Captain Marvel ★★½

”A cell of Skrulls anywhere is a threat to Kree everywhere.”

Congratulations ladies, you've finally got a female superhero leading an underwhelming and mediocre Marvel movie of her own!

I'm no Marvel fanboy, but I enjoy the films for what they are. However, an Oscar-winner in Brie Larson fronting a big budget blockbuster with two acclaimed directors in Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden -- plus some other uber-successful and talented stars in Sam Jackson, Jude Law, perpetual bad guy Ben Mendelsohn, and queen Annette Bening -- definitely deserved a better story than this, as the film waffles through just over two hours and concludes in the usual (but even muddier this time) cataclysmic superhero third act where lots of stuff blows up and god-like characters resort to punching and throwing each other.

Oh, also, did you hear this was set in the NINETIES? No? Well, by golly, you are about to Nineties so hard that you'll wonder when the next episode of Rocko’s Modern Life is on that you can watch with your Surge and Dunk-a-roos in hand. (Note: those are all magical things.)

Captain Marvel is of course the story of Carol Danvers (née Vers, of the Kree vs. Skrull conflict) who crashes down to Earth -- er, Planet C-53 -- in the middle of galactic war. That this plot point is already not unique may be a bad sign, nonetheless the film presses on with a screenplay that really nobody cares about like most Marvel films. What you want to know is 1) can Larson command a superhero film, 2) does the tale differentiate itself from other male-centered blastapaloozas, and 3) how does it fit into the larger Marvel cinematic universe?

Well the answer to number one is a confident yes, as Larson is far and away the best part of every part of the film -- except naturally Goose, the scene-stealing orange tabby cat who is just a bundle of fluffy meowy joy yes she is oh you sweet little furry cutieface. Oh, ahem, sorry, I catted pretty hard there. She is, however, vastly important to the plot. Really! Moving on.

Number two? I don't know. No? Mostly no, this is not a step up for Marvel, and likely a step backwards in a way from the very good Black Panther, the wild and messy spectacle Infinity War, and the silly but fun Ant Man and The Wasp. Is this a bad movie? No way! If you came to see Captain Marvel kick ass, enjoy great effects (the de-aging CGI is kinda impressive), and watch a half dozen A-list stars, you got it all. But the editing devolves into the traditional hero shots and lightning-fast cuts that moviegoers deserve better than. And I'm not the first to point out that, although it's admirable to see a young woman killing it in the lead, a couple scenes of mansplaining are obvious and kinda cringey.

And three, well, yes through an odd screenplay there are some puzzle pieces to the MCU, I think, even something of an origin story for Nick “call me ‘Fury’” Fury. But like usual, there is a very transparent twist -- bad becomes good, good becomes bad, you knew it was coming -- and it's all resolved nicely, save for one loose end.

This could have been a lot worse. But it also should have been a lot better. Whether it's wasting Djimon Hounsou as a meaningless sidekick, or tossing around 90s tracks just because (I mean, they're good songs I guess), the brief feminist lens that the finale of the film peers through isn't quite enough to save it from its own misdirection. See Captain Marvel since apparently we're all legally required to watch these things now, but just wait for Endgame so we can move on from the filler in-between.

Added to Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck ranked.

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