The review embargo on Captain Marvel has finally lifted – and judging from critics' mostly positive reactions, it's a strong foundation for the MCU's latest franchise.
The movie is currently at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. Reviews are praising Brie Larson's performance, the depiction of female friendships, the '90s nostalgia, the surprise cameos from Marvel heroes, the post-credits scene, and Ben Mendelsohn's turn as the villainous Talos. Though there are some grumblings about unambitious storytelling and underwritten characters, most of the critical responses suggest those fake user reviews that were littering the internet were off the mark. Check out what critics are saying:
"Captain Marvel doesn’t do anything revolutionary; it’s been crafted as another clockwork piece in the Marvel puzzle (the 21st MCU film). It’s a prequel that casts its gaze way forward. Yet in its sturdy and standard-issue way, it invests Carol Danvers with a heroic majesty and heft that moves her, as a presence, right to the forefront of the series." -Owen Gleiberman, Variety
"With a luminous and powerful Brie Larson starring as a woman with a knockout punch that would have daunted Muhammad Ali, the news is not that this pre-sold property about a superhero coming into her own will sell a ton of tickets, it’s that it is actually good." -Kenneth Turan, LA Times
"Larson's quite capable of selling that oscillation of maturity without losing the humor of her character; she may be confident, but she's still crafty and calculatingly playful. And what really sells this film is that playfulness." -April Wolfe, The Wrap
"Captain Marvel is Not Bad, is the unthrilling point I’ve been circling here. But Not Bad is better than where we’re coming from." -Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly
"This isn’t the greatest Marvel movie ever made, but it’s definitely one of the funniest — and one of the sweetest. For a film virtually devoid of romance, there’s a lot of love on display, whether it’s a shared bond between two best friends, the beauty in seeing a family reunited or when Nick Fury turns into a puddle of cuddly goo whenever he’s in the presence of an alien cat named Goose." -Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
"Captain Marvel manages to feel fresh amid the litany of MCU movies not only by featuring a solo female protagonist, but by offering a new spin on the typical origin story." -Molly Freeman, Screenrant
"We have arrived at a cultural moment when audiences enter a million-dollar superhero blockbuster with a set of tacit expectations, a series of boxes to be checked, and Captain Marvel dutifully checks them. And if that sounds less than ambitious, consider the very real and substantial sense of satisfaction that a well-checked box engenders. It's not surprising, no. But it's not nothing." -Glen Wheldon, NPR
"The 21st entry in Marvel’s galactic film empire, and the first focused on a female superhero (played by Brie Larson), is a perfectly fun time at the movies that deftly lays out the stakes of its new character for many future appearances. But more often than not, it feels a little routine." -David Sims, The Atlantic
"If Captain Marvel can't quite match Marvel Studios at its very best, if it feels a bit like a franchise in need of an identity, it's still a rock-solid introduction to a new character — who, judging by her immense power, may just turn out to be the Thanos-killer that the Avengers need in Endgame. Just as the Marvel makers wanted, I left the theater pleased to have met Carol at long last, and eager to see her again." -Angie Han, Mashable
"Not that Larson doesn’t bring confidence and chutzpah to her underwritten role. (Spot-on casting has always been one of Marvel’s strong points.) But her personality gets lost under suits of plasticky armor and in superpowers that directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (better known for indie dramas like Half Nelson and Mississippi Grind) struggle to define in visual terms." -Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club
"Larson has the natural body language of a superhero: that mixture of innocence and insouciance, that continuous clear-eyed idealism and indignation combined with unreflective battle-readiness, all the things that give MCU films their addictive quality. I wanted a clearer, more central story for Captain Marvel’s emergence on to the stage, and in subsequent films – if she isn’t simply to get lost in the ensemble mix – there should more of Larson’s own wit and style and, indeed, plausible mastery of martial arts. In any case, Captain Marvel is an entertaining new part of the saga." -Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
"There are some twists and turns and a scene-stealing orange cat that would be difficult to discuss here without spoiling everything. All-in-all it’s fine, but nothing to get too excited about. And it could have and should have been so much better: The cast was there, the cool directing talents, the budget and the “brand” goodwill. Halfway through most Marvel movies I don’t often find myself dreaming up some other Brie Larson, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn and Gemma Chan movie (oh right Gemma Chan is in this as a glorified extra), but it happened in Captain Marvel." -Lindsay Bahr, Associated Press
"Captain Marvel marks the 21st addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is an origin story unlike any other. It’s chock full of ‘90s nostalgia, not just in memorabilia you’ll spot, but also in its storytelling and soundtrack. And the film just screams “girl power,” not the least of which is because it features the best female friendship the MCU has ever seen." -Yolanda Machado, io9
"Public confidence in the brand and goodwill toward this new franchise, in particular, will probably grant the film a pass from most fans, but the storytelling is perfunctory at best: The characters are not dramatically introduced with any sense of interest or intrigue, the writing, dialogue and direction are pedestrian, and the visuals are sometimes, albeit not always, muddy." -Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
"With Captain Marvel, Marvel proves yet again that it can do a superhero origin story better than anyone – even when wrapped in a VH1 'I Love the '90s' package." -Brian Truitt, USA TODAY
And here's a sample of early critical reaction before the embargo lifted:
#CaptainMarvel is pure joy. I cannot wait for the generation of little girls who will grow up with Carol Danvers as a hero.
— Devan Coggan (@devancoggan) February 20, 2019
#CaptainMarvel is a welcome addition to the #MCU. The movie is really well done with some great moments. #benmendelsohn steals almost every scene he's in. @brielarson literally shines in the role. So ready for #AvengersEndGame pic.twitter.com/GET0socRjl
— Steven Weintraub (@colliderfrosty) February 20, 2019
Really loved #CaptainMarvel. It’s a little wobbly at times but only because it’s so ambitious. It’s beautifully constructed, hilarious and offers tons of surprises. @brielarson obviously rules but Ben Mendelsohn is the surprise MVP. pic.twitter.com/yQLQGl2Yt0
— Drew Taylor (@DrewTailored) February 20, 2019
Captain Marvel is an effective Avengers prequel in some ways akin to the 1st Captain America movie. It’s pro-woman without being overdone with pre and post credit scenes that made me tear up and gave me goosebumps respectively pic.twitter.com/or2Oj7CdRV
— sonaiya kelley (@sonaiyak) February 20, 2019
Captain Marvel is a blast! Has some cool surprises that I definitely didn't see coming, and the mystery/origin it weaves is engaging and fun. Brie Larson is awesome, and makes a fantastic first step into the MCU #CaptainMarvel pic.twitter.com/oqrRtgDQrp
— Eric Eisenberg (@eeisenberg) February 20, 2019
The future of the MCU gets even brighter adding #CaptainMarvel to the mix. Really fell for @brielarson’s sass, strength & energy in the role. Same with @LashanaLynch too! Ben Mendelsohn is A+ casting as Talos. And yes, Goose is a scene stealer. 2nd viewing can’t come soon enough.
— Perri Nemiroff (@PNemiroff) February 20, 2019
#CaptainMarvel has a great ‘90s sci-fi vibe w/ a tone unlike any other Marvel movie, really. It’s retro & trippy, mysterious & dorky. It’s funny in surprising places & badass in all the right places. It remains entertaining because it’s always changing. It’s got the right stuff pic.twitter.com/o7AvqYY63x
— Erik Davis (@ErikDavis) February 20, 2019
— Ash Crossan (@AshCrossan) February 20, 2019
Some initial #CaptainMarvel reactions:
1. Cat people will love this movie.
2. Several truly magnificent music moments for this 90s kid.
3. Carol's hero moment was very cathartic/true to the female experience, imho.
4. The MCU feels more complete now that Carol is in it.
— Kayti Burt (@kaytiburt) February 20, 2019
#captainmarvel had space battles, car chases, an amazing 90s soundtrack and an ADORABLE ! A surprisingly fun script, laughed so much!!! Great to finally see this kick-butt heroine in action pic.twitter.com/Res8K8wMA7
— Jacki Jing (@JackiJing) February 20, 2019
I FUCKING LOVED #CAPTAINMARVEL
Its very different than most of the MCU films and so very 90s. It's funny and fun and super empowering. It made me feel proud to be a woman.
Also, as a 90s teen, the soundtrack....oh, the soundtrack
— Yolanda Machado (@SassyMamainLA) February 20, 2019
‘Captain Marvel’ is what would happen if a hyper competitive game of Guess Who had a baby with the #MCU and was raised on equal parts 90’s nostalgia and piping hot feminist takes down. #CaptainMarvel @Marvel I loved it. pic.twitter.com/SpvaiKGkvs
— Alison Foreman (@alfaforeman) February 20, 2019
Captain Marvel is everything that I hoped it would be. It feels completely unlike any other Marvel film. A unique and fresh take on an origin story that feels new. Brie Larson is fantastic as Carol Danvers. This is one of my favorite Marvel movies of all time. #CaptainMarvel pic.twitter.com/0ou7HU93MY
— Scott Menzel (@TheOtherScottM) February 20, 2019
And not wacky weird like the GOTG movies. Think more “Rey snapping into endless mirrors” from The Last Jedi type scenes. Also, finally, the MCU and a Nirvana song come together (as Kurt Cobain wanted)
— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) February 20, 2019
I’m really hoping Skrulls will be the Infinity Stones of the MCU going forward. Ben Mendelsohn is awesome and so is the whole shapeshifting concept. #CaptainMarvel
— Brandon Davis (@BrandonDavisBD) February 20, 2019
— Brandon Davis (@BrandonDavisBD) February 20, 2019
There’s an earnestness to #CaptainMarvel that feels different than other MCU films. I got chills watching Carol Danvers get back up over & over & over again.
— Anna Klassen (@AnnaJKlassen) February 20, 2019
Lots of fun Easter eggs in #CaptainMarvel that link it to the history and other films in the MCU. Watch closely.
— Anna Klassen (@AnnaJKlassen) February 20, 2019
I saw #CaptainMarvel last night and I’m still stoked on how well it passes the Bechdel Test. No love interests anywhere! Strong women everywhere! Even as kids! Hooray!
— Marah Eakin (@marahe) February 20, 2019
#CaptainMarvel react: Like '90s action movies? You're gonna have a great time. @brielarson is perfect, the whole thing feels like it was pulled out of @kellysue's brain & it's exactly the blast of power & hope the MCU needs post-#InfinityWar. More from me & @fdwellington soon! pic.twitter.com/b4y7Ez2YrN
— Alex Biese (@ABieseAPP) February 20, 2019
Early #CaptainMarvel thoughts:
1. This is fantastic take on character by @kellysue. Brie Larson is great!
3. Samuel L. Jackson seems like he's having a blast.
4. Marvel really wants you to know this movie is like TOTALLY set in the 90s.
5. Lols in space
Full review soon!
— Felecia Wellington (@fdwellington) February 20, 2019
#CaptainMarvel is a hit. As a lot of us have been trying to tell a small crowd of folks, please do not hesitate if you are thinking of seeing the film. It’s going to leave you very happy & hoping for more much like Guardians.
— ︽✵︽ Thanos ︽✵︽ (@FightOnTwist) February 20, 2019
#CaptainMarvel doesn't break the MCU mold, but it's a different and weirder spin on the origin story narrative, and that's a good thing. Part buddy comedy, part cosmic adventure, part "oh, yes, Ben Mendelsohn IS good in everything" reminder, it's also full of actual surprises.
— Kate Erbland (@katerbland) February 20, 2019