I think it goes without saying that Captain Marvel is an important milestone. It’s not the first movie featuring a female superhero, but it’s the first out of the gate out of the behemoth Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Honestly, I try to tune out the buzz around this movie, something that’s getting increasingly difficult in the social media age. I only watched the trailer twice and didn’t read anything else, preferring to go into this movie as ‘blindly’ as possible.
The movie takes place in the mid 90s and the movie starts off in a planet called Hala, part of the Kree Empire. A woman called Vers (Brie Larson) is suffering from recurring nightmares with visions of an older woman. Her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Benning), some kind of AI being that rules Kree, keeps telling her to keep her emotions in check. Vers doesn’t remember who she is, and we’re not told as to why she suffers from amnesia (if that is even the case). As I’m not familiar with the comics, it’s all a bit bewildering, and perhaps that’s intentional given the state of disorientation that Vers find herself in.
Soon we get to see a battle sequence between the Kree undercover soldiers and their longtime enemy, the alien shapeshifters known as the Skrulls. My mind wanders a bit as more fight and action stuff happen on screen … until Vers ends up in a pod heading to Planet C-53, then crash landed in a very familiar place, earth. I won’t spoil where she lands exactly, though it’s actually in the trailers. In any case, I perk up again when I see S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, still two-eyed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), both have been digitally de-aged considerably. I feel that the movie’s pace gets more interesting once Vers and Fury team up, and along the way we meet Goose the cat. I think I can watch an entire hour of just Fury and Goose, they’re quite the unlikely friends I never knew I needed!!
It’s no surprise that Vers has a past life on earth. We just don’t know who is she exactly and who woman the woman is who’s been in her dreams (or is it actually a memory?) Fury and Vers discovered that Vers is actually Carol Danvers and she was a U.S. Air Force pilot who’s been presumed dead for six years. The key to who she really is lies in her bestie Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and some of my favorite moments happen in her New Orleans’ home, involving the Skrull leader Talos (seriously, can’t they pick a name more dissimilar from Thanos??), played brilliantly by Ben Mendelsohn. One thing I like about this movie is how it plays with my expectations as to who the real enemy is. I guess comic fans might already figured that part out, but to a casual fan like me, I thought that part is handled well.
Overall I think Captain Marvel is a fun addition to the MCU canon. However, I can’t help but wish I liked her character more by the end of the movie. Now, before you accuse me of not being supportive of the first MCU female superhero, please hear me out. As a female filmmaker AND a female film critic, naturally I want to root for this movie and I do recognize its importance in the genre. Yet something is wanting… by the time the end credits rolled, I just didn’t feel emotionally-connected to her the way I did with say, Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman, or even other characters in MCU… Captain America, Black Panther, Tony Stark, Black Widow, even Thor who’s also an alien being. I’m not comparing these movies, each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but given the importance of Captain Marvel to the MCU as a whole and to Avengers: Endgame specifically, I think it’s fair to expect something more impactful.
I do want to say that Brie Larson is a terrific actress and I can’t really imagine another actress who’d be perfect for the job. Yet her character arc isn’t really compelling …there wasn’t much transformation before and after she discovered her real identity. Perhaps if Danvers had started out being a bit more lost or downcast as a result of her amnesia, her character might’ve been more impactful. I think the biggest opportunity for emotional resonance is in the relationship between Danvers and Maria, and even with Talos towards the end. Yet their scenes barely tug my heartstrings the way Steve Rogers and Bucky’s friendship did in the first Captain America. Actually, the only part I teared up a bit was when the movie paid tribute to the late Stan Lee.
Performance-wise, there’s an effortless chemistry between Captain Marvel and Nick Fury that’s really fun to watch. Goose the cat is obviously a hoot, which is quite a feat given how challenging it must be to direct cats to do anything! I’m not particularly fond of Annette Benning’s casting here, though I adore her as an actress. She seems like she wanted to laugh every time she uttered her lines which I find distracting. Jude Law is pretty memorable though Ben Mendelsohn is much more the scene-stealer.
I do have to give props to the duo filmmakers, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck for tackling such a difficult character to begin with (more on that in a bit), especially since this is Captain Marvel’s first intro ever in the MCU. At least with Wonder Woman, we had at least seen her as part of the DC superheroes in Batman v Superman before she got her standalone movie. The filmmakers embraced the weirdness nature of Danver’s character and origin story, and gives the movie a the funky retro vibe and an overall lightness in tone. I also appreciate the fact that there isn’t a romantic plot in her story which I find refreshing. I’m not against it if it’s organic to the story, but in this case it’s just unnecessary.
The highlights for me are the humorous scenes involving Fury, Goose and Talos. Given that I grew up in the 90s, the retro set pieces are quite amusing… I smile gleefully imagining Millennial moviegoers watching all those ‘ancient’ technology such as pager, computer CD drive, modem, etc as if those are relics from the past… man, those are stuff I had to use in college! As far as the retro soundtrack goes, the fact that we’ve heard it before in the Guardians movies, the novelty’s sort of worn off by now.
I think what makes Captain Marvel an inherently tricky character to bring to life is that she’s so mega powerful. Many filmmakers often speak of how difficult it is to tackle an all-powerful character like Superman and make him/her relatable. Even the Russo Brothers chimed in about that very topic in this article, which makes me really curious to see how they handle the Captain Marvel character in the final Avengers movie. The way she’s depicted here, she’s practically indestructible and there are a bunch of scenes showcasing her immense superpower. The more power she exerts, the less interested I was in her character (and the movie). The action scenes are largely unmemorable, and it’s also lacking a single sequence that truly stand out (i.e. the Fury car chase in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, No Man’s Land battle scene in Wonder Woman). Given Disney’s mega budget, I expect the special effects to be top notch and they are, but by the third act I find them to be a bit too long and too bombastic for my liking.
In the end, how I feel for Captain Marvel is a testament to the fact that MCU has been consistently churning out good movies. Of course some are better than others but the recent ones, especially those helmed by the Russos, have set the bar high. It’s quite telling that I was more giddy watching the first post-credit scene than I was in the entire movie. Let’s just say I’m now even more excited for Avengers: Endgame than ever before! So while this movie has its moments, it just wasn’t the trailblazing movie I expected to introduce such a powerful super-heroine.
Have you seen CAPTAIN MARVEL yet? Well, what did YOU think?