Do your hear your floorboards creaking around you? That’s your floor reacting to the presence of a herd of elephants shifting around your room.
It’s hard to go into Captain Marvel with a fresh mind. You may or may not have noticed Brie Larson getting trolled in the internet because of the political agenda associated with the movie. There is this one group that wants this movie to fail because of its feminist tag and there is this other group standing tall to defend the movie. Picking either side doesn’t necessarily improve (or condemn) the movie.
Unfortunately, Captain Marvel is mostly bland and boring for vast stretches of its near two hour runtime. The overwhelming consensus is that the film is boring to an extent that you can barely remember what happened afterwards.
The film may or may not suit your tastes, depending on your emotional attachment towards the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). After the movie you can either feel like she has earned a rightful place or you might feel like you need more convincing. I would definitely go with the later.
Too Little, Too Late
The movie feels more like a Phase One MCU movie, similar to what Iron Man (2008) was. That isn’t a sin unto itself, but at this stage of the MCU, it feels like as though it’s too little and too late. I guess I would have preferred it to have felt more Doctor Strange (2016). This movie, unlike Doctor Strange, lacks the heftiness I was looking forward to feeling.
The film essentially is a story about Carol Danvers finding herself as well as a purpose to strive to. The movie is a mashup of the buddy cop genre with the fish out water trope, reminiscent of the first Thor (2011) movie.
The film is undeniably feminist and it tries to embrace the feminist maneuvers that might just be seen around movies every so often, like the reliable friendship between powerful women, among others. The film explores important and timely themes by probing the fraught racial tensions and warfare being waged between two alien species: the Kree and the Skrulls. One key part of the protagonist’s journey is her finding out more about her past, as well the nature and motivations of her sworn enemy, the Skrulls.
A Middling Disappointment
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck co-directed the film, and although they have plenty of street cred in making indie films, their first superhero film doesn’t make a great case for their directorial prowess. They failed to make me curious about themselves, unlike Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler. As directors they failed to come off as assertive which might be why Brie Larson came off as too stoic in contrast to Carol Danvers’ personality.
Carol’s character, unfortunately, just doesn’t feel genuine or earnestly portrayed.
Although Larson tries her hardest, it’s an uphill battle for her. No one doubts her ability to act- she did win an Oscar for it in 2016- but it’s hard for her to make quality lemonades when the writers and directors hand over a case of premature lemons. Carol operates like a fusion of Iron-man and Captain America, always ready with a quip for in-fight banter. However, her character never comes alive on her own. While Larson emotes plenty of emotion when needed, her character is underdeveloped, as there’s nothing about her that stands out, other than her penchant for sarcasm and being someone who doesn’t back out of a fight. Compare this to other B characters in the MCU, like Peter Quill, Doctor Strange, who have noticeable tics of their own, and the failure of this version of Captain Marvel becomes even more apparent.
It’s a pity because the little threads of feminism that are sewn into the movie’s narrative do fine on their own. There’s a great scene where Danvers remembers her past and all the times she rose up after a setback, and that inspires her to do the same one more time. However, these additions feel like they are there to tick off boxes that Marvel and Disney wanted to be there, instead of Danvers having a life of her own.
The Main Narrative is Woefully Underdeveloped
The plot of the film is middling, and the film’s pacing problems makes it harder to get invested in the story’s narrative. Several aspects in the movie could have been explored further to create the gravitas it lacked.
Among all the fight sequences, there were three that I actually liked. None of them stood out as being memorable, and that may as well be punishable crime for a Marvel film.
The abundance of quick cuts and bad camera angles sets the film back further.
The smaller scope of the film isn’t utilized as well as it could have been. In this regards, it falls short to the two Ant-man movies. There, the smaller scope (and lack of high stakes) allowed the director and the cast to explore character dynamics, showcasing the bonds they shared between themselves, and by proxy, with the audience. Captain Marvel, however, feels desolate when it comes to proper storytelling. The bare bones of a good story are there, but the film rarely takes the time to breathe and just let these characters take on a life on their own. Wonder Woman, for instance, has a much clearer character arc in her 2017 movie, and that character arc isn’t compromised by the few times she exhibits compassion, curiosity and resolve.
The Supporting Actors Do Well with What They are Given
The supporting cast does their job well. Samuel L. Jackson as a younger Nick Fury was a delight with the seamless utilization of CGI to make him look young. Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson fell perfectly in sync with his CGI as well. Both Ben Mendelsohn and Jude Law were convincing as their respective characters. Even the Stan Lee cameo was well done and not telegraphed.
Lashana Lynch as Carol’s best friend might have nailed the character but her camaraderie on screen with Brie was flat. I wish it were hearty.
Carol and Fury had a solid bond and the actors were convincing about it. Annette Bening as Carol’s commander and mentor, had a pivotal arc although she felt more like a tool and less like a genderbent character. They took a creative route in treating the character of the original Mar-Vell, but unfortunately they failed to flesh her out. The soundtracks in most of the cases were fun but that one song in the movie just felt like an obligation as opposed to an intrinsic placing; you will know when you hear it. The other Kree members under Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) were noticeable as well.
Not a great movie, but not Very Bad Either
Carol Danvers might just seem a bit too powerful in her own movie but only time will unveil her strength compared to Thor for example. The CGI surrounding Carol’s costume was brilliant and I must admit, there is something gratifying about watching a female superhero use photon blasts to shoot alien technologies out of the galaxy. Is this film as good as Wonder Woman (2017)? No, it isn’t. That film had a lot of heart to it, and Captain Marvel feels like a decent (but soulless) product put together for the MCU assembly line.
All the same, the fact is that Captain Marvel is a perfectly serviceable movie that does what its advertised to do. It introduces Carol Danvers and makes her available for use in other MCU properties. While it isn’t very good, the film works as a fun appetizer, as we sit in anticipation for Avengers: Endgame.
Why Captain Marvel Doesn’t Deserve Internet Hate
In fact, the news surrounding the film is much more noteworthy than the film itself. This is puzzling, since Captain Marvel doesn’t deserve the ire of steadfast anti-SJW trolls, especially because of its vanilla storytelling. All the same, it did attract a huge onslaught of trolls who review-bombed the film on Rotten Tomatoes before the film was even released. Rotten Tomatoes responded shortly after, deciding to eliminate pre-release audience reviews.
Of course, Larson’s outspoken nature when it comes to gender politics didn’t help the film’s case with conservative and alt-right mindsets. She mentioned in a EW appearance that she had talked with Marvel to do “a big feminist movie.” She also raised a valid point about the lack of diversity in mainstream press magazines, later deciding to do a profile with Keah Brown for Marie Claire.
“I do not need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’” she declared last summer. “It wasn’t made for him.”
“’Captain Marvel’ is like a political commercial—it packs a worthy message, but it hardly counts as an aesthetic experience,” wrote Richard Brody for the New Yorker.
The way people are talking about the film, you would assume that this film was worse than not only Venom, but the infamous Ghost Rider 2.
The worst sin that Captain Marvel makes is not creating a memorable experience. This is the kind of harmless drivel that people will forget about the minute they walk out of theaters.
And you know what? That’s okay too. Not every Marvel film needs to be Avengers: Infinity War or Black Panther. Let’s give Captain Marvel some space to breathe, and take on a life of her own, as she now heads off to Avengers: Endgame.