Captain Marvel

captain_marvel_ver2STARS3It’s hard to believe, but after 20 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Captain Marvel is the first to star a female lead.  I still don’t understand why we didn’t get a Black Widow movie back in 2010 when that character was introduced in Iron Man 2.  The DC Extended Universe beat Marvel to the punch by two years with Wonder Woman, a critical and box office hit in the summer of 2017.  Much has been made of Captain Marvel‘s trailblazing status.  I mean it was released on International Women’s Day.  The drama is so retro.  Ok so yes, the feature is set in 1995 but it actually feels like it was made back then.

Captain Marvel is a prequel to the entire MCU.  The adventure concerns an officer in the United States Air Force named Carol Danvers.  This is the saga of how she became Captain Marvel through a series of events, Yup it’s another origin story.  The problem is she has amnesia. We know who she is.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t, so she wanders through a large part of the film on an “emotional journey” with her mind in a funky haze.  That makes her personality kind of nil.  She interacts with a youthful looking Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury minus the eyepatch.  For once the de-aging technology looks pretty amazing.  Jackson gets to see out of both eyes and he has a nice repartee with Brie Larson.  He helps her unravel the mystery of her past.  Also of note is Ben Mendelsohn who plays a shapeshifting Skrull villain named Talos.  As of late, he’s been playing underwritten parts that could simply be labeled as “old evil white guy” (Rogue One, Ready Player One).  Here he gets a part with depth worthy of his talents.  He rises to the challenge.  Talos is not all that he seems and he’s a highlight in a movie in desperate need of them.

The best scenes of Captain Marvel take place on Planet C-53.  That’s Earth to you newbies. Before we can get there, the production is saddled with the worst 20-minute intro ever to grace an MCU film.  It all takes place in space.  Carol Danvers, who thinks her name is Vers, reports to commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) who is a Kree.  She believes herself to be one as well.  She ends up on Earth which is the site for a galactic conflict between these two alien populations, the Skrulls and the Krees.  Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are a filmmaking duo known for indies (Half Nelson, It’s Kind of a Funny Story).  It’s the quieter moments where Captain Marvel shines.  Carol meets her longtime friend from the U.S. Air Force, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch).  The two women have a conversation about something other than a man.  Bechtel test, check.

I hate to invoke a cliché like “been there done that” but it’s too fitting to reject.  The overall sensibility of the presentation is conventionality.  As you’d predict for a film set in the 90s, there are nods to the trappings of the era.  Blockbuster Video, Radio Shack, Blackberry cell phones, CD ROMs that take forever to load are all visual gags.  The 90s infused soundtrack means we can listen to tunes like No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” while she engages in combat or hear Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” as she enters Mar-Vell’s (Annette Bening ) quarters.  Brief musical snippets pop up here and there.  However, their presence is far less memorable than the way Guardians utilized songs from the 1960s and 1970s.  The problems go deeper than the timeworn habit of invoking familiar references to elicit laughs.  Captain Marvel is encumbered with a narrative that is surprisingly old hat. Expectations in 2019 demand a plot with more innovation than the formulaic story beats presented here.

Captain Marvel was a highly anticipated production. The ending of 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War teased the introduction of this character.  She is clearly going to be an important part in next month’s Avengers: Endgame. I still believe this is an acceptable amuse-bouche for the upcoming main course.  The world has been waiting with bated breath.  Sadly this is not the significant episode we imagined.  We waited over a decade for this.  Had this film come out back in 2008 when the MCU began, the simple novelty of a female-led superhero movie would have been enough.  A decade later and things have changed.  Now we also need the thrills to be extraordinary too.  Instead, they’re rather ordinary.  For the first time, Marvel is struggling to keep up with the spirit of the times.

03-07-19

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11 Responses to “Captain Marvel”

  1. smilingldsgirl Says:

    I enjoyed the film. I actually didn’t mind the introduction. For me the problems started with the middle section when they are at the house and there is one exposition dump after another. Then it picks back up for a rousing finale. It kind of reminded me of Age of Ultron in that regard. Both get sagged down with characters hanging out at a house in the middle for me but are overall entertaining

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    • That first 20 minutes had me worried but I was entertained by the rest. It’s just that it all felt so ordinary. This doesn’t feel like a 2019 movie – more like 2009.

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      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I can see that. It did kind of remind me of the early XMen movies but I liked the setup personally of the mystery of who she is. We haven’t really had a mystery in the MCU. It was just the expository scenes that threw me. Like Ultron, I think they were stuck in a spot of having to make a good movie but also connect it to the plot of the cinematic universe, which I suppose is a problem with this type of storytelling

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  2. I haven’t seen it yet but even though this film is premised on women empowerment, I have reservations about the hype. I feel like after all the franchise has been through, they’re really overselling this installment in the franchise.

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  3. Much enjoyed the 2nd half more than the first. That first 20-30 minutes is kind of rough. Overall, a mid-tier superhero/Marvel movie. I imagine the sequel will be better with Larsen feeling more comfortable in the role and a different story.

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    • I wasn’t particularly captivated by Brie Larson in this. That’s strange because I am a big fan of her independent film work (Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now, Trainwreck, Room)

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      • I just think that it takes some time for most actors to truly feel comfortable with playing a huge comic book character. I think she’ll get better as will the writing for her character.

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  4. I give this 3 1/2 stars. I enjoyed most of it. It had fun, comedy and plenty of action. So yes, it worked.

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