Main cast: Brie Larson (Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel), Samuel L Jackson (Nick Fury), Ben Mendelsohn (Talos), Djimon Hounsou (Korath), Lee Pace (Ronan the Accuser), Lashana Lynch (Maria Rambeau), Gemma Chan (Minn-Erva), Clark Gregg (Phil Coulson), Annette Bening (Dr Wendy Lawson), and Jude Law (Yon-Rogg)
Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Just like the last Ghostbusters reboot, Captain Marvel is marred by an unnecessarily divisive marketing push, which sees Brie Larson mouthing off a Disney-approved script of some of most cringe-inducing takes on modern day girl power. This only fuels the desperate we-need-views-and-clicks antics of YouTubers and online journalists as they either accuse this show of being misandrist or misogynist crap in the most vitriolic manner. I personally don’t understand why we even need such marketing tactic in the first place, as this movie is never going to fail in any way as it is a Marvel Cinematic Universe flick when the franchise is still on an all-time high following Avengers: Infinity War. But hey, Disney will do Disney, and we can only sit in the sidelines and gape at the spectacle.
As always, the truth is somewhere in between two hyperbole, and this one turns out to be an entertaining but solidly average superhero flick.
Captain Marvel is touted as the strongest hero in this setting, and given the timing of her appearance – just when we need someone to defeat Thanos – our poor gal comes off as a deus ex machina plot device. This movie, however, does a pretty good job explaining her absence in the setting all this while, and the only logic hole here is Nick Fury apparently never letting the Avengers know of Carol Denvers’s existence despite knowing very well that she is the equivalent of their win button. Still, I’m sure we don’t expect strong story points from these movies, not after all this while.
Our heroine first appears as Vers. She has little memory of her past, although she is haunted by dreams of her falling on the ground and a handsome older woman standing over here, aiming a gun somewhere in the distance, before a Skrull shows up in the distance to take the woman down with his own gunshot. She is a Kree – a nation of various humanoid types that come together to defend planets from the marauding terrorist aliens known as Skrulls. Skrulls can shift their forms to resemble anyone they see, so their favorite technique of conquest is to infiltrate from within, taking on the form of the planet’s natives to destabilize things before the Skrull army move in. It’s odd how the Kree have not developed any means to detect a hidden Krull despite all those years of war with them, but again, Marvel superhero movie, case closed.
So, Ves has been training for the Starforce under her mentor Yon-Rogg all this while. She believes that her powers – the ability to shoot thermal energy from her fists – are a gift from the Kree boss, the AI known simply as the Supreme Intelligence, and she has to master both her emotions and her powers before she is ready to go out and do Kree stuff. When the movie opens, she finally gets her chance to be a part of the Starforce on a supposedly simple mission: to infiltrate a Skrull HQ and rescue a compromised undercover spy. Things quickly go wrong and Vers is captured by the Skrull boss Talos, whose men use their technology to delve into her memories. Apparently her hazy memories of that woman hold the key to something Talos is desperately seeking, and the recovery of fragments of Vers’s lost memory reveals that this woman is Dr Wendy Larson, who is presumably still on the planet known as C-53. Vers escapes and decides to head off to that planet and rescue Dr Larson before Talos catches up with that woman.
And what do you know, C-53 is Earth, and it turns out that it is 1995 when Vers crashes into a Blockbuster store. As she tracks down Dr Larson while waiting for the rest of the Starforce to catch up with her, she meets Nick Fury and the two team up to discover that Vers has far more ties to Earth that they both could ever imagine.
Now, let’s get a few things out of the way first.
Brie Larson shows more than one single resting bitchface expression here. She is actually pretty decent as Captain Marvel. She’s nowhere as charismatic as the hype will insist, but she is nowhere as flat as her detractors accuse her to be. Carol Denvers is of course a sarcastic quip-machine as per the formula, but the bathos is pretty restrained here. Samuel L Jackson gets the bulk of the quips and one-liners as Nick Fury, but the script knows when to rein things in and let emotional moments flow without ruining them prematurely with some ill-timed joke. Our heroine is the mostly straight-laced person who plays off against the more irreverent Nick Fury very well.
Also, Carol is not a walking caricature of a man-hating hag. If anything, she has some good personal and working relationships with both men and women. She respects Yon-Rogg and treats Nick Fury as an equal as well as a partner in crime. No “I am a woman, so I rule over all men!” or “Men are toxic creatures!” rants here, just a strong but lost woman looking for a place to belong and a cause to believe in. Carol’s arc is that she was constantly underestimated and undermined from young due to her sex, but she has always stood up after each hard knock to try again. There is an arc here that most of the male detractors of this movie don’t get: to this day, there are still men who undermine a woman solely because of her sex, telling her that she can’t or shouldn’t do this and that because she’s a girl, and Carol rising high above all this is an inspiring moment that will resonate with many women in the audience. It’s the same reason why Wonder Woman works so well: a superheroine hits the feels of women in the audience in ways that a male superhero normally doesn’t, because the experiences underwent by the superheroine are usually something the female audience can relate to.
Oh, and Talos is a great, if rather unoriginal, character, and that cat is cute. Don’t worry, Goose isn’t some creepy too-smart animal; that thing doesn’t get shoved into every scene but rather, when it does appear, the movie knows how to get the best laugh out of it. That’s one thing this movie is good at – it has the right balance of humor and action, without the ha-ha-ha’s overpowering everything else like some of the more recent movies in this franchise.
Unlike Wonder Woman, however, Captain Marvel fumbles when it comes to making Carol Denvers a memorable character. Our heroine doesn’t have any distinct traits or personality to make her a standout character – it is her interactions with Yon-Rogg, Nick Fury, and her best friend Maria Rambeau as well as Talos that define her character the most, and on her own, Carol is still quite a blank slate. Her character growth is still on the superficial and formulaic side. It also doesn’t help that she is too capable. Her male counterparts have to train and fumble first – Tony Stark had to take time to get the hang of flying in the Iron Man suit, Steve Rogers needs a while too to come to his own as Captain America, et cetera – and even Diana is shown to have trained for a long time to be the Amazon warrior goddess that she is. However, Carol is generally perfect and super capable off the bat. Once she overcomes the psychological limitations that keep her powers in check, she is able to use them flawlessly despite having never had any experience flexing those powers before. This is why the third act of this movie is pretty dreadful – it’s basically the rampage of an unchecked Mary Sue taking down enemies that are nowhere close to being able to keep up with her, pointless and dull with no suspense to be had.
Also, the fight scenes are pretty lackluster, and while the CGI may be better than that in, say, Black Panther, it’s still at times pretty fake looking. I don’t know, but glowing super-saiyan mode Captain Marvel looks really over the top fluorescent to me.
Anyway, like most Marvel movies, this one is very well put-together, with solid pacing and enough crowd-pleasing moments to lull the brain into shutting down and just enjoying the flow. Once the post-credit scenes are over, though, I only need to think over what I have seen a little to realize that I don’t really like it as much as I thought I did while the movie was running. It’s alright, but the formulaic nature of Marvel superhero movies and the bland personality of Carol Denvers make this one far more forgettable than it should be.