I know it’s been quite a while since I did a movie review, but you know how it is: life just gets in the way. Between school, work, karate, and all the other things I do, going and sitting in a theater for several hours just hasn’t fit into my agenda. This past week though I finally got a prime opportunity to see, and talk about, a movie that’s still current and timely. Of course I’m talking about none other than the latest MCU blockbuster, Captain Marvel.
In this film, which takes place long before most other inclusion in the MCU (1995 to be exact), Vers, an elite soldier of the alien Kree Empire, is captured by the Skrulls (whom the Kree are at war with), and crash-lands on Earth. While awaiting rescue by the rest of her team, she learns the shape-shifting Skrulls have infiltrated Earth and the planet will likely be destroyed by the Kree. This brings her into contact with then low-level SHIELD agent Nick Fury, who she teams up with to stop both the Skrulls and the Kree from destroying the planet–while at the same time going on a journey of self-discovery that reveals to her she is actually long-lost human pilot Carol Danvers, with powers that rival anything in the known universe.
First of all, let’s just acknowledge that this movie had a little hype surrounding it. And by a little, I mean A LOT. Seriously, it was crazy. And honestly, the trailers made it look pretty awesome. But does the actual Captain Marvel film live up to its illustrious reputation?
Look, I won’t deny that this was a fun movie. I certainly didn’t check my watch during the whole runtime and I was pretty engrossed in the action, of which there was plenty. It filled in some plot holes in the MCU, like where the heck the Tesseract has been for the last 50-plus years if humans had it since the original Captain America movie. Come to think of it, there’s a lot of captains in Marvel, aren’t there? So is Carol Danvers or Steve Rogers the superior officer? Just kidding, it’s Carol. No contest. I mean, come on. She single-handedly defeated a fleet of Kree warships and beat up her entire team of super-soldiers without breaking a sweat. She’s far and away the most powerful hero we’ve seen in the Marvel universe, with the possible exception of Doctor Strange (and that’s a whole different argument). So if you came to this movie looking for a good time and plenty of light-hearted humor combined with quippy one-liners and awesome CGI-laden fight sequences, you’ll probably have a good time.
Oh, and did you know this was a feminist movie? I sure didn’t. Also, that was sarcasm. Obviously one of the big selling points for Captain Marvel is that it’s headlined by a female superhero–a leading lady being a first for the MCU and a fine addition to what’s honestly a criminally male-stuffed lineup. Really, who else is there? Black Widow. Scarlet Witch. And Gamora! Oh wait, she’s dead. Yep, that’s pretty much it. Geez, Marvel. This much-needed injection of diversity into the MCU goes a long way toward solving that problem, making Carol Danvers the most powerful of the Avengers and also just a really fun character. Brie Larson did a fantastic job in this movie–with what she was given to work with. More on that in a second. But her attitude instantly endears her to the audience, as well as her struggle with balancing her cold, logical Kree warrior side and her emotional human identity–pretty much the crux character arc of the entire movie and a pretty thinly-veiled jab at how women are treated in society at large. With all the cultural shifts that are going on right now in this country and around the world, I think Captain Marvel couldn’t have come at a better time. A lot of young women seeing this movie are sure to be inspired, and Danvers serves as a pretty good role model with an understandable inner struggle. Seriously, Kree culture is pretty sexist if you ask me.
That said, all the feminist imagery in the movie can sometimes come off as–how do I put this?–heavy-handed. There’s certainly not much effort put into making the women-empowering message of the movie subtle. Not that there should be, at all! I’m just saying that sometimes when a story becomes more about making a social point and less about filling out its fictional world and characters, that’s were you can run into some problems–and it’s where Captain Marvel stumbles a bit. The big picture is there, but the details are missing. As great as it was seeing Samuel L. Jackson playing a younger, more carefree version of taciturn super-spy Fury, there’s not a whole lot of explanation put into why he lost his sense of humor between now and The Avengers (unless he’s bitter about the whole eye thing, which was hilariously underplayed). I also appreciated the movie’s pivot to the Kree being the real villains and the Skrulls being basically persecuted refugees (hey look, there’s another social commentary point!). Jude Law was criminally underutilized in his role as Carol’s mentor-turned-nemesis and was pretty much totally forgettable. And remember how Lee Pace made a big deal about how his stiff-as-a-board character Ronan from Guardians 1 was going to be delved more deeply into in this movie? Yeah, so much for that. Ronan was unfortunately just as snore-inducing as ever. And for someone who just found out her best friend is back from the dead, half-alien, and with superpowers, Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau seems to be okay with it pretty fast. I’m not saying any of these actors were bad or it’s their fault some of these plot strings seemed contrived and uninspired. I’m just saying.
It didn’t feel like the movie went into a lot of trouble to fill out any characters other than Carol herself, and even that’s pretty questionable. I mean, for someone who believes she’s an interstellar alien warrior and superior to humans in every way, she takes the whole you’re-actually-one-of-us shocker pretty well, doesn’t she? Too well if you ask me. I just think the movie could have made a much bigger deal about her coming to terms with her identity and the struggle of logic vs. emotion, human vs. Kree if it really wanted to make a feminist point, instead of reverting to the much more ham-fisted tactic of her blasting Yon-Rogg through a mountain when he tried to mansplain her (which admittedly was a pretty awesome scene).
My Rating: 7/10
Look, after all that, please don’t get me wrong: I thought Captain Marvel was a good movie. Good, but not great. It was an engaging but ultimately rather uninspired addition to the Marvel universe that felt at times like it was just an extended prequel chapter to Avengers: Endgame. It was fun, but it didn’t feel like it brought anything new to the table that other MCU films before it hadn’t–other than a female lead, which was totally awesome. I respect that Captain Marvel was trying to be a movie of ideas with its heavy reliance of the plight of women and refugees, and just people who are different. I just think the whole thing could have been done with a little more art and finesse. It’s not even close to the worst Marvel film (that is solely forever the domain of Iron Man 2), but it’s not the best, either. I will say though that I look forward to seeing more of Danvers’s interaction with the other Avengers, and hopefully her taking charge in the fight against Thanos–based on Larson’s performance in this movie, that promises to be very rewarding indeed.