It’s been a while since I caught any film, but it felt like I had to go catch Captain Marvel before Endgame drops.
Not the best movie, not the worst.
The thing with Captain Marvel is that it’s a pretty bog standard origin story. There’s nothing amazing or special tonally, plot-wise or character-wise. It just…is.
The plot is pretty threadbare. Heroine has amnesia, goes on a quest, finds out about her past, fights against the villains. Honestly, even the plot twist was kinda predictable. There wasn’t a broader tone for the film, which made everything just feel like it existed in a vacuum. It wasn’t a spy thriller like Winter Solder, or a space opera/comedy like Guardians. It’s not even a really good origin story because it’s less about Carol using her defining character traits to win the day, but just using the powers granted to her to overpower her enemies. No Tony Stark using his smarts. No Steve Rogers fighting with his heart. Nope. Just BOOM BOOM LAZOR POW.
With a plot as thin as that, you’re going to need some pretty stellar characters to make up for the deficit. Unfortunately, Brie Larson didn’t bring her A-game to this film. I’m not sure if it’s the dialogue she’s been given, the direction she received, or her own interpretation of the character, but I think wooden is probably the best way to describe it.
And it’s not even about how she doesn’t smile or whatever. If it fits her character not to smile, so be it. The problem is that she’s supposed to be impulsive, but the only thing she does to reinforce that is probably do a lot of collateral damage with intent. Her emotional moments are all pretty forced and unnatural, and the frequent flashbacks are just a terrible, terrible way to try and build her character.
I mean, sure, I got the sense that she’s a strong individual person who can stand up against bullies in those flashbacks, but it’s not hard to do that same thing by having her stand up to condescending male colleagues instead. And what’s the point of all those flashbacks when it’s not even clear that she has any motivation to discover her past?
The first half of the film is all about her trying to find Dr. Lawson and preventing the Skrulls from reaching her, but she doesn’t make a peep about finding Lawson for her own personal reasons. If her blank expressions are meant to disguise her desire to find answers from Nick Fury (who hinted at this in the car ride), then she did too good of a job because I was hoodwinked too.
Frankly, all of Carol Denvers’ actions are plot-driven rather than character driven, and that’s just pathetic for a film that’s all about female empowerment. She basically just does what the plot needs her to, and none of it is about her. It’s always about serving others. Even the big emotional moment when she remembers her past was just another part of the plot instead of, y’know, an actual emotional moment. I felt that even Maria had more character development than she did, just with her lines about how she didn’t want to go on the mission so that she could be with her daughter.
And even if I can’t connect with her character, I could at least cheer her on during fight scenes. But the battles are all so boring they are unmemorable. Sure, it’s cut badly, but at least these days Marvel Studios has made a habit of making some interesting final battles like with Doctor Strange or just epic ones like the airport scene or the battle against Thanos on Titan. That we’re back to frantic cuts in a dark room with flashes of light here and there is just disappointing.
And she’s so stupidly powerful there’s no suspense at all. You knew she was going to win handily. She got rid of Ronan just by showing off. I mean, Ronan lost against the Guardians in a dance-off decades later, but tonally, Guardians is a completely different movie.
Which reminds me. The villains are pretty cartoonish for a film that really doesn’t sell itself as a comedy like Guardians did. Jude Law going into a spiel to try and sucker her into a fistfight? Ronan just retreating with a wide-eye look? Skrulls just joking around? The movie was sprinkled with just subpar humour, and none of it felt natural like the usual Marvel fare.
That’s not to say there weren’t some good moments. Samuel L. Jackson was his usual charming self, Goose is great, and Talos/Ben Mendelsohn grew better as the film went on. If Brie Larson had more to work with script-wise, I think she would’ve been great too.
I did like the buddy cop dynamic between Carol and Nick Fury, and the message sold by the film about female empowerment is wonderful. But I really hope the Russo brothers can add a touch more personality to Captain Marvel in Endgame like they did with Black Panther in Civil War before his solo debut, because she sorely needs to be defined by more than just her superpower (which is pretty undefined too). As it was, I find myself rating this film maybe on a par with Thor. It’s just…okay. Marvel’s standards have gone way up since Phase Two, and this just doesn’t do it for me anymore.