'Captain Marvel' review: Superhero homage to the 90s

'Captain Marvel' review: Superhero homage to the 90s

A still from 'Captain Marvel'.

Since aliens in practically every movie ever are shown as being technologically advanced than humans, you don't realise that Vers (or Captain Marvel, as she will come to be known) and her team Starforce is fighting a species of shapeshifters in the 90s.

That is, not until Vers comes crashing down on an inhabited planet, a "shithole" called C-53. We realise soon that the "shithole" is the one we live in because her fall makes a hole in the roof of an establishment that rents out video cassettes.

She may have fallen through outer space and the earth's atmosphere, but she gets up in seconds, and her hair still looks fantastic (not complaining!).

The cassette rental store is no coincidence. The first thing Vers reaches for is a VHS tape of the 1983 military movie The Right Stuff, which is just the first step in a long trip of 80s-90s nostalgia, with dial-up internet that does not load, pagers, VHS tapes and walkmans.

The first look at Samuel L Jackson as a young Nick Fury (made younger with a digital push) even reminds you of his character from Pulp Fiction (1994).

Vers soon teams up with Fury, as they practically play out a buddy cop movie from the era, joined by an orange cat named Goose, whose rapport with Fury rivals that of Fury and Vers. Even the name Goose isn't innocent — it's the character from Top Gun (1986).

The Right Stuff and Top Gun also inspire the setting for her enigmatic earthly past that Vers can't seem to remember. In a world of young pilots aspiring for greatness, Vers or rather her former self Carol Danvers, jokes that her head is in the clouds, literally and figuratively.

But the film is careful to put a stop to its Top Gun homage when it must. For instance, unlike in Top Gun, the women here are not just waving at men in jets from the ground. They want to fly, even as their fellow pilots of the privileged gender tell them: "You know why it's called a cockpit, right?"

But Captain Marvel stops shy of making a feminist statement. Its feminism is subliminal, except for the very obvious bit about a woman kicking extraterrestrial arse.

Of course, none of these things beats the friendship and the hilarious banter that Vers and Fury share. Larson and Jackson have an electrifying onscreen chemistry.

She is fantastic as Captain Marvel, and much like Chris Evans who plays Captain America, her face is innocent and idealistic even in tragedy.

Larson, however, wasn't given enough material in the script to establish the much-written-about detail that "Captain Marvel is the most powerful Avenger".

But as we knew right from the post-credit scene of Infinity War (2018) that Captain Marvel will show her full mettle in Endgame (which is expected this April), it is not disappointing that this film was happy just being an origin story.

This is one of the last movies where you will see a cameo of Marvel creator Stan Lee, which was an unavoidable tradition in Marvel movies, just like beefy, multiple post-credit scenes; this is also Lee's second cameo after his death in November. These were loved despite their irrelevance to the plot and maybe even because of it.

In the scene where Vers looks for a shape-shifting alien in a train, she sees a man conspicuously hiding his face behind a newspaper. She pulls the paper down and there's Stan Lee! He smiles warmly at her, she smiles back.

There's something sad about this scene, and though obviously no one knew that Lee would be gone by now, it feels like a goodbye.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox