Review – Captain Marvel (2019)

by Armando Vanegas

Captain Marvel is the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after the unforgettable events that occurred in Avengers: Infinity War. Since Infinity War left things in a way that made the audience curious about what would happen next, it was interesting to see what they come up with. All things considered, the next movie had to be something notable and memorable to leave the audience wanting more. Being that Captain Marvel was their first solo female superhero movie, I wanted to see what they could do with this material, and see if this would satisfying my appetite until Endgame came out. DC did a good job in creating an entertaining movie with Wonder Woman, which handled similar material of women who are able to be fighters in their own world and struggling to find their place and humanity in ours. While it’s admirable that Marvel finally put a female superhero at the forefront in one of their movies, this is still a “by the numbers” origin story that you’ve seen time and time again. Still, it’s watchable and it will be pleasing for those just wanting a movie that just cuts to the chase to provide a mostly standalone Sci-Fi action adventure movie. Marvel competently made a movie that seemed to hit the mark for a lot of people and that’s cool. It will be most agreeable for those who are either the most casual Marvel fans or the diehards who always rewatch all the movies leading up to their latest chapter.

Brie Larson is good as a young warrior from the alien planet of Kree named Vers, who has amnesia. She goes on a search for her identity while attempting to capture another enemy alien, a Skrull that has invaded Earth. Once she realizes that she had a life on Earth as a woman named Carol, she captures the attention of SHIELD agents that get in the way of her plans. Larson has solid screen presence, but I don’t know if I’m sold on her character yet. She feels too restrained and controlled. It’s too bad because I know there’s more she can showcase as an actor. I also wasn’t that invested in her character’s origin story. Hopefully, the filmmakers can find a way to make her a more compelling character. Director Taika Waititi was able to make Thor the goofy dude bro he always was in Thor: Ragnarok so I have hope. I also hope there’s more consistency with who she is as a character. Sometimes, she’s supposed to be totally unaware of what’s going on because she’s an alien but then other times, she sounds like a reoccurring Buffy character. I don’t mind any of that, but they need to figure out if she’s going to be serious, funny, or a balance of the two instead of the two extremes that depend on what the scenes require of her. At the same time, she’s successful in handling the jarring inconsistencies of her character, which says a lot about her as an actress. But, sometimes introductions can be tricky and hopefully in the sequel, they’ll have things figured out once they know what they want to do with the character.

A lot of the world around Carol is interesting on a superficial level, but it’s barely explored enough to take it all in. It also doesn’t help that Vers spends most of the movie with amnesia, so it limits who she might be as a character prior to her introduction to the movie. They try to make up for it with the random flashbacks thrown into random parts of the movie to remedy this issue, but it feels forced and pointless. Jude Law is good as Vers’ blunt yet caring mentor, Yon-Rogg. He’s solidly juxtaposed against Carol and how that plays out at the end is an interesting direction to take his character. Ben Mendelsohn is compelling as the main Skrull villain, Talos. It was refreshing to see who he was and discover his motivations, which contained all these dimensions and layers. The way things culminate at a certain point was a nice change of pace and made me compelled by what’s going to happen next. Samuel L. Jackson is great as returning SHIELD agent Nick Fury, but that’s to be expected. While he was skeptical about Carol and all the things going on around her, he had the most logical reactions to what was going on. He had every right to doubt things and stop Vers when he needed to, but the movie gives him a reason to think otherwise and he sells that well. Even when the rest of the movie stumbles at times, he remained the major constant in making this entertaining. While it’s not his story, he still remained a compelling character in his own right.

I was interested when I heard that Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden were directing it because I enjoyed their breakthrough movie, Half Nelson. But the thing about that movie is that it was a very small scale low-budget character study. However, the strengths they had in that movie are present here outside of the standard Marvel story beats. They’re very good at character development as they know how to allow the characters to have interactions that feel natural to the situation, while also moving to progress the individual arcs and the overall story when the characters need to. Having good actors and letting them add their own idiosyncrasies to the characters really help too. When these directors lean into this strength, it turns the movie into a buddy cop movie from the ’90s when the focus stays on Vers and Nick, which is for the better. Their interactions work because the movie is allowed to breathe and allow the characters to process the intense situation they find themselves in. Even the moments with Ben Mendelsohn as the villain in his downtime are effective because we get to see what makes him tick and it allows Mendelsohn gets to have some fun in the role in a way that it actually adds more dimensions to the character.

The feminist angle that the movie had was effective for the most part. I probably would’ve liked it more if Wonder Woman didn’t exist and did it better, but I get why it’s there and why it’s so on the nose. Some people need this idea of “women being warriors and having the power to fight for what’s “right” to be hit over their head sometimes. Both movies address them in different ways with Wonder Woman having a more straight-faced, yet optimistic approach to this message, but it doesn’t make it any less necessary to include here. The worst examples of this in this movie were the eye-rolling fight sequence set to “I’m Just a Girl” or when a man tells Vers to smile. This aspect of the movie works best during an extended sequence in which Carol is reunited with her best friend, Monica Rambow and her daughter. Lashana Lynch as Monica Rambow holds her own in the scenes with Larson. She gives Monica a sense of charisma and friendliness that seems to rub off on Larson in their scenes together. But Lynch also retains Monica’s moments of austerity and dedication, due to her character’s background in the Air Force. There’s also the scenes where Vers is bonding with Rambow’s daughter that seems to capture the Wonder Woman magic they were attempting to capture. This really felt like the most genuine parts of what the movie was trying to do and it feels like she’s really talking to all the little girls in the audience, who will be likely be inspired by the genuine message of how women can be fighters and be their own person.

If you’ve seen enough Marvel movies, you know what you’re getting right away. It never threatens to stray from its very predictable path. However, its female perspective gives it a more distinctive feel than other movies in the MCU. Captain Marvel feels too all over the place as a character to look forward to what’s going to happen in her future. I guess her powers are cool, but the movie didn’t really get me all that excited. Brie Larson is okay but with a better script, she could really be something special. Still, she gives a solid performance in the role considering what’s she’s given. Samuel L. Jackson is a big highlight of the movie and his moments with Vers are the most memorable in the entire movie. The rest of the movie is fine. There’s a lot of CGI action like always. We get to see more battles in space, which are cool. However, it’s more of the same of what Marvel has given us before in the space department. I did like how the climactic fight was relatively smaller to how they always end. It might seem underwhelming to some but it was something different that I appreciated. As this is an origin story, it’s understandable. I just hope they really try to mix things up in the next one. While the movie contains an inconsistent main character, tone, and story, it still makes for a decent entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to some welcome choices from the directors and the actors that make the movie a serviceable experience.

I am giving Captain Marvel a 3 out of 5 Hairpieces!

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