International Women’s Day 2019 coincided with the release of Marvel Studios’ newest film, Captain Marvel. The twenty-first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first one with a female led hero, introduces us to Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, the most powerful hero in the MCU, so far. Directed by Anna Bolden and Ryan Fleck, the film stars Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson as the titular character in her MCU debut. Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Lee Pace and Djimon Hounsou reprise their roles as Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, Ronan the Accuser, and Korath, respectively.
Lay It On Thick
Recently, nostalgia has, ironically, become the newest trend in comic book films. If you’re a millennial who loves nostalgia, then Captain Marvel is a wet dream. Set in 1995, the film is filled with 90s references from its scoring to all of the out of business brick and mortar stores that make a cameo. In the trailer, Captain Marvel crashes into a Blockbuster which is used to effectively set the time period of the film, and this is shortly followed by RadioShack returning from the dead. Somehow, Circuit City missed the cut when it came to retail resurrections. With RadioShack and Blockbuster the film finds a way to incorporate them into the story, so they don’t feel like they’re just thrown in, unlike the scene where Captain Marvel goes full Terminator 2.
Subtleness be damned. Reader, did I mention that this film was released on International Women’s Day? Did you know that Captain Marvel was a woman? This film ensures that you do not forget that a woman is kicking ass in this movie. ‘Just A Girl’ by No Doubt is playing during a major fight scene and it’s jarring because the song does not fit the mood of the scene. Since Captain Marvel is a film where our heroine cannot remember details of her past life, the movie uses this trope as a way to show that most of her memories are of her being put down for being a woman. Even in the Terminator 2 scene referenced above, the biker tells her that she needs to smile. This brings me to my biggest issue with Captain Marvel.
Write To Show, Not To Tell
Being that film is a visual medium, what your audience is seeing is just as or if not more important than what they’re hearing. The visual gags from Captain Marvel work well because they’re woven into the story of the film. The technology of the 1990s are not just sight gags, they’re used to show how inferior life on Earth is compared to the alien life on other planets. When the leader of the Skrulls, a shape-shifting alien race, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), arrives on Earth, he calls our life primitive. We’re using pagers, dial-up internet (shout out to AOL), AltaVista, Floppy Disk, CD-Roms and his enemy, Captain Marvel, is out here with a universal translator.
Between the screenplay and the story, this film is credited with having five writers and the inconsistency is all over the place. It seems that they all had different ideas about the characters when writing the film. Talos starts out as a serious threat to Vers (Carol Danvers) and her Kree, a race of noble warrior heroes, during the film’s opening scene but once he arrives on Earth that seriousness gets thrown out the window. Not sure if it was the G-force through Earth’s atmosphere, but Talos turns into a comedy character. Credit to Mendelsohn’s performance because he does get to show off his range as an actor. Talos, the other Skrulls, and Carol Danvers have been on Earth for approximately 22 hours and all of them are doing goofy earthling things that you would see in a 90s sitcom.
When it comes to the MCU, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is severely underrated for what he brings to these films. He brings that seamless chemistry that he has with the rest of the Avengers to his role in Captain Marvel. Whenever Jackson and Larson are paired together on-screen is when this film is at its best. The pair are charming, funny, and make it feel as if a real bond was created by the end of the film. We find out the reasons behind Fury’s motivations in the previous 20 films in the MCU. Things like how he lost his eye, the reasoning behind the name of the Avengers Initiative (was kind of forced), why he doesn’t trust bureaucracy, and background information were all answered in this film. The EFX department did an incredible job at deaging Jackson and he actually looks 25 years younger.
On the other hand, lead actress Brie Larson, did not sell me on the movie from the trailers and by the end of the film I was still disappointed. When she was paired with Jackson she was funny and charming but whenever she was solo, paired with Jude Law or other characters, Larson comes off uninspired. Part of this is her dialogue because she’s not given much to work with and part of it is her acting because she’s not bringing much to the table. She was questioned by the Supreme Intelligence (Anne Benning) during the film’s opening 15 minutes and Larson just seemed dead inside when delivering her lines. It’ll be interesting to see how she interacts with the rest of the MCU when Endgame hits theaters in April.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that the opening credits in this film is perhaps my favorite of any movie in the MCU and the Stan Lee cameo is awesome as well. The special effects, especially for the aliens, in this film are among the best in sci-fi and shows how ahead of the curve that Marvel Studios are when it comes to their competition. The makeup of Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos and the other Skrulls is phenomenally done and doesn’t look like something off of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Speaking of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there was a cringe line where Samuel L. Jackson referenced the title of the show.
Clocking in at 124 minutes, the film covers a lot of ground when introducing her to the MCU, but at the same time the movie feels like a filler film until End Game‘s release in April. As far as origin films go in the MCU, Captain Marvel pushes the needle in the wrong direction and tries to replicate the success of 2018’s sleeper hit but ends up being lackluster like MCU films from over a decade ago. Captain Marvel doesn’t have an angle that makes it an engaging movie and that’s what ends up making it forgettable. Outside of her being the first woman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s nothing about this film that stands out. Black Panther is afrofuturism; The Winter Soldier is a political-thriller; Guardians of the Galaxy is a space-exploration comedy; Dr. Strange is a science-fantasy; yet Captain Marvel’s theme is just, she’s a woman and that really sells the character short. Since she has amnesia the ingredients were there for this to be a mystery-comedy superhero film, but unfortunately the film doesn’t even take advantage of its strengths. There’s already been a strong female-led character that wears red, gold and blue and her film managed to make a statement while being entertaining. When Captain Marvel gets a sequel, I hope it lives up to her name and is a marvel to watch.
[All Mames Wey]
Captain Marvel was released in theaters March 8, 2019.