Captain Marvel: Female comicbook superhero receives solid origin story despite lack of character depth

For more than 11 years, Marvel Studios has released a plethora of superhero films, introducing audiences to an entire roster of superhuman heroes and villains. This past weekend, Marvel expanded their eclectic cast of characters with Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel is yet another origin story, introducing Vers—portrayed by Brie Larson—an alien warrior with powers that essentially make her as powerful as a nuclear reactor, capable of harnessing and releasing large bursts of energy. During an intergalactic war pitting the evil Skrulls against the Vers’s Kree forces, Vers finds herself on Earth to look for a light-speed engine.

Along the way, Vers has visions from the perspective of Carol Danvers, a deceased fighter pilot who looks exactly like Vers but grew up on Earth. With the help of Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division agent Nick Fury—portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson—Vers attempts to understand her visions, powers and the war she is entering.

If the plot sounds convoluted, that’s because it is—at least initially. The film’s first act takes place across the galaxy during the Kree-Skrull war and is essentially a plot-heavy exposition dump. Except for the most die-hard Marvel fans, few audience members will understand or even care about the conflict since it is presented no better than a standard, generic sci-fi movie. 

Once the plot takes Vers to Earth, however, the movie begins to shine. The film utilizes a blend of comedy, 90s nostalgia and imaginative fight scenes to have the fun, over-the-top tone that is often associated with the better Marvel films. 

These elements are helped significantly by the relationship between Vers and Fury. Both Larson and Jackson clearly have a lot of fun with their roles, and their banter and chemistry work well to strengthen their characters’ friendship.

Larson especially does a terrific job with her debut as Captain Marvel. While the script mostly provides Vers with shallow one-liners at the beginning of the film, Larson works to enhance Vers’s depth during emotional scenes and intense conflicts. The script also takes great care to integrate commentary concerning many problems that affect women within Vers’s conflict which adds another layer of depth to this character. 

In addition to a lack of depth beyond humor, the script also causes Vers’s character to suffer from the constant Carol Danvers flashbacks throughout the film. Although the flashbacks make sense plot-wise, Vers’s amnesia as presented in the film makes her more of a fish-out-of-water character rather than a competent warrior. Although this sorts itself out near the end of the film’s second act, it would have been nice for Vers to shine more as a character early on. 

Without getting into spoilers, the film has a major plot twist that will be divisive for some long-term Marvel fans. The twist turns Marvel comics’ lore on its head, changing something that has always been a well-known constant prior to the MCU. 

Despite this change, the twist was surprisingly well done. It felt organic in the film itself and, because it subverts the expectations of people familiar with Captain Marvel in comics, will be a surprise to casual and die-hard Marvel fans alike.

Overall, Captain Marvel is a worthy addition to the MCU. Although the film’s script suffers from some lack of character development as well as a poor opening act, the overall film is a blast thanks to some incredible fight scenes and fun characters. Despite some flaws, this film serves as an excellent introduction to the Captain Marvel character and will certainly hype audiences up for the upcoming Marvel movie, Avengers: Endgame.