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Captain Marvel: a story back in time

Every experienced moviegoer cheers with excitement as the tradition of staying for Marvels’ post credit scenes comes to fruition. After the bit of fun is done, the screen cuts to black with one sentence appearing front and center: “Captain Marvel will Return in Avengers: Endgame,” as if we did not already anticipate it.

Avid fans and casual moviegoers are still waiting for the conclusion to the ten-plus year culmination of the battle between the Avengers and Thanos in “Avengers: Endgame,” scheduled to premiere later this year. To satiate the thirst for superhero action, Marvel Studios released “Captain Marvel,” debuting the powerhouse Captain Marvel aka Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) who is set to continue into Endgame and help in the awaited fight.

Captain Marvel’s solo origin adventure takes the opportunity to tell a story that pushes heavy lore and story building into the already established Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rather than telling the story from the present’s perspective and onward, “Captain Marvel” takes the plot into the 1990s and works backwards.

Set nearly twenty years before the first Marvel movie, the film uses the opportunity to establish some characters and plot devices that are relevant throughout the MCU. Costar Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Nick Fury, this time as a CGI-deaged agent in the 90s. All earlier instances of Nick Fury in the MCU shroud the character in heavy mystery and secrecy. During rough times in “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” Fury exclaims, “Last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye.” With this early incarnation of Fury, we finally get to learn how he loses that eye. Goose the cat, later revealed to be an alien, scratches his eye leading to the famous eye-patch look.

Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is another character we get to see in his earlier form. Coulson, Fury’s number 2, was part of the early Avengers Initiative which led to the formation of the Avengers. His heroism and bravery in stopping Loki in 2012’s “Avengers” led to his death and exit from the MCU. Having Coulson appear in the past deepens his importance to the original Avengers’ run and shows loyalty to the fans who have kept up with the MCU franchise.

The coveted MCU macguffin, the Tesseract, makes its 9th cinematic appearance in “Captain Marvel,” filling in gaps of time between its appearance in the 1940s during “Captain America: The First Avenger” and the modern timeline of 2012’s “Avengers.” The Tesseract’s involvement in multiple past films forms strong bonds that build the foundation of the entire MCU.

As a film, “Captain Marvel” takes plenty of shortcuts to service its eventual positive conclusion. The action at times suffers from issues common to Marvel’s films such as fighting a horde of faceless enemies and convenient attacks that completely wipe out opposition. Danvers herself also undergoes little development as the film progresses. Through the plot, we learn with Danvers about her true identity and origin. However, there is not much she stands for on her own. The heart and soul of the film rely on other characters like Danvers’ best friend, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), who exude courage and passion.

Just as “Black Panther” was praised for its spotlight on African American empowerment, “Captain Marvel” intends to deliver a message that encourages female empowerment. The attempt is, however, poorly constructed and overall meaningless to the entire narrative. In Danvers’ flashbacks to her life on Earth, she experiences memories of sexism against her both as a child and an airman.

The film’s true antagonists, the Kree Starforce led by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), try to convince Danvers that their plans to assimilate her into the Kree warriors would empower her. Their actions to empower her have no connection to her gender which has no connection to how or why she gained powers at all.

Regardless of its shortcomings, the film plays ball with all other Marvel Cinematic Universe films. It does a good job of introducing the complicated character of Carol Danvers while packing in loads of lore building to further cement the foundations of the MCU.