I. Simon’s review published on Letterboxd:
Before I talk about Captain Marvel, I just want to say that if you see the film and dislike it, it’s alright. I know that a handful of people have/will have actual criticisms of the film (even if I completely disagree with them) and that is fine. Not all films work for everyone and we are all entitled to our own opinions. That said, if you are attacking Brie Larson on social media because of your own insecurity of the idea of a woman - who just wants more diversity in film criticism and absolutely does not hate men - playing a powerful character in your dumb capeshit franchise, then you’re a douchebag and I have zero respect for you. As for the film:
It may have taken 20 installments through 10+ years, but Marvel Studios has finally given us a female-centric film with Captain Marvel. I won’t lie that despite my reservations going in based on some of the marketing (even if I thought the marketing was solid for the most part), I was super excited for Captain Marvel, mainly because Brie Larson is a wonderful actress, Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck - who have proved themselves to be great with character-driven films - tackling an MCU film could potentially be something unique compared to most MCU entries, and, last but not least, it being the first female-centric film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only did Captain Marvel greatly exceed and shatter my expectations, but it makes me yearn even more for more female-centric films in the MCU, as Carol Danvers not only may very well be one of Marvel’s absolute most compelling characters to date (here’s hoping she becomes even more compelling throughout her time in the MCU), but the film itself is by far both the best AND the most heartfelt and human entry in the MCU since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (which, in my opinion, is not only the by far the best film in the MCU to date, but also holds a place in my heart).
As many of you may already know, Captain Marvel is an origin story, and given how Marvel Studios has been with origin stories in the past (with, in my opinion, the only other great origin solo film in the MCU being Captain America: The First Avenger), that alone can create reservations for many because many of the origin stories in the MCU tend to be somewhat formulaic due to restrictions of having to establish the character and set up future installments. What Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck do to subvert this is make the film not only more character-driven compared to most plot-driven MCU installments, but make the film feel so grounded, human and personal, reminding me a lot of what James Gunn did with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. For a mainstream studio film on a $150 million budget (let alone an MCU film), it’s shocking how grounded and human this film is. Despite all of the chaos and various events that happen on screen, the film never loses its heart or humanity, as there are many emotional beats that feel so genuine, most notably in the friendship between Carol Danvers and Maria Rambeau, a relationship that, while not frequently shown on screen, has greater emotional depth than almost any relationship in the MCU thus far. The way that Boden & Fleck handle those scenes, as well as other scenes of drama, feel far less like MCU melodrama and more like the kind of drama you’d find in Half Nelson. That said, like many MCU films (namely the Guardians of the Galaxy installments), there’s also humor scattered throughout, and most of it really lands, but even when it doesn’t land, you may not mind at all because of how charming and human the film is.
Even on a technical level, while not perfect in that regard (some of the action sequences are borderline horrendous in how they’re edited - though to be fair, many MCU films have weak action sequences), Captain Marvel is stronger than a great handful of MCU installments. The cinematography is much better than in most MCU installments and works well enough during the Earth scenes to create a contrast between Earth and the other worlds in the film, but in the space sequences, the film looks so beautiful. The world building in particular is super immersive - major shoutout to the VFX team. Some very few bad shots aside, these are some of the best VFX in an MCU installment since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - because of it, and speaking of VFX, the digital de-aging on Samuel L. Jackson to make Nick Fury look younger is maybe the best digital de-aging I’ve ever seen in a film. Captain Marvel is also somewhat structurally unique for an MCU installment, as the editing is well utilized to integrate various flashbacks regarding Carol’s past into the narrative to show us what her life was like before what happened had happened (not gonna go into spoilers), and is super well paced on top of that. I also have to give a shoutout to the costume designer, production designer and makeup artists. The production design is not only detailed to make the world so immersive, but makes the film feel truly like it was indeed set in 1995. So many various small details and easter eggs are placed throughout. As for the costume design and makeup artists, they really stand out in the various designs of each character and how they look. Lastly, Pinar Toprak provides a really good score. It may not be one of the MCU’s much stronger scores, but it does do its job and isn’t wholly generic or forgettable.
But where Captain Marvel really shines is in the phenomenal performances from Brie Larson (by far her best performance since ROOM) and Ben Mendelsohn, arguably the two best performances in the MCU thus far. Brie Larson in particular brings out the absolute best of Carol Danvers, largely elevating what might never work alone on paper due to Carol being somewhat stoic (intentionally so) to one of Marvel’s most compelling characters to date, thanks to the charisma and humanity she brings to the role. Not only does Larson perfectly nail the balance between being stoic and portraying the various aspects of Carol’s charisma, smart-assery and stubbornness that starts to show more and more as she starts to remember her past, but Larson’s performance is just so NATURAL. It’s far less like a leading performance you’d typically find in a comic book film and far more like Larson’s work in ROOM and Short Term 12. Ben Mendelsohn is also key here, providing even more depth and humanity to Talos, making him one of the best MCU villains to date. I can’t go in depth on that because spoilers, but I will say that I was surprised by how human the character was. Both of these performances are just phenomenal, and the film wouldn’t be nearly as great, let alone work, without them.
Due to disappointment with and/or being underwhelmed by many recent MCU films, as well as the unfortunate firing of James Gunn (he gave us two of the very best MCU films no doubt), I must say I’ve come close to being tired of the MCU, but if there’s any reason I’m reconsidering that and instead may end up continuing to stick with the MCU, it’s because of how exceptional Captain Marvel turned out to be. This is a film that is likely going to inspire so many girls, and even boys, across the world. The fact that it turned out to be an exceptional film that I really loved is just a bonus. I strongly recommend seeing Captain Marvel ASAP, and if you have children, please take them too. This is a film that they especially need to see.
9-9.5/10 - A