Marvel Studios is back with the highly anticipated 21st entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel, and it’s… average at best and deeply flawed at worst.
Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as the titular hero (real name Carol Danvers) with no memory of her past, who crash lands on Earth and must work together with a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to defend the planet from an invading race of shapeshifting aliens called the Skrulls. Larson’s performance is good, as she actually proves she can convey emotion on-screen after the film’s trailers seemed to showcase a rather expressionless and bland hero. Larson brings a nice quippiness and generally excited attitude to the character that was not initially expected, and Samuel L. Jackson seems like he’s having the most fun of his MCU career. It’s also a pretty funny movie, the jokes that we’ve come to expect from Marvel movies are present in full force, getting several laughs from the audience spread over the entire runtime, and the film’s general and underlying tones also fit snugly into the universe without any departure from what a Marvel movie is supposed to feel like. Ben Mendelsohn is another pleasant surprise in his role as Talos, the Skrull leader. All in all, the acting, jokes, and overall feel of the movie are perfectly acceptable, but even a DiCaprio-esque performance could not overshadow the glaring flaws that lurk throughout the film.
The film’s main, overarching downfall is that it presents the audience with a somewhat interesting character at the beginning, but fails to make that character any more interesting throughout its entire runtime which is vitally important when trying to introduce a new character to audiences, especially in an origin story. The only growth Carol Danvers goes through over the course of the film is regaining her memory and learning to (suddenly and without much explanation or validation whatsoever) control her powers. Speaking of powers, her’s are seemingly limitless and unbeatable when she’s at full force, which begs the question, why? Why insanely overpower your hero in her first outing when you literally did nothing to warrant it? Just to give the Avengers more of a chance in round 2 against Thanos? Or just to give young girls a “strong female character” to look up to. Either way, it hurts the film. Captain Marvel may be a literal strong, powerful female, but as a character she’s about as strong as Bruce Banner when he’s not angry.
One consistent criticism of Marvel movies throughout the years is that they all too often feature weak and underdeveloped villains. And while Marvel Studios has done a much better job in recent years with their antagonists, Captain Marvel represents a sizable step backwards. At the beginning of the movie the Skrulls are made out to be the antagonists, with plans to use their shapeshifting powers to infiltrate Earth for all sorts of nefarious reasons. If you’re a fan of Marvel Comics, you no doubt already knew the Skrulls were going to exactly that from 2008 the fan favorite Secret Invasion storyline. But what you probably didn’t know was that in the happy, all of a sudden and annoyingly politically in touch MCU, the Skrulls are simply a misunderstood race of refugees who actually want to team up with Captain Marvel in order to escape persecution across the galaxy. Again, this begs the simple question of why? Why rip a great comic storyline from the page and instead of sticking to what made the Skrulls such a force in Marvel Comics, turn them into a sympathetic allegory for displaced and persecuted peoples? Not only is it extremely underwhelming and disappointing, but it’s also a slap in the face to comics readers who were ready to see the Skrulls finally wreak havoc in the MCU. You’d think Marvel would have learned their lesson from Iron Man 3. But it if it wasn’t obvious enough that they haven’t, they also finally showed their dedicated fans how Nick Fury lost his eye and adopted his badass, iconic eyepatch. He got his eye scratched out by Captain Marvel’s fucking cat. If that isn’t a colossal middle finger to every fan that’s been on the MCU journey from the beginning, I don’t know what is.
Captain Marvel has also received some backlash from for its so-called “feminist agenda.” Is it a feminist movie? For sure. Is that the worst part of the film? Not by a long shot, but it also holds the movie back far more than it moves it forward. Many of the “feminist moments” are jarring and feel out-of-place, like the writers all sat down, came up with five or six obvious nods and just decided to randomly add them in throughout the movie. The bottom line of the debate going on over the film’s feminist messages is that Wonder Woman did it three years earlier and 10 times better. Quite simply, Captain Marvel isn’t a catastrophic misstep by Marvel Studios. But it is a step in the wrong direction for a studio that usually reserves its plainly average films for its Ant-Man titles. But then again, Nick Fury didn’t lose his eye to a cat in either Ant-Man film which already puts both of those movies above Captain Marvel.