We'll just have to wait and see how numerous Marvel-verse mysteries are solved when Marvel Studios' Captain Marvel hits Aussie cinemas on March 7th. The film could have also settled for being a mostly middling entry in the MCU, but it instead - oh, wait, scratch that.
And the last act ... you probably won't see coming. Vers (Brie Larson) lives her life as a member of Starforce, an elite military unit of the Kree civilization somewhere far from Earth.
Eschewing what could have been a cliché dynamic of having them bicker only to bond in the finale, Carol and Nick pretty quickly form a trust and an easy rapport, and you can see how and why Larson and Jackson have seemingly formed an off-screen bond as well after this, their third film together.
The story drops you in the middle of things and gives Carol Danvers a convenient case of amnesia as she tries to piece together her past by dreaming of Annette Bening while training to be a soldier with Jude Law on the planet of Kree.
Admittedly, she is not well-served by the silly space-opera screenplay (by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet), which can't decide if Danvers is a haunted sexism survivor or a grinningly detached smart-ss. Larson can quip and smirk and take a punch, Boden and Fleck can create a fully-realized and damaged character for her to play, with sharp dialogue and grounded storytelling.
Here, Danvers meets a young (ish) Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who is laboring away for the clandestine government agency SHIELD. "Brie Larson is worth the price of admission", writes Kristen Lopez of Culturess, while Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian cites her "fierce performance" as the film's strength. The answers eventually pile up, and the film's weight finally begins to reveal itself.
In an interview with Nerdist, Lynch celebrated her character's single motherhood as a beau ideal. The film's not subtle about its pro-woman stance, but it delivers both satisfying beats and laughs on the topic without ever feeling antagonistic.
The film's most touching moment has nothing to do with the story, but comes during the opening Marvel Studios animated logo. Unfortunately, they're mostly with characters not named Carol.
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"I'm still convincing her", Jackson joked. Rather than learn new things about herself she's remembering old ones, and instead of an arc, Larson settles for a smirk.
Most of the film's remaining dramatic moments come courtesy of Carol's childhood friend and Air Force co-pilot, Maria (Lashana Lynch).
Their leader is played by Ben Mendelsohn, a scene-stealer who becomes the source of some of the film's increasingly droll humour - quite an achievement given he's delivering his best lines through a thick green mask. The rest of us can go - man, woman, and child - and treasure the good parts. Choreography shows hints of energy and life, but it's shot too close (or cropped) and edited to death.
"It didn't have as numerous usual fight scenes..."
That means arms dealer Tony Stark is still building his fortune, Captain America is still frozen in ice, and Spider-Man hasn't even been born.
If, like me, you're confused about how and when the originally male Captain Marvel became a woman, don't bother with the character's Wikipedia page, since it's written in the comics fan's equivalent of Sanskrit.
"When my little ones are going like, 'I want to be that when I grow up, ' all that stuff impacts you". Her combination of arrogance but unapologetic and snarky self-awareness of the fact is hard to resist and Larson is helped tremendously by a smart story choice that all superhero movie producers should commit to memory.
As for Iron Man, let me ask you this: can Captain Marvel fly without a suit? Yah.