Zach Gilbert’s review published on Letterboxd:
Captain Marvel, the film, isn’t as flawless as the heroine at its center, but it’s still a rousing and exciting new chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe anchored by a cast full of talent and charm to spare.
Initially, it’d make sense to be a tad worried about the trajectory of the film during a first act. It’s pace is a bit off, the dialogue can feel a tad stilted and exposition heavy, and it takes a bit to fully settle into this world and warm to these characters. However, when Captain Marvel - known as this point as “Vers” - finds herself stranded on Earth, the story begins to finally find its footing. It is here that Larson’s Captain Marvel is allowed to interact with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, forging a chemistry that’s palpable right from the get-go. As they team up to combat the Skrull menace and uncover the mystery of Carol’s past, they continually liven up proceedings with their witty banter and mutual respect for one another.
Some have said the second act of Captain Marvel is “too slow”, but this actually proved to be my favorite part of the film, namely for the range of performances that are put on display. Larson does a fantastic job at bringing this internally conflicted character to life, and it’s wholly engaging to watch her evolve from a subservient follower to a stranded fish out of water to finally the wholehearted and devoted hero she was meant to be. Her character is fleshed out even moreso thanks to her relationships with the aforementioned Samuel L. Jackson (who gives his best Nick Fury performance in possibly the entire franchise) and Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau, a former friend of Carol’s prior to her accident. Lynch is responsible for fueling the heart of the film - the friendship and connection between Carol and Maria, who continually bettered and believed in each other throughout their time at the Air Force. Finally, Ben Mendelsohn SOARS as Talos, the leader of the Skrulls; for once, Mendelsohn strays from his typical “angry, loud evil leader” shtick and surprisingly lands quite a few emotionally resonant beats as well.
When the time comes for the seemingly court-mandated third act VFX-studded climax, it’s considerably more small-scale than usual for the MCU. Nevertheless, aside from a few dodgy CGI shots, I greatly appreciated this stripped down approach, as it allowed more attention to be granted to the fulfillment of Carol’s own character arc and the implications of the settlement of the Kree/Skull War. As I watched Carol truly take on the persona of Captain Marvel and kick ass (especially in a scene with one of the most brilliantly on the nose song choices I’ve seen), I couldn’t help but feeling like a giddy little kid again.
Captain Marvel isn’t as brilliantly inventive or subversive as something like last year’s Black Panther, and it certainly doesn’t stray far from cliches that have been associated endlessly with the MCU at this point, but it’s nonetheless an empowering step forward for representation and a passionate story about a woman reclaiming her own identity and agency in a world that has kept her down for far too long. I can’t wait to see how she factors in to this greater universe, and I’m beyond thankful this film exists.
P.S. I want my own Goose now.