Captain Marvel (4K UHD Review)
DirectorAnna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Release Date(s)2019 (June 11, 2019)
Studio(s)Marvel Studios (Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C+
Vers (Brie Larson) is a powerful young officer in the Kree Starforce, who’s been trained to use her superpowers in the service of her people. Specifically, this means her job is to work with her commander, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), to hunt down and wipe out the Kree’s mortal enemies, the Skrulls. At least, this is what she believes. There’s much about her past that Vers doesn’t remember… but those memories come flooding back when a Starforce mission gone wrong finds her stranded on planet C-53. You see, C-53 has another name: Earth. And when she crash-lands on its surface—in 1995, mind you—Vers encounters a young SHIELD agent named Nicholas Joseph Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his rookie partner, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), unlikely allies who will help her discover her true identity… and realize her full potential.
One of the things that’s most enjoyable about Captain Marvel, apart from the simple pleasure of seeing Larson and Jackson in a buddy-action pic (given their obvious chemistry and running banter), is the way the film subverts the female hero stereotype. Vers starts out as the traditional tough-girl warrior chick we’ve seen in dozens of similar films over the years, written essentially like a tough male character with bangs. But as she begins to rediscover her missing past, the character becomes much more dimensional, likable, and interesting. It’s a thrill to see Jackson playing a younger, looser Fury (a trick that appears to have been accomplished less by CG de-aging as much by make-up and performance). The supporting cast shines too in unlikely ways, including Ben Mendelsohn in a surprising role, Annette Bening, Lashana Lynch, and young Akira Akbar. The Stan Lee tribute here—not just in the opening Marvel Studios logo, but the traditional in-film cameo too—is lovely. There are a couple of spots where the editing feels a tad rushed and some of the Goose CG could have used a bit more work. But a cat makes almost any movie better and this one is no exception. Art film veterans Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck do a fine job here, both with the script and behind the camera. It’s hard not to love the way Marvel continues to find and nurture interesting filmmaking talent.
One side note: The deleted scenes hint at a more significant character arc for Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg. It’s obvious why they trimmed it for this first film, as it would have distracted from Vers’s story and lessened the impact of the film’s twist. But it would be great to see Marvel revisit the idea in a sequel because it would add to the emotional complexity of the characters’ interactions considerably.
Captain Marvel was shot digitally in the ARRIRAW and Redcode RAW codecs (in 6.5K and 8K) using Arri Alexa 65, Panavision Millennium, and Red Weapon cameras and Panavision Sphero lenses. It was finished as a native 2K digital intermediate (with VFX finished in that resolution), upsampled to 4K for Ultra HD release and graded for high dynamic range in HDR10. The presentation is framed in the 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio (note that it does not shift to 1.90:1 for IMAX scenes). The 2K DI may seem an impediment to image quality, but the higher resolution capture really helps in this regard. (Remember, it isn’t just the number of pixels in the image that matters but the quality of those pixels.) Detail is generally strong, and stronger in live action scenes, with nice texturing. This is reduced a bit in darker scenes and action beats with extensive atmospherics (smoke, fog, etc). The HDR grade and wider color gamut render richer and more nuanced hues compared to the Blu-ray version, with deeper and more detailed blacks, bolder highlights, and stronger contrasts. The brightest areas of the image fall just short of being eye-reactive. There are a couple of instances of obvious color stair-stepping in the backgrounds, even in 10-bit (which would no doubt benefit from the 2 extra bits of Dolby Vision), but on the whole this is a nice image.
Audio-wise, the 4K disc includes a very good English Dolby Atmos mix. Luckily, Disney seems to be getting better at these mixes for physical 4K, as this one sounds full and muscular even without increasing the volume. When you do, though, it’s even better. The sound of Kree warships launching into space has real low-end bite. The front portion of the soundstage is broad, with nice vertical extension in the height channels. Atmospherics abound in the mix, creating a terrific sense of space. Particularly good in a scene early in the film when the Skrulls are scanning Vers’ memory. Talos’ voice filters down from above and behind, even as her memories play out with lovely dynamics—soaring Air Force jets, a go-cart race, etc. Dialogue has excellent clarity and the score is well blended in the mix. This isn’t the most robust mix you’ve ever heard in 4K, but compared to many of Disney’s previous Ultra HD soundtracks, it’s quite good. Additional audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Quebec French in 5.1 Dolby Digital, and French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Japanese in 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus. Optional subtitles include English for the Hearing Impaired, Quebec French, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Cantonese, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish, and Simplified Chinese.
There are no extras whatsoever on the 4K disc, not even preview trailers. The included Blu-ray offers the film in 1080p HD, with the following bonus features (video offerings in HD):
- Audio Commentary with co-writers/directors Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
- Gag Reel (2:02)
Featurettes (6 segments – 23:25 in all)
- Becoming a Super Hero (6:40)
- Big Hero Moment (3:31)
- The Origin of Nick Fury (3:33)
- The Dream Team (2:44)
- The Skrulls and the Kree (3:31)
- Hiss-Sterical Cat-Titude (3:23)
Deleted Scenes (6 scenes – 8:47 in all)
- “Who Do You Admire Above All Others?” (1:51)
- Starforce Recruits (2:01)
- Heading to Torfa (1:18)
- “What, No Smile?” (1:15)
- Black Box (1:00)
- Rookie Mistake (1:19)
There are also previews for the Marvel Rising animated series and what feels like 23 different videogames or mobile game apps (it’s actually only 4, but still—a marketing opportunity is not ‘bonus’ feature). The commentary is the best of the extras and worth listening to. The rest is fairly typical for EPK content, fluffy, broad in scope, and lacking in depth. But it hints at topics that would have been worth covering in more detail. I’d have loved, for example, to see a whole featurette about Brie Larson’s experience training and flying with the USAF Thunderbirds. 30 minutes of that alone would have been interesting. Anyway, it’s a shame. The MCU deserves serious bonus feature treatment, but it’s almost like Disney and Marvel intentionally don’t want to lift the curtain on their filmmaking process. In any case, you also get a Movies Anywhere Digital code and a Disney Movie Club offer on paper inserts.
On a personal note, Captain Marvel is a film I didn’t see in the theater—I was just too busy at the time. But I did experience some of the female empowerment pushback about the film on social media. Just this morning, I posted screen pix of the 4K with HDR on Twitter and Facebook and was surprised at the number of male followers who felt the need to contact me unprompted to complain about it.
Forgive me a brief soapbox moment to respond, but people really need to be more patient and accepting of each other, especially in geek culture. Almost literally every action or superhero film is essentially a white male empowerment story—it’s what we take for normal in these genres. But what skin off anyone’s nose is it if there’s an occasional film takes the time to make young women and minorities feel included too? None at all! You can still enjoy the film. In fact, what’s always made the film medium so compelling for me is that you get to experience slices of other people’s lives and perspectives. Everyone has a story to tell, and the more different those stories are to what I’ve experienced before the better.
Captain Marvel is a good movie and a refreshing entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In its way, I like it as much as Captain America: The First Avenger. And while I think DC’s Wonder Woman is a stronger cinematic experience, Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is the most interesting female superhero character I’ve had to pleasure to see on the big screen. I look forward to the sequel. In the meantime, Disney’s 4K Ultra HD release is a nice improvement on the Blu-ray (the lack of comprehensive extras aside) and is worth adding to your collection.
- Bill Hunt
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