Captain Marvel Review: The MCU’s first leading heroine comes with a mixed bag of emotions
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been more than lacking great female representation and many, including myself, have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of a strong leading heroine. That’s what made the arrival of Captain Marvel so important and, dare I say, marvelous, even if it came with some volatile controversy. Seeing fake reviews for the film and all of the hate that was being spewed over out of context quotes from Larson gave the film bad attention, before it even hit theaters, that it didn’t deserve at all. All of the drama took the wind out of Captain Marvel’s sails, but even as someone who found the trailers to be unimpressive, I was floored with excitement as I entered the theater.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been a big fighter to get some bad-ass female leads in the MCU and I felt Larson has put out some stellar and underappreciated performances that made her a great pick for Captain Marvel. Maybe it was because I saw this film as a way for some my favorite comic book heroine’s, like Zatanna, Spider-Gwen, and maybe even give Elektra another chance, to make their own marks, or remarks, on the big screen. Either way, I was ready to see what Captain Marvel was going to give me.
What I got sort of surprised me and now after putting in some thought and thinking about everything I saw, I think the most accurate thing I can say about the film is that it’s…fine. Yep, just fine. Not great but far from anything bad. But, why does that not sit well with me? Honestly, it’s a film that’s left a non-existent impression on me which I feel is almost worse than it leaving a good or a bad one and it’s not something I say generally, even for the MCU movies I don’t like. However, these general feelings don’t necessarily sum up how I currently feel, and this is a film that definitely deserves more thought put into it. So, here we go.
Where I think the film came together the most is from the dynamic of Larson’s Carol Danvers and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. The great one liners they delivered and their genuine chemistry is worth the price of a ticket alone. Especially for Larson, who I think brought the confident and tough attitude of Carol Danvers to the forefront of the film and her performance felt reminiscent to one my favorite films of her, Free Fire. Jackson undeniably stole the show though as we finally get to see Fury’s more light-hearted side and what he could bring with more screen-time.
Now, while the film was very funny throughout with a normal number of misfires, I felt that the film relied way too heavily on Captain Marvel being a sly and cocky person. So much so, in fact, I kept thinking that Larson was told to do some kind of Tony Stark impression, which is a problem I’ve always felt in some of the MCU origin films, and her one-liner personality consumed the character. The film never gives enough time between the action and comedy to let viewers understand what’s going on inside Carol Danver’s head.
A lot of this had to do with how her origin story is told which was both good and bad at times. To the film’s credit, Captain Marvel’s origin is told in a pretty fresh way, for the MCU, and it tries to break the formula with her having to try to remember her own past. It even leads to a great sequence where the film’s antagonists, the Skrulls, had Carol relive her memories and remix her origin story a bit. However, the wheels kind of fell off of her origin story as it’s so easy to piece together that it’s completely underwhelming when she pieced it all together. By the time Danvers, figured everything out, viewers could easily piece it together and it takes away any and every surprise that could come.
The way the origin is told also played into a huge problem with the film’s feminist ideas and the messaging was so weak and typical that I honestly couldn’t fathom what any internet trolls were upset about. It’s more than likely some kind of personal insecurity, but there’s very little we get to know about Carol’s past that seemed to be mostly filled with moments of her being told she’s not good enough by men. These scenes were so short and so unimpactful that there was never enough context given to these situations and I felt as if I was forced to feel a certain way. Context is always important, especially in an origin story, and even though I found there to be some powerful imagery in the film’s final act, it never felt earned or even meaningful because there was no context around it for it to feel important.
There was also another feminist message that just didn’t land for me with Carol being constantly told to keep her emotions in check by her Kree companion Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). I saw what the film was going for with a small commentary on women being seen as “too emotional” to make decisions and keep control, but viewers are literally dropped into the film without any context to their relationship or even who the Kree even really are that this also came across as forced feelings.
Honestly, I could’ve done without any of this kind of messaging as its seen in other movies and all it does is just point fingers at the other side without really saying anything. There’s actually a discussion between Danvers and her Earth friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) about unity and what it meant for them to work together as women. It would’ve been nice to see more positive messaging like this and to maybe see more parallels between Carol’s Earth and Kree lives. Maybe there could’ve been more bonding between her and Gemma Chan’s Minn-Erva that could’ve mirrored her relationship with Maria that showcases this idea of unity. Especially when thinking about a plot twist that occurs later in the film, these kinds of relationships and themes would have given the film a sense of complexity that it so desperately lacks.
Frankly, that had the worst part of Captain Marvel’s story is that its titular character doesn’t really have any complexity or character arc. She starts the film as a bad-ass hero and ends just the same. The film’s complexity really comes from its antagonist, Skrull leader Talos (Ben Mendelson), who is shown to have conflicting feelings towards his situation and is given both hilarious and intriguing lines that are enhanced from Mendelson’s excellent performance. Honestly, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) is given a tougher decision that he actually shows struggle with than Carol Danvers is ever given in the film.
It’s also worth noting that the film, for taking place before most of the other MCU movies, doesn’t really add much to the universe at all. While I actually think the film utilizes its 90s aesthetics and references pretty well without over-using them and there’s some solid comic references and great Stan Lee tributes and cameos, every other universe reference made my eyes roll in agony. A lot of the other references are either used to tongue and cheek jokes or are so on-the-nose and dumb I couldn’t help but groan in disgust. I also have to say that while I enjoyed most of the effects and action sequences of Captain Marvel, the effects on her face when she fully regains her powers gives her face a synthetic look that I just couldn’t ignore and was incredibly distracting.
When fully thinking about Captain Marvel as a whole, I think the best way to describe it is that it is perfect for a Skrull. In the short term, it’ll be looked upon as a fun superhero flick with a solid female lead that’s a perfectly serviceable watch. However, in the long term, it will be easily forgotten in the grand scheme of the MCU and many will see it as a movie that wasn’t as great as it should have and deserves to be.