Captain Marvel: A (Spoiler-Free) Review

Joshua Jones

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel has set itself up to be a landmark film.  Not only does the movie directly precede April’s Avengers: Endgame, a promising triumphant finale to ten years of build up, but it is also the first ever female-led movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The latter point is probably most notable, given that superhero movies (and movies in general) have predominantly starred burly, white men. And not only is Captain Marvel a woman, but many suggest that she is the necessary force to defeat the Avengers’ greatest threat: Thanos.  However, for movies of this nature, many moviegoers fear that a “feminist agenda” will be overly emphasized, making Captain Marvel’s gender her most important characteristic compared to her powers or relationships with others. While I’m happy to announce that that is not the case, there is very little else that Captain Marvel does well.

 

While I won’t go as far as to say that it is a terrible movie, I found little enjoyment in Captain Marvel’s god-like alien comes to Earth in search of a MacGuffin plot line.  As expected, helming the story is Captain Marvel, otherwise known as Vers, played by Brie Larson.  Vers is introduced as a member of the alien race Kree, and she is shown to have strong energy-based powers, inhibited by her superiors, that she can fire from her arms.  However, the most engaging aspect of the character is her amnesia. Vers frequently has visions of life on Earth, a world unfamiliar to her. More specifically, she sees a mysterious woman who becomes the crux of the device she is tasked to find.  After a mission goes wrong and she falls to Earth in 1995, she is set on a journey to discover the secret of her past with the aid of Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who, with the help of some absolutely amazing CGI, appears much younger. Racing the dynamic duo to find this secret device are the Skrulls, who were the target of the aforementioned failed mission and are a high-priority target to the Kree.  The Skrulls have the ability to shapeshift into a copy of any humanoid that they see, even gaining a small amount of the humanoid’s recent memories. This ability subverts the expectations of the characters and the audience alike, creating some relatively strong tension. Before watching the movie, I was most excited for this device, as it had a lot of potential for shocking reveals. To my dismay it was highly underutilized and was only a concern for short periods of the time.  

 

I was also disappointed by the how Vers gains the power to challenge the movie’s final threat because it is entirely unrelated to the theme or plot.  Plotwise, there is very little that the movie tries to do other than explain the backstory of Captain Marvel in preparation for Endgame.  Throughout basically the whole film, Vers discovers her past through flashbacks, documents, and interactions with others. But after all of this there is no major revelation to be made.  These secrets were revealed at a painfully slow pace, causing me to lose interest very quickly. Even the twist that the movie introduces isn’t all that surprising for well-versed MCU fans, and it is very quickly accepted by Vers without any hesitation.  The movie doesn’t even try to make audiences doubt the truth later on in the film, which would have been very easy.

 

Additionally, the cinematography bothered me in multiple scenes.  For the most part, action scenes were able to hold up, besides the handful of times that the camera cut away before an action was finished.  This occasionally confused me (especially in a fight scene early on in the film), but I was always able to figure out what was going on, even if it took a moment of thought.  Another scene early in reminded me of a discount version of Star Trek or Star Wars in how spaceships careened around close quarters, and the camera took the perspective of a blaster’s reticle.  But when Captain Marvel does it well, like in the “final showdown” of the movie, the cinematography and  the awesome effects help to showcase Vers’ unbelievably strong abilities. However, in basically every other scene I was absolutely bored of  the static, lifeless shots. By the time the credits rolled, I thought I might have just been over-analyzing the cinematography until the first after-credits scene rolled (no spoilers, don’t worry) which was very clearly a scene from the upcoming Avengers: Endgame.  Watching the minute-long scene was like a breath of fresh air with how dynamic the camera moved and focused on different subjects.  The shots were creative, and always drew your eye towards what was important, as opposed to the bland, generic ones in Captain Marvel.

 

However, my biggest qualm with Captain Marvel was the poor development of its title character.  I’m not sure whether it was the fault of Brie Larson or the script (if not both), but Vers is devoid of character.  While she has moments of charm and wit with Marvel’s classic one-liners, as well as some sweet conversations with a younger character who is introduced towards the end of the film, Vers is made out to have the emotional range of a cardboard box.  Although it is somewhat fitting given that the movie quickly establishes that Vers has amnesia, the lack of a personality is odd for the MCU; characters like Tony Stark, Peter Quill, and Peter Parker are recognized for their likable and at times flawed characters.  Samuel L. Jackson imbues the story with the majority of its fun. Nick Fury is more “laugh out loud” funny compared to his iconic “smooth and secretive” brand of humor seen in earlier films like Captain America: Winter Soldier and Avengers.  This may be off-putting to some fans, but I was happy to have any levity in an otherwise boring story.  The only element of his humor that made me raise an eyebrow were the several times when Fury lost all semblance of the future director to a secret agency by baby-talking to a cat named, Goose.  Nevertheless, the characterization helps to showcase that Fury is much younger, and has experienced less in the field. Not to mention that the CGI used to make Jackson appear younger was so amazing that in many scenes I forgot that the actor wasn’t that young.
Given Marvel’s recent track record and the hype for the ever-approaching Avengers: Endgame, I was expecting a lot more out of Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel.  For those reasons, it is both shocking and sad that Captain Marvel is a flop.  There are some enjoyable moments of humor and action alike, but the film lacked a solid plot and heart.  Vers could have been a well-developed character, but instead she just felt generic and unmotivated. Neither the plot nor the action sequences would inspire me to recommend this film to anyone besides the most die-hard Marvel fans or those who doesn’t want to risk being lost during Endgame.