Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law
If “Captain Marvel” is supposed to take the MCU into the future it took a very retro step backward to do it and I’m not talking about the film’s 90s-esque setting.
Everything about the MCU’s 21st film feels plucked out of an older era of superhero movie-making. It might’ve fit in fine in the early phase 1 days where the origin stories of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man played more like extended trailers for soon to be Avengers films but feels outdated now especially after the thematic success of “Black Panther” last year.
(Still the best one, in case anyone was asking)
“Captain Marvel” may not be a bad movie, hell it’s not even close to the MCU’s worst (still firmly “Dark World”) but considering its status as the MCU’s first female-led superhero flick it could’ve been much more than just a vehicle to setup this summer’s “Endgame.”
“Captain Marvel” tells the story of the Kree soldier Vers who works for a special task force aimed at defeating the Skrull uprising across the galaxy. After Vers is captured by the Skrull leader Talos she breaks out and finds herself stranded on Earth where she looks to rid the planet of further Skrull invaders who happen to be able to shapeshift. But something is off, the world seems strangely familiar to her and after running into agents of SHIELD she now looks to uncover the truth behind her identity.
I don’t want to get too far into this because I’ll probably be here all day if I do but I just want to make one thing really crystal clear about how I feel about the “controversy” surrounding this film…
First of all, I can’t take you seriously if you think “politics” should be kept out of movies. Art and social/political messaging have been entwined together since the dawn of time and anybody who thinks otherwise is willfully ignorant at this point or just plain dumb.
It’s also pretty amusing to me too that the rose-tinted glasses of fan boys, who largely seemed to ignore most of the MCU’s overall “blandness” and shoddy script writing, only seem to come off once a slightly outspoken actress takes on the lead role of a comic book movie. For the record, everyone has taken that quote wildly out of context but no amount of explaining and nuance will change the minds of these incel fever-striken douchebags who were never going to give this film a fair shake anyways.
(This was from a fucking BUILD-A-BEAR post!)
The real world is practically on fire these days and these idiots still found time to review dump Rotten Tomatoes cause “REEEEEEEEEEE!!”
In the words of Patton Oswalt, “you will to miss everything cool and die angry.”
(But I know, “iT WAsN’t mAdE FoR mE!” right?)
Anyways, now that I have that out of the way, “Captain Marvel” is definitely not the MCU’s finest piece of work but it’s still a mostly fun film (even if a much better film could’ve been made from this).
The movie is truly at it’s best when it leans into its stranger Sci-Fi elements and doesn’t take itself too seriously much in the same way “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Thor: Ragnarok” does. Whether it’s funny banter between the Skrulls, inter galactic ass-kicking by Captain Marvel or Goose the “cat” doing what he does best, the film is better paced when it engages in these antics.
(Any movie where the cat becomes an integral part of the plot is a win for me :3)
Though the script doesn’t give Larson or Jackson (or anyone for that matter) much to work with there’s some decent chemistry there that I’m sure future MCU flicks can build on with a better director and writer. The film kind of plays out like an odd couple routine through intergalactic warfare and the two play off each other well with what little they are given. The two clearly enjoy working with each other, as you can see in the promos, and it feels evident on screen even during the film’s flatter moments.
When there is action onscreen the movie truly dazzles though as we see the depth of Captain Marvel’s super saiyan-esque powers on full display and creates some fun light shows for audiences toward the end. There’s some fun almost Flash Gordon like set pieces with all this that give the film a nice throwback in style even if the tone is not quite in synch with the MCU’s other cosmic setting based films (Guardians, Thor, etc).
(C’mon, even the scruffiest of neckbeards have to admit this was pretty neat.)
The film’s third act is definitely its strongest though as we get the strongest action scenes, some nice genuinely laugh out loud moments and the many converging elements of the plot finally come together. Though the setup is sloppy, the finish mostly sticks the landing in the same way other MCU origin films do and will leave fans (at least the sane ones) mostly satisfied upon leaving the theater.
But of course, while “Captain Marvel” is certainly not the MCU’s worst, it’s far from its best too.
A lot has been said about Brie’s “blandness” in the trailers leading up to this. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while, ever since her turn as Envy Adams in “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” but yes, objectively speaking, she’s not completely electric (at least not emotionally) in every scene here.
But you know who else isn’t exactly electrifying in this movie? Fucking the entire cast!
(Someone get the Vegan police on the case of this script!)
It’s not just Brie but the script is at times painfully choppy and stunted and it handicaps an otherwise deep cast of actors and actresses. Jude Law is extremely one note as Yon-Rogg and Ben Mendelsohn does his best as Talos but is equally rigid at times. Even Samuel L. Jackson’s natural charisma can’t save some of the script’s weaker lines. They all do their best with what they got and sometimes you really see glimpses of what could’ve been a much sharper story here, but unfortunately, it all barely works across its two-plus hour running time.
The script feels like it was definitely rushed to simply setup a vague understanding of who Captain Marvel is for “Endgame.” It’s very by the numbers phase 1 MCU for that reason; establish light character back story, give he/she reason to become a hero, big hero battle, fin.
But the movie’s editing is so all over the place we barely get to understand the character of Captain Marvel and what makes her tick. If you’re not already super clear on who Captain Marvel/Carol Davers is before the film, it’s not likely this movie will make it any better.
(But yes I too hate the elderly, Carol)
I’m not a fan of using too many flashbacks or talking too much about the past in movies or TV because unless it’s hiding a truly impressive secret to the story (see “Black Sails”) it makes the whole arc of a character feel disjointed (see “Man of Steel”). “Captain Marvel” has too many of these scenes.
It may have been better to either play these sequences in order (cause face it, everyone knew what the big “reveal” was) or simply ax out most of the flashbacks entirely. If the script had developed one particular life-affirming scene of Carol Davers’ past instead of a spattering of briefly seen female-driven trauma it could’ve had a much sharper feminist message (which is barely apparent in the film). On the other side, cutting these scenes in the script could’ve given time to perhaps establish better interpersonal character dynamics to setup a stronger payoff at the end (Captain Marvel’s relationship with Yon-Rogg, the team, and her life as a kree soldier). If the whole message is about not letting your potential be held back it takes a lot of unfocused detours to establish this theme.
(I personally would’ve liked to have known more about Minerva for…cough…reasons…#GemmaChanTho)
In any case, there are some good ideas laced into this movie between some stellar action, funny sequences of Sci-Fi humor and an interesting new hero for the MCU to play with but unfortunately, it’s buried underneath a lot of bad ones.
Again, as far as MCU films go it’s not its worst but the whole movie feels like a big missed opportunity. I guess MRA slugs will be pleased to know “Captain Marvel” isn’t laced with “identity politics” but its message is quite blunted because of this and makes for a weaker story. Considering the astounding work done by Ryan Coogler last year with “Black Panther” this could’ve easily been the female driven version of that; a powerful rebuke of societal views toward woman but unfortunately, it’s only just another so-so super hero flick.
As it stands, “Captain Marvel” isn’t likely a film I’ll watch too many times in the future, but I’ll reserve putting the lid entirely on this character until a better team of writers and directors get their hands on her.
The Russos and “Endgame” are a good place to start this summer.
3 out of 5
Dread it, run from it, destiny still arrives. Captain Marvel is going to be here a while, fan boys. Get used to it.