'Captain Marvel' review: 'Brie Larson shines as the MCU's first solo female lead'

Can the Marvel Cinematic Universe's latest instalment keep the mammoth franchise's momentum going?


Words: Joe Passmore

Despite great female heroes like Black Widow, Gamora, Scarlet Witch and Okoye, it’s hard to believe that it has taken 20 entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe before we finally got an exclusively female-lead feature.

As overdue as it may feel, we can finally celebrate the arrival of Captain Marvel this weekend.

After the tragic events of Avengers: Infinity War, the studio seems to be hinting that Captain Marvel (also known as Carol Danvers) could possibly be a last hope for The Avengers, as someone who could give the evil titan Thanos a run for his money. Before we get there, however, we need to learn who she is.

Over the course of the film, we learn where Carol is from, how she got her powers and where she might insert herself in the rest of the franchise’s narrative.

As an origin story, Captain Marvel is initially heavy on the exposition, which has its positives and negatives. While it helps make a more indulgent story and create richer characters, it also means that it takes a little while to find its pace.

This is only a minor issue though, as once you get past the first 30 minutes or so, Captain Marvel finds its feet and shows off the best of the franchise’s abilities.

It’s spectacularly filmed, includes exciting action sequences, the writing is also witty, whilst not being too heavily reliant on laughs, which is one of the crutches Marvel sometimes leans on.

And Larson shines as the powerful but endearing Carol Danvers, making her a hero the audience really roots for.

As the first female-lead Marvel film, there were worries that the film could patronise its audience or fall into certain clichés, but everything here is done with care and purpose.

There are clever little subtleties that poke fun of the usual male-lead formula, whilst it never feels too on-the-nose.

A noticeable accomplishment is that the film manages to run its full length without Carol’s story ever being bogged down by a pointless romantic arc, which often feels arbitrary in superhero films.

The richness of the story instead comes from Carol’s partnership with Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and more importantly her friendship with her oldest friend and fellow air force pilot Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), who is the single mother of her daughter - Monica, both of whom shape the person Carol is.

The focus on these kinds of relationships feels much more unique than a forced love story which is a natural step forward for Marvel.

Being set more than 20 years ago, the soundtrack is a great taste of 90s nostalgia; with everything from Nirvana to No Doubt.

And it’s impossible to do a write up without mentioning the film’s real star, Goose the “cat”, who steals every scene she’s in and provides most of this adventure’s main laughs and some of its biggest shocks.

Origin stories can be tough, especially in such a well-established series, but despite some minor pacing issues and even outside the obvious context of it being the first female lead entry, Captain Marvel is an effortlessly great addition to the cannon.

We can’t wait to see her join The Avengers.

Rating: 4/5

Captain Marvel hits cinemas this Friday (March 8). Watch the trailer below: