Film Review – Captain Marvel (2019)
Guardians of the Galaxy meets Independence Day. That is the most accurate and most concise way to sum up Captain Marvel. The movie is an edgy, space-thrill ride from start to finish. It maintains its Marvel roots while paving the way for further exploration of the vast Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie isn’t perfect, but it is exciting and fun to say the least. Marvel fans will be satisfied, the casual movie-goer will be entertained, and even DC fans might enjoy themselves. Though it’s the 21st film in this franchise, Captain Marvel still manages to bring something new and engaging to the table.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Written By: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve
Vers (Larson) is part of an elite Kree fighting squad, led by Yon-Rogg (Law). When attempting to rendezvous with a Kree spy, Vers and her team are intercepted by the Skrull leader, Talos (Mendelsohn). The Kree-Skrull fight comes to a head when Vers crashlands on Earth and is found by none other than Nick Fury (Jackson).
Vers and Nick Fury must work together to save planet Earth from the Kree-Skrull war and to prevent Talos from getting his hands on the mysterious research left behind by Dr. Wendy Lawson (Bening).
I tried something new in writing this section before I saw the movie. Hopefully this preserves some of my expectations before I’m dazzled by the film itself. Coincidentally, reviewing this movie before you’ve seen it is apparently the cool thing to do. Regardless, here are my pre-viewing thoughts about Captain Marvel.
I’m a Marvel fanboy. I’m biased towards the franchise because I’ve matured with it. I remember seeing The Avengers with my dad on its opening weekend, and I’ve been “full-Marvel” everyday since. You don’t have to entice me to see this movie, I’ve been awaiting it since it was announced. That being said, I’m not a fan of the idea of retconning the MCU’s narrative. My biggest fear with this movie is that Captain Marvel‘s 90s introduction pokes holes in the earlier (or later?) films’ events. However, it is long past time for the MCU to do two things:
- Have a movie headlined by a female superhero
- Dive into the alien antics of the Marvel Universe
So, does it accomplish those two things? Does it accomplish them well? Read on to find out.
Accomplishing Two Things
- The MCU has no shortage of female warriors, but Carol Danvers/ Captain Marvel takes the lead by a mile compared to her predecessors. She’s strong, she’s independent, and she’s fun. Most importantly, Carol Danvers displays a fresh personality that doesn’t fit much inline with the current Avengers’ roster. Marvel has found their Wonder Woman, and not a moment too soon.
- While Captain Marvel forays deeper into both the Kree and Skrulls, it leaves a lot of that corner of the Marvel Universe unexplored. The setup for a sequel or two is very heavy, and unfortunately the movie leaves you wanting a little too much. Still, I’m thrilled to see the Skrulls finally get the film debut they deserve.
Now, onto some real nitpicking.
Too High, Too Far, Too Fast
While Carol Danvers quickly became a favorite character for me, her debut film flies a bit too close to the sun. Thankfully, Captain Marvel doesn’t come crashing down as traumatically as Icarus, but there is a pretty big fall none the less. The film’s greatest flaw is that it is far too ambitious for itself. The film crams so many different stories and perspectives into its runtime that Carol Danvers gets crowded out of her own movie, and has the flimsiest arc of any character involved.
Marvel was clearly aiming for a Wonder Woman-esque feel, and Carol’s arc feels like a melding of Diana’s arc from said film and Thor’s arc from Thor: Ragnarok. Carol’s personal mission is to understand who she is and what she can do. This is a good starting point for any origin story. However, Carol figures out the answer to both goals out of sheer convenience so that the movie can set up a sequel and give Carol a reason to be in Avengers: Endgame. Carol literally becomes a deus ex machina and saves the day simply because it needs saving to fit inline with the rest of the MCU, rather than Carol achieving any real personal breakthrough or growth. Carol is entertaining and fun, but not dynamic enough to be a truly engaging and relatable character.
In addition to Carol, a good chunk of the supporting cast falls flat of what they should be. Phil Coulson is utterly pointless within the film and is just there to satiate fans. Nick Fury has no real arc either and his character is almost entirely inconsistent with the man we meet in Iron Man and really get to know in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier. Worst of all is Maria Rambeau (Lynch).
Rambeau is the film’s expositor. Anytime Carol, Nick, or any random character needs something explained, Rambeau is there with an expository monologue. Despite being proclaimed as Carol’s best friend, the two share no genuine on-screen connection, and Rambeau is little more than a plot device. She flies when things need flying, she shoots when things need shooting, and she exposits even when things don’t need expositing.
For a movie that has gained a serious amount of social cred for featuring women in heroic leading roles, it does a piss-poor job of giving them the same amount of depth as a movie like Wonder Woman, or even Ant-Man and the Wasp. Marvel can do better, and hopefully both Carol and Rambeau can be fully fleshed out in later installments.
A Step Backwards
The MCU is, in my opinion, on a hot-streak. They haven’t had a “bad” film in several years. Since Age of Ultron, Marvel has done a much better job of refining and improving their films. However, Captain Marvel feels likes a step backwards into Phase 1, pre-The Avengers. As mentioned above, the characters are overwhelmingly flat and un-engaging. In addition, the story itself is unevenly paced, clunky, and overwhelmingly cheesy.
The stakes are non-existent, primarily because nineteen other movies have shown us that the Skrulls don’t destroy Earth. That being said, Captain Marvel jumps from plot point to plot point like a hyperactive child that’s just drained a jumbo pixie stick. The film can’t decide if it’s a war movie, a character study, or a buddy-cop film. Unfortunately it feels like the directors were tugging each other in different directions, rather than moving towards the same creative vision. It also suffers heavily from the fact that the film is too focused on getting Carol in place for Endgame, and not in giving her a meaningful and sincere arc of her own.
Looking on the Bright Side
While the above paragraphs might make it seem like my intention here is to destroy Captain Marvel, that is not the case. The problem is that I like the film, but I do not love it. I’m a die-hard MCU fan. In fact, over Labor Day I sat in a theater seat for five days straight and marathoned every MCU film, because of my love for (most of) them.
Taking that into account, I know this franchise pretty well. I can confidently say that Captain Marvel is a phenomenal tonal addition to the franchise. While some elements are very clearly borrowed from James Gunn‘s signature touch on the franchise, the film brings enough of its own energy to create something new.Quite simply, this film is a blast. Despite it’s tangled plot threads, half-written characters, and clichéd arcs, it is fun. I was entertained for two hours, and there’s nothing else to ask for.
It is also important to acknowledge its importance. Captain Marvel is only the second female lead, superhero blockbuster. This is slanted in contrast to the symbols that little boys can look up to. However, it is a necessary start in the right direction. At the end of the day, Captain Marvel tells little girls that they can fly. It tells them that they can fly farther, faster, and higher than they’ve ever thought of doing before. This is the film’s main purpose, and it accomplishes this purpose beautifully.
Captain Marvel has its flaws. It also has its merits. The film is by no means a masterpiece, but it keeps the MCU going along without much of an issue. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it’s inspiring. This movie shows girls that not only can they fight with likes of Captain America and Iron Man, but they can probably outmatch them too.
Additionally, this film has several extremely touching moments surrounding Stan Lee. The comic book legend begins his final roles with a hard tug at the heart-strings.
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on Captain Marvel? Comment down below!
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