Late Movie Review: ‘Captain Marvel’
Read Gfunk’s review here!
Plot: During a rescue mission to recover an undercover operative, Starforce member Vers (Brie Larson) is taken captive by members of the Skrull race and its leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). Vers escapes however, landing on Earth where she comes into contact with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). As their search for the Skrulls continues, Vers begins to uncover a past on Earth she never knew she had and begins to question everything about her current life.
***WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW!***
Review: The Marvel Cinematic Universe is virtually unprecedented in the history of film. An interconnected film franchise that’s spanned eleven years and twenty-three films to date, it’s grossed billions of dollars, inspired a generation of fans, and made household names of people like Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans. In fact the only thing that bears a close resemblance in cinema is probably the James Bond franchise, a franchise that’s spanned over fifty years and two dozen films. And like the 007 movies, some films are better than others. In the world of James Bond, for every Skyfall there’s a Moonraker. In the MCU for every Captain America: The Winter Soldier there’s a Thor: The Dark World.
Sadly, Captain Marvel falls into the category of what I consider to be lower tier Marvel. Bland, uneven, and uninspired, Captain Marvel is a film that offers a few bright spots here and there, but ultimately proves unremarkable as an MCU movie or an origin story.
What makes Captain Marvel a frustrating experience at times is how there seems to be no consistent through-line in Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, and Geneva Robertson-Dworet’s script. Sometimes it’s an intergalactic war film, other times it’s a mystery movie, other times it’s a buddy comedy road-trip film. There’s a lack of identity throughout. In other words, Captain Marvel has a tough time deciding what it wants to be as a film. As an audience member it makes things that much harder to invest in. I will state that the film works best when it’s the third of those three genres. Jackson and Larson possess great chemistry and their banter and jokes work really well. It was particularly entertaining to watch a wet-behind-the-ears Nick Fury evolve into the badass we know him to be today. In addition the de-aging technology used on Jackson and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) was on point.
In terms of story, it’s your pretty standard origin tale except through the lens of a mystery. Most of the film is wrapped up in Larson’s Vers/Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel trying to find out who she is. It becomes such an all-encompassing aspect of the film that I found myself thinking, “Just tell us already!” Furthermore, there are some elements that don’t make sense such as if the Skrulls have infested other planets then why are they trying to find an engine on Earth capable of faster than light travel?
Speaking of the Skrulls, sorry to say they got done did dirty in Captain Marvel. The Skrulls are a warlike race that possess a rich history in the Marvel universe. But for some strange reason the brain trust behind Captain Marvel decided to make them into…refugees? What? It’s clearly trying to draw a political parallel between the Skrulls and the plight of Mexican immigrants into the USA which is certainly a choice that was made. Why, I don’t understand because it adds next to nothing to the story and takes the focus off the main characters. I will say that Ben Mendelsohn was a standout as Talos though. He exudes a warmth and gravitas that’s not easy to do when you’re covered in mountains of prosthetics.
The same can be said for Jude Law’s Kree commander Yon-Rogg. He’s an excellent antagonist in Captain Marvel, at certain points coming off decidedly Machiavellian. Yon-Rogg’s dynamic with Vers is a nice parallel to Vers’ dynamic with Fury. I was worried about how an acclaimed actor like Law would fit into the Marvel Universe but he pulls it off deftly and I hope he pops up in future Marvel films in some capacity. Ditto for Lashana Lynch as Carol Danvers’ best friend Maria Rambeau. Though she had limited screen-time, I thought her relationship with Carol was the most honest and heartfelt of the whole movie.
As for the action there’s some real solid set pieces in Captain Marvel. I particularly liked the train sequence in the first act and Vers’ final confrontation with Yon-Rogg. It doesn’t quite make up for the ridiculous way that Nick Fury loses his eye (to a cat–errr–Flerken–really? REALLY?!!) but it certainly holds your interest. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are certainly adept at pulling off spectacle even if the human element often comes off forced and clunky. Surprising considering this was the duo behind the great Half Nelson.
Let’s take a moment as well to talk about the 500 pound Kree in the room. Captain Marvel is clearly a film aimed toward a certain demographic which I can appreciate and am happy exists. For too long young girls have looked up and not seen themselves or their stories represented on the big screen when it comes to superheroes.. I’m glad this film exists for that reason alone. The fact that it took over twenty films for Marvel to have a female-lead superhero movie boggles the mind. And it’s also unfortunate that the film props up the idea of female empowerment in sacrifice to story. By contrast 2017’s Wonder Woman was able to balance both and I wish that would have been the case here.
I also believe that part of the reason that Captain Marvel didn’t work for me is because of Brie Larson. Larson is an incredible talent as her Oscar winning role in Room proves. However, to me she seemed woefully miscast in the role of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. For such a great actress her performance often comes off wooden with forced laughter and stale dialogue delivery. After two hours I still didn’t feel like I knew who Carol Danvers was as a person or what she stood for. It makes me wonder what say an Emily Blunt or a Katee Sackhoff might have brought to the role.
I realize that this review may sound like I hated Captain Marvel. I didn’t. It holds some entertainment value and there were several things about it that I enjoyed. However, it’s definitely lower tier Marvel and at the end of the day distinctly mediocre.
My rating System:
0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
Captain Marvel 5/10