Brie Larson is here to save the MCU

Brie Larson is here to save the MCU

Joshua Lloyd, Editor-in-Chief

Houston, the eagle has finally landed. After a shamefully long dearth of female-fronted superhero epics in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Brie Larson’s ass-kicking space gladiator is here to shake up the Avengers boys’ club. It’s not a moment too soon.

Larson kicks off “Captain Marvel” as Vers (say “veers”), a soldier living life in the trenches as part of the Kree military, an otherworldly race of “noble warrior heroes” (her words). Her snarky attitude causes no end of aggravation for Starforce commander Yon-Rogg (a grizzled and gung-ho Jude Law), who wants her to curb those pesky things called emotions. Vers gets the same lecture from the AI leader of the Kree known as the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening, proving she can slay the big-budget roles as easily as the arthouses).

Intelligence also gives us a handy SparkNotes summary of the legendary Kree-Skrull War. In short, the Skrulls are nasty shape-shifting aliens spreading like wildfire across the universe. Yon-Rogg and his team have been waging a war of attrition to slow their expansion, but the Kree live on constant high alert.

When a search-and-rescue mission on a nearby border world turns ugly, Vers ends up stranded on Planet C-53, known colloquially as Earth. Kree sharpshooter Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan) calls it “a real shithole.”

Vers isn’t the only one trapped on Planet Shithole. A handful of Skrulls, including General Talos (the remarkable Ben Mendelsohn), have touched down not far from the Mojave Desert. They do their shape-shifting thing to pass as homo sapiens and resume their search for a lightspeed engine hidden somewhere on C-53. The Kree think the Skrulls will use it as a Fastpass to invade more galaxies, so with no backup in sight, Vers decides to go it alone against Talos and the other green men.

Well, almost no backup. Vers finds her buddy-cop counterpart in S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Nicholas J. Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), twenty years younger and rocking two healthy eyes. Jackson reminds us he’s got the comic chops to match his usual stone-cold severity as he and Larson trade quips like a grunge-era Abbott and Costello.

Hoping to track down the lightspeed engine before the Skrulls can snatch it, the space soldier and the spy hit the road for some undercover sleuthing. They find two things they didn’t expect: evidence that Vers (or is it Carol Danvers?) grew up on Earth and a tabby cat named Goose (the four kitties who share the role shot to superstardom overnight, and rightly so).

Our amnesiac hero needs answers, and her search leads to the home of Danvers’ old Air Force pal Maria Rambeau. Lashana Lynch (“Fast Girls”) delivers a banger of a breakout performance as Maria, an ace pilot and a key piece of the puzzle that is Vers’ forgotten past. But how much of that past is real and how much is gaslit BS? All you need to know is that when Carol throws off the proverbial shackles and draws power from her emotions rather than suppress them, you’re watching a watershed moment for women’s empowerment in modern film.

As the story rockets along, you realize you should’ve left your assumptions at the multiplex door. Indie directing duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are here to flip the script in more ways than one, and they’re not afraid to alienate the uglier parts of the Marvel fanbase. You know, the ones who are inexplicably pissed that this movie even exists. Boden and Fleck spin this origin story with a femcentric touch that’s been sorely missing from the wide world of comic-book cinema, and you know it will burn the asses of the sexist dopes who tried to review-bomb the movie on Rotten Tomatoes weeks before anyone had seen it.

Seriously, WTF is there to be mad about?! The movie plays out like an old-school arcade game with enough photon blasts to condemn xenophobia, warmongering, gender stereotypes and toxic masculinity.

And oh, that mid-1990s nostalgia. Our hero arrives on Earth by crash-landing in a Blockbuster and photon-blasting the head off a “True Lies” Arnold Schwarzenegger standee (note the subtext there, with Larson torching the promotional material of a misogynistic movie). Flannel is in fashion, “Fresh Prince” is in its prime and yes, Nirvana plays loud and clear alongside Garbage, Salt-N-Pepa and No Doubt.

Fun as that throwback aesthetic is, nothing overshadows the live-wire tenacity of the movie’s Oscar-winning lead. Larson’s burning intensity and hair-flipping coolness keep this cosmic caper grounded, even as the plot goes into a tailspin. You’ll want to stand and applaud until your hands hurt as Earth’s mightiest hero rises to lead us all into the uncertain post- “Endgame” era.

This is her universe now, bitch, and she’s just letting you drift through it. Bad guys everywhere – whether it’s Thanos or sexist Internet trolls – should all be very afraid.