"Captain Marvel" Review: A Speed Bump On The Way To "End Game"
We’ve had an amazing journey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) thus far! What the studio has been able to do in growing from 2008’s Iron Man to Captain Marvel is incredible. With half the universe gone and the other in peril, Captain Marvel, while full of great chemistry amongst its cast and female empowerment, feels like a speed bump on the road to Avengers: End Game.
The call went out from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) via an old two way pager in Avengers: Infinity War during the end credits of the film. We saw the iconic symbol for Captain Marvel, and this weekend in theaters we get our answer as to who she is and what her powers are, kinda. Set in the 90’s, Vers aka Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) doesn’t remember much about her past but sees it in glimpses within her dreams. She’s being prepared for battle by her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) of the Kree race. Their enemy are shape-shifters called Skrulls. After an interaction with the Skrulls ends with her landing on planet C-53 aka Earth, Vers must hunt for the Skrulls who landed with her while trying to make sense of her past. Her crash into the local Blockbuster brings a young Nick Fury to the site, and thus begins a buddy comedy as only Marvel can do.
The issue with Captain Marvel is that the first two acts of the film are a small, intimate tale that viewers would have ate up in 2011. The magnitude of what’s going on in the 2019 MCU is so big, that Carol Danvers backstory seems so insignificant in the scheme of it all. I realize it’s not, but the convention of storytelling used by writer/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck is all over the place for the first two thirds of the film. It starts out as a mystery, Hangover-esque tale and then becomes a buddy comedy and is heavy handed in making sure its main character knows that she needs to stay in line. It’s also missing an internal clock (a device in film in which the characters are moving to a deadline) to help us move toward the end of the film. So the search for Skrulls doesn’t have any real weight to it other than what the characters tell us.
Once you get to the final act of the film, things take off! Suddenly, we have an engaging film that you feel more invested in. Don’t get me wrong, this film is packed with brilliant performances by Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, and Ben Mendelsohn as Talos/Keller (in that order). The chemistry of the cast and the way they bounce dialogue off of each other is what excuses the first part of the film. Even smaller roles like Carol’s best friend, Maria (Lashana Lynch) and her role model, Mar-Vell (Annette Bening), are nice character performance additions. The final act also gives us something to run toward in regard to impending danger.
As the marketing for this film suggests, there is a strong message of female empowerment that’s great to see, especially for little girls who get to see a powerful female superhero on the big screen! The 90’s references and soundtrack for the film (while the songs are a bit on the nose coupled with each scene) is a nostalgia fest for those of us who lived through them! The one other problem I had is that the film gives us an understanding of how Captain Marvel obtained her powers, but does not tell the extent nor give an actual clear description of them for us to understand what they are and why the internets are saying she’s so powerful. So be sure to sit next to a fanboy/girl who can explain it to you if you don’t know the history like me.
Overall, the film is another decent entry to the MCU, but it just doesn’t have the same bite and excitement in storytelling that the films released in Phase 3 has had. It will be great to see her in the MCU going forward and she is a welcomed addition. Look, speed bumps are necessary, keep us safe and you have to go over them in order to get to your destination. This is a safe entry installment into the broader franchise and I wish it was more! As always, be sure to stick round through the final credit sequences!