So, guess who just saw Captain Marvel? The movie which Meninism Magazine voted worst blight on masculinity since Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters.
I kid. Any relation to real-life absurdist magazines or misogynistic straw polls is purely coincidental.
It’s just hilarious to me how reactionary the hate for this movie has been leading up to its release.
But that’s neither here nor there. I’m not here to make political statements.
I’m here to review a Marvel movie.
As a general disclaimer, I wasn’t excited for Captain Marvel like I was for Infinity War.
Not because of the aforementioned testosterone backlash — though I’ll admit some of the film’s advertising seemed a little too determined to prod that tiger.
I just happen to know next to nothing about Carol Danvers, so it was going to take a lot to convince me she is the Avenger’s one true hope.
Luckily, the experience was more fun than I expected and proved the heroine’s place in this narrative.
Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as “Vers,” an amnesiac member of the Kree Empire’s armada of intergalactic warrior-heroes locked in conflict with a shapeshifting race of alien terrorists called the Skrull.
Vers has visions of a human life as Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, and winds up on Earth before her untrustworthy narrative is resolved.
There she must sort out her fractured past, flush out the invading alien threat and have buddy cop adventures with Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury — over ten years before he starts the Avenger’s Initiative in 2008’s Iron Man.
The movie starts strong by putting the clichéd complexities of an “amnesiac protagonist” on the back burner for an in media res emphasis of the living world in Marvel’s deep space, similar to Guardians of the Galaxy.
But when things got to Earth, I became concerned.
The burst of mid-90s nostalgia pandering — complete with a Blockbuster video and Stan Lee cameo rehearsing for his appearance in 1995’s Mallrats — is fun and gives Larson a quirky “fish out of water” bit reminiscent of Wonder Woman.
I imagine it’s not uncommon to levy comparisons to DC’s female-led superhero film, but I think the better comparison is with Solo: A Star Wars Story.
My least favorite part of that origin story was the way it condensed every bit of information you know about the character’s past into the span of a week. It was blatantly referential rather than clever and story-driven, weakening Han Solo as a character.
When Captain Marvel introduces Nick Fury, dropping bits and pieces of recognizable information for MCU veterans to say,
I was afraid the film would fall into the same trappings of timeline condensation.
However, it handles itself far more tactfully, and instead ties huge loose ends of a decade-long story into succinct bows. It’s, dare I say, a marvel how well Captain Marvel stands as the “inciting incident” for the rest of the MCU.
The final product is not my favorite Marvel film as an overall experience. But the wonderful cast helps solidify the movie’s place.
Jackson is a stellar second lead. His interactions with Larson, Carol’s best friend Maria (played by Lashana Lynch in a performance that stood out despite a late entrance) and the kitty Goose were solid cinematic glue.
I have to give extra props to the effects department for selling a de-aged Jackson so well over almost two hours.
The alien races’ full-makeup and costumes also worked, with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) each nailing their roles as Kree and Skrull commanders respectively.
Thanks to them, the “alien war” serving as Captain Marvel‘s crux was far more interesting than I expected based on YouTube think pieces setting up certain Avengers as confederates due to the Skrull’s infamy in comics.
The movie also benefitted from being smaller in scale than I expected.
Everything was very interpersonal, only briefly referencing “world threatening” stakes that most superhero movies rely on. As an added bonus, this made the effects more contained, befitting plot and action where needed.
But of course, there’s the lead. Brie Larson is charming and wonderful as the kick-ass, witty, and snarky hero who growls at aliens and doesn’t need to prove herself to anyone.
I had a few smaller gripes with her character, such as the only injury she ever suffered being a bloody nose (mostly to contribute to her mysterious past) and the forced reliance on amnesia tropes as a whole.
Though that’s more on the screenplay than her performance.
It’s also worth mentioning one of my Dad’s complaints with the film: She very quickly accepts a sudden shift in perspective on [Spoilers]. That, in turn, feeds my own issue that after the character development, her powers seemed incredibly vast considering their somewhat modest origins.
That said, an action set piece at the end of the movie makes great use of visuals to show her strength and definitely sold Captain Marvel as a powerful ally in the upcoming second fight against Thanos.
The film’s score also offered some distinct positives. It relied more heavily on variations of the main theme than a glut of pop songs (like Guardians), and there was a stand out moment where Western vibes took over the melody during a one-on-one confrontation in the desert.
So that, in a nutshell, is Captain Marvel.
A solid enough Marvel flick that perhaps falters most in its primary storyline’s reliance on amnesiac origin story clichés, but makes up for it with beyond excellent world building, special effects befitting a more personal adventure (that really only got wonky once or twice) and a top-notch cast.
All playing second fiddle to the cutest cat ever committed to film.
After Captain Marvel, I’m very ready for Endgame to hurry up and hit theaters, because if the mid-credit stinger was any indication, it should be a wild ride.
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