Captain Marvel (the movie) has a lot of missions to accomplish.
It has to introduce Brie Larson's Captain Marvel (the character); build her up to the promise hinted at in Avengers: Infinity War (she must be pretty big deal if Nick Fury never felt the need to call her before); pay respect to the history of the comic versions of both Captain Marvel and Carol Danvers; explain where she's been for the last TWENTY FOUR YEARS (the movie takes place mostly in 1995) AND avoid derailing the hype train for April's Avengers: End Game.
Does it achieve these goals? Mostly.
Somewhat surprisingly, Captain Marvel throws you straight into the story with no reference to the stakes, or plot, of Infinity War, or even hints when events are taking place. Larson is Vers, a member of a Kree strike team, that includes Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan), and Korath (Djimon Hounsou), last seen in the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Unlike her squad mates, Vers is blessed with energy-based powers but cursed with amnesia, unable to remember anything before the Kree found her.
After an extraction mission goes awry, Vers finds herself on planet C-53 (Earth!) along with a squad of shapeshifting Skrulls, the sworn enemies of the Kree. She sets out to hunt down the Skrulls, find a mysterious Earth woman who appeared in memories jogged loose by a Skrull interrogation device and explore her past and a strange connection she feels to the planet.
As a standalone film and introduction, Captain Marvel does exactly what it sets out to do. Apart from the soundtrack, it manages to avoid wallowing too much in ‘90s nostalgia and slowly builds up Larson's character (and power levels) but not quite to the stature of Carol in the comics. As a standard issue movie amnesiac it's a little hard to engage with her but thankfully, Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., having undergone a Marvel FX facelift, more than helps carry the movie as it becomes a buddy road movie for a time. The history of Mar-Vell and the Kree-Skrull war are given some interesting updates while remaining faithful to the originals and Mendelsohn injects a tonne of menace and humour into head Skrull, Talos.
The only problem is that Marvel might have set too high a bar for themselves with the previous 20 entries in the MCU. While the action turns into a CGI slugfest by the climax, the earlier, more grounded action sequences can't hold a candle to The Winter Soldier. When it's funny, it's not as funny as Thor: Ragnarok. It's not quite as emotional as GOTG and the score can't muster a theme quite as stirring as Silvestri's for The Avengers or Jackman's for Winter Soldier.
The inclusion of Korath and Ronan also feels somewhat needless, unless Marvel plans to feature them again in future Captain Marvel movies revealing what she has been up to since 1995 - which wouldn't be a bad idea. Captain Marvel is a great introduction is a great introduction to the character and a post-credits sting sets up Avengers: Endgame nicely. By no means bad, Captain Marvel is still an enjoyable space-slash-superhero adventure, but Carol Danvers might have been better served by being introduced a little earlier in the release order.
CAPTAIN MARVEL / CERT:12A / DIRECTOR: ANNA BODEN, RYAN FLECK / SCREENPLAY: ANNA BODEN, RYAN FLECK, GENEVA ROBERTSON-DWORET / STARRING: BRIE LARSON, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, BEN MENDELSOHN, JUDE LAW, ANNETTE BENING, LASHANA LYNCH, CLARK GREGG / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 8TH
Expected Rating: 9 out of 10