“Higher, further, faster.” What does that mean to you? Does it mean pushing yourself to the highest of heights? Whether that be professionally, socially, or personally. Does it mean going past your goals and reaching something you never imagined was even a possibility? Does it mean getting their even quic.. nah, son! Sometimes these catchy loglines are just that. Catchy loglines. It doesn’t take away from the sentiments they may nod to; but not every word that’s spoken or labeled on a movie poster needs to carry the weight of the world in it. Context matters. Additionally, representation and intention matter too.
Marvel Studios’ latest entry into the MCU attempts to balance all of that while delivering a unique origin story that also attempts to flesh out back story to fan favorite characters and progress the universe forward in preparation for “Avengers: Endgame.”
Does it do that? Oh God No! Does it have fun along the way? Yes but at a cost.
“Captain Marvel” aka “Carol Danvers” aka “Vers” (Brie Larson) is an extraterrestrial Kree warrior. Excuse me; noble Kree warrior hero, who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. She’s plagued by these recurring memories of another life as a U.S. Air Force pilot for several years. A mission gone wrong has Vers in the clutches of the Skrulls searching her mind for clues. After breaking out of captivity, she and the Skrulls crash land on Earth. With help from Shield Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), she tries to uncover the secrets of her past while harnessing her cosmic superpowers to end the war for good.
Expectations are a tricky thing. I explored a thought about what expectations can do to harm or help a film and a person’s critique of a movie. Are they fair? I mean, why not? They’re ours. Millions of dollars go in to publicity and advertising to market to us, the audience. Multiple trailers and TV spots are marketed to us to feel something, to connect, with a goal to buy a ticket. What would a fresh pie be without its aroma to set our expectations up for a delicious treat? I find this to be similar. Would I love to go into a movie completely cold and take in a story without any preconceived notions? Of course. And kudos to those folks out there that make it a challenge to do so while still being active in our FilmTwitter bubble. Glory to those patrons of cinema who don’t even know about a film’s release until they look up the showtimes in a local newspaper and buy their tickets at the box office window. Those were the days where a movie could be just that, a movie. And my initial digestion would be in its most appreciative form. Unbiased and uninformed.
Captain Marvel had a lot going for and against it. The expectations placed on its shoulders to deliver the first Female led MCU movie, long overdue of course, but a supreme task at hand and to do so in a way that doesn’t feel like we’ve seen this before.
Director’s Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck do a good job at crafting a unique origin story that feels fresh because of the device used to dispense exposition. There’s a machine the Skrulls use while Ver’s is held captive on their ship that cycles through her mind like an overhead projector. Its these scattered images of her memories that she doesn’t know are hers that give us a window into a child filled with obstacles. Obstacles from, friends, family, and other opposing forces. The inter cutting throughout the film do the most for championing the positive themes of this movie.
Being a female led and female co-directed, this movie hits at being a powerful message to little girls and boys about not allowing yourself to be counted down or out because of your gender. Uniquely it does this in a way that doesn’t feel over handed and very honest to the way Brie Larson portrays Carol Danvers.
It’s interesting the way the dissenters of this film have bashed the production for carrying a feminist agenda. Is that a bad thing? Is wanting to have representation in cinema and equal rights for all a bad thing. Anna and Ryan produced a film that was able to delicately give that, and with its box office take, somewhat silence those critics.
But let’s dig deeper.
I wasn’t on board with the casting of Brie Larson as Captain Marvel initially. Fresh off her Oscar win and not much before and no big box office hits after; there was an electricity or maybe a magnetism that didn’t fit my expectation for the portrayal. So, I could understand the camps that were negative towards this film from the beginning. As I peeled more of the layers back of my own thoughts after multiple viewings I sat on something. Maybe it’s not Brie Larson’s magnetism or unlikability as is stated foolishly by detractors; but their expectations being subverted in a marvelous way.
See what I did there?
Think about it. Wave been conditioned from an early age that female hero’s or superhero’s in general are supposed to fit in these particular boxes we as a society have created. Brie Larson portrays Carol Danvers completely against type. Credit to either her or Anna and Ryan for that choice. Brie Larson is not an unattractive woman at all. In this movie Carol has no sex appeal. She doesn’t wear salacious clothing or expose her body in gratuitous ways. She doesn’t even have a love interest in the film. Looking back at comics I’ve read, cartoons I watched or even in the current MCU; images of super-heroines have been reinforced as busty, sultry, emotionally volatile, yet powerful women.
Brie’s Carol has a dry wit about her and doesn’t go out of the way to be flirty or provocative. I, as a self-aware and comfortable male can admit this. I can admit that one of my favorite MCU hero’s is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. Remember how she entered the MCU in “Iron-Man 2”? Long red, curly hair. Bright red lipstick. Skin tight cat suit with a plunging V exposing glorious cleavage. One of her best action scenes was in “Avengers” (2012) where she takes down a group of bad guys in a mini skirt, sheer pantyhose, and her heaving breasts bouncing all around the scene. I would say to myself back then; “I’m not that guy.” After, watching Captain Marvel; I think I was. And that’s ok. I think a lot of us are, and it does go both ways too. Its ok for me to say that, as long I’m willing to come to grips with my subconscious expectations and how I project those sentiments into this genre. It’s also ok for me to admit this, yet still critique the film on its narrative and technical merits that didn’t work without being grouped in as misogynistic, sexist pig.
While I praise Anna and Ryan for the themes expressed in this movie and delivered on, all that focus was lost on the overarching story of “Captain Marvel.” This film proclaims its self to be a solo debut, but if we really look at things this is a long overdue prequel that lacks stakes. A good friend of mine put it even better describing this movie as a 2-hour Deus Ex Machina for Avengers: Endgame. And I think he’s right.
Our directors construct this story in spite of its place in the MCU. It felt to me Anna and Ryan never watched an MCU movie before. Regardless of how unfair this is; it can’t go without saying if this movie didn’t exist it would have no impact on any of the films that preceded it. Now that it does, its left ripples in the story arc like a butterfly effect that feels late to the party and retconning for retconning’s sake mistakenly and without care.
Skrulls are bad. However bold you felt it would be to twist our expectation in this film, it undermines the comics and potential future story lines to manifest because of this choice. Ben Mendelsohn is the real standout in this film portraying “Talos” the Skrull leader. He did an amazing job. His turn in character from bad guy to good guy just painted bad by the perpetrators of this great war is fine, but not for this movie. He delivers a solid performance through practical makeup and all and has a lot of heart, tender moments of comedy, and some amazing timing with charm. There’s an opportunity to play with plot but so much and its peculiar the sand box was stretched so far in this movie that Marvel would allow it.
We are set once on Earth, in 1995. While nostalgia was not a bad touch or over used; we’re about 13 years from the inception of the MCU with “Iron-Man” (2008). We have over a decade of stories and behaviors that this movie was to reinforce or flesh out and it didn’t do it nearly as much or completely defeated their characters core behaviors.
Most glaring is Nick Fury. From the beginning he’s been the calculated, cool, hard ass always one step ahead and we love it. This film portrays him as a wise cracking, gullible one liner machine that looks great with the use of the de-aging technology, but still runs and performs stunts like a near 70 year old man. It’s downright criminal what was done to him in the 3rd act which is one the biggest mysteries to his persona. How did Nick Fury lose his eye? In “Captain America: Winter Soldier” he exclaims to Cap “the last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye.” Because of this movie that line is cheapened because we find out that a goddamn cat scratched it out and without cause. A Cat!
I really don’t get this whole “Goose” thing either. Is it cool because the cat is named after a fictional character from “Top Gun”? Whoop dee do! The cats always around, adding nothing to the story except a mcguffiin to save our heroes when they need saving the most and its done so absurdly obvious. Nick Fury for some strange reason is like a giddy high schooler overly infatuated with this cat who is revealed to be an alien in cats clothing I guess, that claws out his eye for picking him up; even though he’s been petting and holding it all movie long!
A lot of the characters in this movie were given the same bad hand. Unfortunately, their performances couldn’t cover up the warts in this movie. The likes of Jude Law, Clark Gregg, Gemma Chan, Lashana Lynch looked good on screen; for the most part (Agent Coulson’s de-aging seem to be skimped out on) all the characters felt shallow and not fleshed out and unable to anchor Brie’s performance. Like I mentioned early her unnatural superhero disposition, mixed with her propensity to always want to fight makes her character seem too dry and without a supporting cast that was written that well, we’re left with a movie that leaves much to be desired.
I feel like I’m forgetting someone… … ...? Oh, Lee Pace’s “Ronin”. That’s because he was a throw in character that was unnecessary but because we’ve established his presence almost 20 years earlier on this side of the galaxy it unroots a lot of what we learned in “Guardians of the Galaxy”. And Annette Bening; phoned in one of the worst marvel movie performances to date and looked so out of place in this world.
Sprinkle in an unmemorable score and an overuse of 90’s pop music at the most inappropriate times; all were left with is an overdue female empowerment super hero movie for Marvel that works better in space than on earth. Has great star fighting and VFX. Undercut by important yet subversive direction, a below average script with unnatural dialogue that packages a Phase 1 prequel that does little to advance the overarching story and not as SPECIAL as we wanted it to be.
KOLBYTOLDME RATING- 6/10
Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Writers: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law
Run Time: 124 mins