CAPTAIN MARVEL

When you’re 21 films and 11 years in to a film franchise, you’re bound to run into stories, characters, plotlines, action scenes, and many more elements that end up feeling a bit… recycled and stale. It’s just inevitable. When you have a bunch of different films that need to form a cohesive whole, you need to adhere to some certain standards, but after a while, those strict standards end up stifling creativity. With many installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), we pretty much know what to expect going in, but there may be enough stuff there from the filmmakers or actors that can elevate the material. 
 
Captain Marvel follows the extraterrestrial Kree race, particularly Agent Vers (Brie Larson), a mercenary for the organization Starforce. Plagued by visions of a past life, she finds herself hunted by the evil Skrull race, who wants her for her knowledge and power. Vers is able to escape and ends up stranded on Earth in the year 1995. With the Skrull hunting her, Vers teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in order to take them down, and discover her past. 
 
It sounds like a confusing and complicated plot, because it is confusing and complicated at first. I don’t know anything about the Captain Marvel character, so I’m not sure if the whole “flashbacks and discovering a mysterious past” nature was the right way to go for an origin story. What saves it is Brie Larson’s excellent performance as Vers (who I’ll refer to as Carol, because that’s her name). Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck utilized her talents very well, giving us a character who’s smart, plucky, but also serious. She certainly got a lot more to do here than in other blockbusters like Kong: Skull Island, but I would love to keep seeing her in smaller stuff like Room. With a female protagonist, I felt the film relied on the whole “girl power” schtick a bit too much too. If Wonder Woman is an example, it shows that you don’t need to make it obvious that a woman is doing all of this heroic stuff, but Captain Marvel makes sure to remind us at almost every point. It’s cool enough to watch a woman with laser fists fight a whole bunch of aliens. Do we really need No Doubt’s I’m Just a Girl playing in the background while she does it? 
 
Once Carol arrives on Earth is when I really started having a lot of fun with this movie. The filmmakers injected with this film with a wonderful 90’s flair, from the writing, to the costume and set design, to the makeup, and just overall tone of it all. Since it takes place during the 90’s, there’s of course a lot of references to stuff like Blockbuster, Walkmans, and whatnot. Some of it is laid on a little thick, especially with the super obvious, and sometimes odd (a Nirvana song sounds really out of place in the MCU) song choices, but the entire film had this naïve, 90’s air to it. Refreshingly for the MCU, it actually looks like a movie, with lighting that has actual depth, a big lack of green screen sets, and more grounded costumes and effects. I loved the way the Skrull aliens looked, with cheesy, yet effective looking makeup, making it very reminiscent of something from Star Trek. It’s delightfully retro, down to how sincere the filmmakers treat the silly material. The film ends with a little girl running up and looking up into the night sky as the hero flies off into space. How much more 90’s can you get? I appreciate filmmakers who are able to effectively capture a tone without totally relying on obvious references. 
 
The dramatic and comedic direction is perfectly fine, but with Boden and Fleck being from an indie background (as Disney is wont to do with these films), they seem gravely out of their element with the bigger action scenes. I give them points for creativity with some of the fight scene choreography, but a lot of it just devolves into Iron Man-esque CGI flying around and lasers. The CGI is shockingly mediocre, reminiscent of really good-looking video games, but that’s clearly because 99% of the effects budget went to the digital de-aging of Samuel L. Jackson. It’s absolutely incredible what they were able to do here with him. Jackson still looks great for a 70-year-old man, but there was never a moment I found young man him unconvincing, no matter how much I tried. It’s a triumph of this technology, but also a dark omen of what’s to come… Anyway, I can’t say the same about Clark Gregg’s de-aging… Yikes. 

Some of the action, and really a lot of the film, is quite poorly edited, where it feels like a lot of it the plot was cut out or restructured. The story just feels all over the place, with none of the characters really given room to breathe. There’s supposed to be this big comradery between Carol and her old Air Force buddy Maria (Lashana Lynch), but I never felt that between the two characters. Honestly, the most developed character is the Skrull Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), who ended up being way more nuanced than I was expecting. The turns throughout the story keep it entertaining enough, but there’s not a lot to latch onto because Carol just wasn’t that interesting. Her entire character seemed to be “others keep telling me to keep my head down and stay out of the way”. When her big arc is supposed to be resolved at the end, I felt nothing, but at least Larson’s charismatic performance made for a decent lead hero.
 
At its core, Captain Marvel is your standard, middling MCU origin story, no better or worse than stuff like Thor or Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s nothing more than a stepping stone to the next film (Avengers: Endgame, in this case), but Brie Larson’s committed performance, charming direction, and some mildly interesting story twists made it a bit less forgettable than normal. Will missing out on this one make the next installment totally confusing? Probably not, but as far as inconsequential movies in this series goes, it’s far from the worst. 
 
6.5/10 

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