Coming off the cultural revolution for Marvel that was 2018, including Academy-Award nominated hits and winners such as Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, and while Ant-Man and the Wasp may not have reached the same cultural heights as its predecessors, it was still a hit from both fans and critics, earning a respectable crunch at the box office. Captain Marvel comes off such a wonderful year and is the precursor to one of the most anticipated films of all time, Avengers: Endgame.
However, when delving right into the point, Captain Marvel is unfortunately anything but marvelous. It frequently confuses complicated plot structuring for sophistication, an issue that exerts throughout. And the star-studded cast isn’t able to pull something salvageable out from this mess, including Academy-Award Winner Brie Larson whose role feels inconsistent and incoherent at times. It’s only when that she’s steadied with the charming performance of a younger Nick Fury, created by stellar CGI and a charismatic as always Samuel L. Jackson. Their bouncing of fast-paced, comedic dialogue helps the film gain enough momentum to propel viewers all the way through the film and the two post-credit scenes. Unfortunately, their combined efforts aren’t nearly enough to save the movie. Captain Marvel is never quite able to fully live up to its name, bogged down by fundamental structuring issues, an uneven batch of performances, and a messy, muddled story.
Taking place in the 1990s, and stuffed with nostalgic moments from that time, we follow Carol Denvers (Brie Larson) in her personal journey to both become the titular hero Captain Marvel and discover who she really is, beneath the red and blue rubber suit and bravado. When compared to other installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s hard to avoid the similarities the film shares with Phase One entries, such as Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, and how it differs strongly from origin stories in Phase Three, including Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther. It’s ultimately the same sequence of events, just arranged and measured differently. Instead of taking a traditional act by act structure, Captain Marvel insists on doling out Carol’s backstory in slow methods. This wouldn’t be such an annoyance if her backstory wasn’t so perpetually boring and predictable. It causes the film to come off as overly pretentious as it assumes this one moment is some massive shock, even when it’s been revealed and mentioned constantly in the marketing campaign and even in earlier moments within the film itself.
In addition to its unsatisfying result, the structure just doles out additional baggage for Larson to contend with. Firstly, the pacing of the film is furiously off-course. The first act, which should contain backstory about Carol, is limited to seemingly just five minutes as directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck charge through it to get into an action sequence. In most films, this decision could have resulted into an effective way of telling the audience
about this character, but instead it’s more lazy and impatient than anything, especially since these action sequences are particular mundane and aren’t inspired in the slightest. We are never allowed as an audience to step into Carol’s shoes and appreciate her as a character, as what little backstory there is, it is all regulated to the end of the film, a far too late time to compel the audience to care about the titular character.
Perhaps Kevin Fiege thought it was an actual miracle that they were able to get an actress as talented as Brie Larson to save the emotionless and dull character, but even her talented efforts aren’t enough. Larson feels as if she is trying far too hard to come across as strong and fierce. There is no window for the audience to see an actual character, and instead, she is written like a warrior in a supporting role.
As for the other performances, they are similarly a mixed bag. Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn shine, stealing every scene they have. Mendelsohn is a particular surprise, as his character, a Skrull no less, has genuine motivations, but Boden and Fleck often smear his reasoning and flatten it. He’s still an enjoyable character and an acting force to be reckoned with, but it’s a critical flaw that does compromise the emotional resonance of his eventual actions.
Regarding Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau, she is clearly designed to function as the one emotional tether to the entire story. But similarly to the rest of the film, it’s so frontloaded that the backstory behind her’s and Denvers’ relationship gets lost in the shuffle. There are certainly moments to point to as proof of their relationship, but it’s never enough and breaks the one emotional point that the writers were able to come up with.
As a collective whole and judged without the social context and controversy surrounding the film, Captain Marvel simply doesn’t live up to the standards that Marvel themselves have set for the comic-book genre. Its fleeting moments of 90s nostalgia feel out of place and more like a short wink to the audience, rather than a fully realized aspect of the story. Its connections and revelations to the overall franchise are unsatisfying and could be even insulting to the most loyal of fans and audiences. It may have a batch of clever moments, but the film fails to force itself out of the horrible mess that Boden and Fleck have conjured. Simply put, it’s the weakest Marvel film in over five years.
(Synopsis Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes) The story follows Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races. Set in the 1990s, Captain Marvel is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
CAPTAIN MARVEL hits theaters on March 8th, 2019.