions as NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), PBS and most recently National Geographic. He has degrees from Amherst College, Cambridge University, and GW Law.