Captain Marvel ★★

After cowering behind Captain America's shield while Wonder Woman led the charge for female led superhero cinema, Marvel Studios have now decided, after 21 male led movies, that it's now safe for a woman to join their superhero sausage fest. Captain Marvel the character is a refreshing addition to the MCU roster; a shame then that Captain Marvel the movie is simply more of the same in terms of its generic storytelling.

An unconventional origin story, Captain Marvel introduces its eponymous hero as a member of the advanced alien race the Kree. Following a disastrous battle with the Kree's foes, an alien race known as the Skrulls, CM aka Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) flees into space, crash-landing through the roof of a branch of Blockbuster Video in 1995 Los Angeles. With the Skrulls on her tail and employing their shape-shifting abilities to blend in with humans, Danvers must piece together her fractured memory, the contents of which the Skrulls, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), are for some reason desperate to get their scaly green hands on.

With its emphasis on character over plot and overblown, uninvolving action, Spider-Man: Homecoming was a welcome departure for Marvel, but Captain Marvel is a step backwards, a return to a generic plot that revolves around the retrieval of a glowing blue Macguffin. A team of five writers, including co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, worked on this movie, and yet couldn't come up with a fitting vehicle for Marvel's first female lead.

Anyone who has seen Short Term 12 knows just how good an actress Larson can be, but she struggles here with a poorly defined character that lacks consistency. At times you might wonder if Boden and Fleck directed separate scenes, with one telling Larson to channel Arnie's Terminator, the other Lindsey Wagner's Bionic Woman. In some scenes, Danvers is an emotionless alien, while in others she's a wise-cracking, smirking smart-ass, and it seems to depend on what type of joke Boden and Fleck wish to make at any given moment.

Captain Marvel veers more towards the comic tone of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies than the more grounded marvel offerings, but the gags are dated and derivative, too often reminding us of better executed moments in previous movies. Much has been made of a feline character, but it's a lazy knock-off of Shrek 2's Puss 'n 'Boots, the cute moggy that turns into a vicious ass-kicking machine when needs must. Ironically, in a week that has seen Spielberg labelled an out of touch dinosaur for his comments regarding Netflix, the only joke that produced an audible laugh at my screening is lifted from Raiders of the Lost Ark (yes, it's that one). And is there any more played out gag than the one where Character A goes to great efforts to pick a lock only for Character B to use their physical power to wrench the door open? At a time when so many of the top comedy shows on TV and Netflix are penned by women writers, it's baffling that Marvel couldn't have used their unlimited funds to hire a Tina Fey or Amy Sherman-Palladino to punch up this lifeless script.

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