If nothing else, Captain Marvel made me nostalgic for the ‘90s of my childhood. From its pop soundtrack to its of-the-era locations, like now-defunct Blockbuster Video, to its lead character's grunge dress, Captain Marvel is clearly a ‘90s baby. With the Marvel Cinematic Universal moving away from the last decade's heavy hitters like Iron-Man, Captain America and Thor, new heroes have been introduced, including Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), aka Captain Marvel, who also starred in this summer's Avengers: Endgame. This is the origin story for the popular female superhero, and, although it has been criticized by some as unnecessary, convoluted and unoriginal, I found Captain Marvel to be entertaining and Larson to be a compelling lead.
Starforce member Vers (Larson) lives in 1995 on the Kree Empire's capital planet, Hala, but does not remember her past clearly. She has visions of a turbulent childhood and of a mysterious woman (Annette Bening). Her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), trains her mind and body, and encourages her to control her superhuman abilities. The Kree are ruled by the Supreme Intelligence, an artificial intelligence that appears in different forms to whomever it contacts, and Vers is encouraged by it to keep her emotions close to the vest. During a mission to free a captive from the Skrulls, another alien race at war with the Kree, Vers is captured by Skrull commander Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), who reads her memories and sends them both to Earth to help stop the civil war. In Los Angeles, Vers meets younger S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), and realizes her past involvement with U.S. Air Force Project Pegasus may be related to the Kree/Skrull conflict.
Sandwiched between Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, arguably the biggest, most spectacular MCU movies to date, Captain Marvel is refreshingly grounded. The film is a buddy action/comedy of sorts between Vers and Fury, who engage in a ‘90s-appropriate car chase, cheesy banter and light soul searching. I enjoyed focusing on two characters rather than dozens, and the overall breezy, lighthearted tone of Captain Marvel kept the narrative enjoyable. Be it sexism, fanboy-ism or general grouchiness, some folks simply do not like this female superhero or Larson's performance. I am not such a critic, and I found her slightly sarcastic, somewhat understated work here enjoyable.
Jackson is excellent as up-and-coming agent Fury, who is finally granted a little bit of his own origin exploration. We see what happened to his eye (hello Flerken) and learn how the "Avengers Initiative" came to fruition. The conflict here is relatively straightforward, and if anyone's talents are wasted it is Law's in a relatively thankless, forgettable role. Captain Marvel nails its ‘90s setting, and I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack, which includes tracks from Salt-N-Pepa, R.E.M., TLC, Garbage, Bon Jovi, No Doubt and Hole, among others. This movie definitely does not reinvent any wheel, and it does not have to. It is an entertaining, low-key origin story with two strong central performances. Larson recounts in the disc's bonus material that this movie has given girls an MCU hero to complement DC Comics' Wonder Woman, and that alone is worth the price of admission.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Disney presents Captain Marvel on 4K Ultra HD with a 2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer with HDR10 in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally in 6.5K and 8K, Captain Marvel was finished at 2K , so this is an upscale to 4K. While this is not a night-and-day upgrade from the Blu-ray's HD image, this 4K presentation is certainly superior thanks to gorgeously rendered colors, deep black levels and an overall bump in clarity. The 4K image is slightly darker, but it certainly handles brightly lit scenes, like early L.A. action sequences, with ease, offering more natural highlights, spot-on skin tones and beautifully saturated colors that benefit from a subtly effective HDR pass. Sharpness and clarity are strong, close-ups reveal intimate facial features and fabric textures, and wide shots are deep and clear. The image looks great in motion, and I noticed no issues with banding or digital tinkering. My 4.0 score here should be considered against all other 4K discs I have reviewed, as this is overall a great presentation.
I enjoyed this Dolby Atmos mix in its 7.1 Dolby TrueHD variant, and the soundtrack certainly impresses. Nicely balanced and completely immersive, this mix offers dynamic sound pans, plenty of LFE action and crystal clear dialogue. Ambient effects make good use of the surrounds, and action effects frolic about the entire sound field. Dialogue is clear, whether delivered from the center channel or directionally, and the soundtrack is appropriately layered amid the action. This is not necessarily a groundbreaking mix, but it is highly competent. A host of surround dubs and subtitle options are included, too.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the 4K Ultra HD disc, a Blu-ray and an HD digital copy. The UHD disc contains no extras, and the relatively skimpy bonus materials appear on the Blu-ray. You get an Intro (1:51/HD) from co-writers/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and featurettes Becoming a Super Hero (6:40/HD); Big Hero Moment (3:31/HD); The Origin of Nick Fury (3:33/HD); The Dream Team (2:44/HD); The Skrulls and the Kree (3:31/HD); and Hiss-sterical Cat-titude (3:23/HD). Things wrap-up with Deleted Scenes (8:47 total/HD); a Gag Reel (2:02/HD) and an Audio Commentary by Boden and Fleck.
This origin story is a smaller film than the recent Avengers: Endgame but it is a satisfying, 1990s-set buddy action/comedy for Captain Marvel and Nick Fury. This 4K Ultra HD disc offers strong picture and sound and a couple of featurettes. Recommended.