My decision to watch the MCU in timeline order faced its first (and possibly only) hurdle in Captain Marvel. In terms of the MCU’s overall timeline, Captain Marvel fits squarely between Captain America: The First Avenger and the rest of the MCU, given its 1995 setting. However, going from a Phase One title to one released so late into Phase Three was more than a little jarring – due in particular to its post-credits scene in which the Avengers are dealing with the aftermath of Thanos’ snap, and also to the common use of the name S.H.I.E.L.D. (This is a fairly small and petty point to make, but it was glaringly obvious when watching Iron Man directly after, but Agent Coulson seems entirely unaware that the agency’s initials spells out such a handy acronym, despite its regular use in 1995, over a decade before the events of Iron Man.)
Putting those minor considerations aside, Captain Marvel fits beautifully into the franchise. Its introduction of a younger Nick Fury and rookie Agent Coulson serves a dual purpose, being both entertaining and incredibly relevant to the film’s overall place in the MCU, with Carol Danvers’ actions prompting Fury to start his Avengers Initiative.
The best part about Captain Marvel – for me, at least – was that even when you remove the MCU from the equation, it’s an excellent film. Its 1995 setting was nailed by the production, from wardrobe to references to soundtrack and beyond, and it created an air of subtle nostalgia that served as a pleasant backdrop to an exciting sci-fi story.
Naturally, given its status as part of the MCU, Captain Marvel‘s visual effects are flawless. There’s extensive CGI at work in bringing the titular character’s abilities to the screen, but also in the de-aging of both Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg, and the realisation of Goose, Danvers’ feline/Flerken pet.
The film’s action is excellently done, but it’s the story and its sensitivity that I found most impressive. Brie Larson is cast perfectly as the titular hero, and as an origin story, Captain Marvel absolutely knocked the character out of the park. Leading with Vers/Carol Danvers’ time as part of the Kree’s Starforce, seeing her begin to doubt, then to question, and finally to understand the trauma she’s suffered is done deftly and without anything unnecessary, ad Larson’s performance reflects this perfectly. There’s a general tone of empowerment, of taking back what never should have been stolen, and it lends the film a powerful and emotionally universal hook.
One of my smaller (but massively significant) takeaways from Captain Marvel was the way the film did nothing whatsoever to sexualise its characters. It signifies a willingness to move away from some incredibly problematic attitudes towards women in both comics and film, and I could not respect that more. Carol Danvers, to me, is one of the MCU’s most believably human characters: we see her grappling with her emotions as she learns to control her powers, as well as learning to accept her trauma and move on from it, all while cracking jokes and enjoying an entirely platonic relationship with Nick Fury.
Captain Marvel, while in many ways a very heavy story, managed to keep itself light with humour and the down-to-earth characterisations of its cast, and it makes for one of the most enjoyable experiences in the MCU.
Summary: An all-round crowd pleaser, Captain Marvel is definitive proof of just how much Marvel has perfected the art of the superhero film.
Highlight: The climactic fight scene to No Doubt’s ‘Just A Girl’ was at once narratively, aesthetically and acoustically satisfying.