21 movies deep and the Marvel Cinematic Universe have finally produced their first female-led movie. Sorry Black Widow, The Wasp, Scarlett Witch, Lady Sif, Jessica Jones, Gamora, Peggy Carter, and Aunt May; your time will come. Now, its time for the Captain to lead the future of the MCU. And she brings a nice bit of branding to boot.
Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as the titular Captain, Carol Danvers, who is an amnesiac warrior with the Starforce, a bunch of disposable one-dimensional aliens that fight for the Kree against the shape-shifting Skrulls. In pursuit of the Skrulls, Danvers crash lands back on Earth, in the alien world of 1990s Los Angeles. There she teams up with de-aged Nick Fury (Jackson) to track them down.
Off the back of Black Panther, there might be an expectation that Marvel Studios will deliver another ground breaking and cultural impactful superhero film. That ground-breaking, culturally relevant film does exist; in the form of DC’s Wonder Woman. Captain Marvel sadly falls short, saved only by a tight and thematically resonant final act. The first 2 acts are fairly mediocre as Danvers and the story meander after the Skrulls, with no feeling of stakes present and a bland origin story that is made out to be interesting through editing.
After some rushed exposition about the Kree/Skrull War, Captain Marvel lands on Earth and life is injected into the film in the form of the always snappy Samuel L. Jackson. Danvers and Fury’s dynamic is the stand-out of the film as we finally see what type of person Carol Danvers is; snarky, defiant and resourceful. Like many other Marvel heroes though, Danvers delivers cheap quips, with no sense of heroism in her. That is until the final act. In a metaphorical and literal sense, Danvers learns who she is and in doing so becomes the most powerful version of herself; unstoppable and independent. A powerful message for everyone about self-worth, that needed more screen time to really hit home.
Another flaw of the Marvel films is the underdeveloped villain, and despite what trailers suggest, it is not the morphing Skrulls. The Skrulls, the leader of which is played by Ben Mendelsohn, are not the villains of the film and in a surprise twist, are given complexion and a moving storyline. Mendelsohn has some stellar comedic moments as well as nuanced emotional moments that are conveyed through the lathered make-up and prosthetic, making me wish for more screen time from him.
A number of the film’s issues are how it presents something interesting but never takes the time to explore further. Carol’s investigation into her past is too disjointed to follow and build cohesively. It gives the feeling of something missing, like a forgotten memory, but is more frustrating than empathetic. Characters like Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg and Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau never have enough screen time to feel fleshed out and become forgettable.
Much like the character, the movie finds out who it really is, a little too late though. The 3rd act in most superhero films are usually the films failings (i.e. Black Panther, Wonder Woman). Captain Marvel saves its best till the end. The visuals of Captain Marvel body-slamming an alien ship, and dispatching alien grunts to No Doubt’s Just A Girl brings giddy, fist-pumping joy.
Captain Marvel is a stock standard Marvel film; there are some jokes, there are some satisfiable action sequences, and there are some heroic moments. Sadly, Captain Marvel, never goes beyond that; but for more diverse stories, audiences need to accept some misfires.