Captain Marvel

There are risks to starting a story in medias res. The filmmakers do it in order to set up a very good twist midway through where the protagonist Carol Danvers has to re-evaluate her identity and allegiances, and a backstory is revealed. But it also makes the audience work quite hard in the first half hour in order to piece together a lot of information. And it also means that the relationship between Danvers and her childhood best friend Maria Rambeau is quite brittle when a huge amount of emotional weight is put on it. I found their reconciliation very difficult to buy into. The actors do a good job of conveying the turbulent emotions of the scene, but end up overselling it.

The biggest emotional whallop comes later, when Captain Marvel gets her hero moment and rejects the psychological subjugation of her adopted Kree culture. That's a product of the film spending a longer amount of time setting up those bonds before they are broken. The directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have been here before – Half Nelson was also a story of a young woman growing disillusioned with a charismatic mentor and substitute father-figure. A superhero film is not a perfect vehicle for the subtle shifts in relations that the indie drama can go to town on. And it's true that Brie Larson and Jude Law don't have enough screen-time together to flesh out their relationship. But Marvel movies are functional things – and it works well enough for the final fist blast to leave an impact.

As with Black Panther on race, Captain Marvel's feminism is deft but understated. Mixed in Carol Danvers's suppressed memories are moments of everyday sexism, and there's a rather nice touch when she blasts Schwarzenegger's head off a True Lies banner, leaving just the arm candy Jamie Lee Curtis standing. There is no love interest, although a bolder film may have pushed the friendship with Maria Rambeau in a more overtly romantic direction – that possibility is left open in the film. Given its success despite the best efforts of online trolls (who tried to manipulate the audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes) queer representation in a Marvel Studios product can't be far off.

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