James Reviews: 'Captain Marvel'
The first MCU film of 2019 blasts off quickly and runs out of fuel at a slower, but consistent pace.
If one wants to know how many new superheroes the Marvel Cinematic Universe will introduce, one only has to look at the library of characters Marvel Comics has created. With the recent merging of 20th Century Fox into Disney, it's only a matter of time before the X-Men and the Fantastic Four start showing up. Kevin Feige has also made it clear that the future of the franchise is in space, so what better way to introduce the final frontier with the first hero who can get across the universe and back; Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. Despite initial reports, the "controversy" that arose wasn't as black and white as it seemed. Many fans were hoping that Black Widow would be the first female hero to get her solo film, and some found it difficult to separate Brie Larson's political views from the character she was portraying. That aside, this new hero's first solo outing did have potential, but it does wind up being one of the MCU's more forgettable movies.
It starts off fairly promising, with our titular character on Hala, the capital empire of the Kree, being trained by her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and told to keep her abilities in check. They join a squadron of Kree warriors to rescue an undercover operative from the Skrulls, it goes south, and she ends up on Earth. The introduction is a nice way of opening another corner of this universe; for so long, the audience has only seen the Kree as antagonistic, and by providing an insight of the other side, it can lead to an understanding of why they do things the way they do. The soundtrack has some notable tunes, with several shots in space accompanied by music that sounds more Blade Runner than your average Marvel movie. When it gets to our world, elements of a 90s-era buddy movie start surfacing, with Danvers and Nick Fury infiltrating the airbase and having conversations with witty undertones. These moments give this cosmic hero a sense of humanity, and for two-thirds of the film, we look forward to see her arc come full circle.
All isn't all well and good, as Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) leads a squadron of Skrulls to find Danvers, with the intention of causing harm. As an actor, Mendelsohn is a welcome addition to the universe, but his character is severely underdeveloped so that when the twist is revealed, there's no weight to it. Speaking of said twist, it kickstarts a third and final act that nearly undoes the goodwill that was built up to that point. Because Danvers has this immense power, any opposition feels redundant, she tosses enemies around like rag dolls and the fights feel one-sided. Say what you will about Superman, but at least he had Zod; Captain Marvel has nobody, and if the villain doesn't feel like a threat to our hero, there's no point in investing in the conflict. Not to mention the missed opportunity the movie could have taken, specifically in the tensions between the Kree and the Skrulls. It could have explored how no side of a conflict is inherently good or evil, that there are shades of grey within every army, and in the world of the movie, it would be Danvers to decide who she fights for. Instead, it goes for the simplistic route, turning the threatening Skrulls from the comics into a metaphor for refugees.
It's not an entirely lost cause, there are some cool shots and the effects are as impressive as always. Given that this is set in the 90s, it had its fair share of grunge music and a stronger grip on nostalgia, a welcome treat for the twenty-somethings of this decade such as myself. Seeing Fury as a younger, inexperienced agent was a nice change of pace from the mysterious, hardened director we've become accustomed to. He's a good contrast to Danvers; an ordinary Earthling helping an extraterrestrial warrior navigate to a life she has mostly forgotten. Equally parts mentor and confidante, his return for a sequel is a must, especially if it takes place in the present and their change and evolution over the decades would impact each other.
After homerun hits with Ant-Man, Black Panther, Doctors Strange, and Spider-Man: Homecoming, it's a bummer that Captain Marvel is so tedious. The MCU hasn't had a debut solo outing so forgettable since 2011s Thor, but looking at how things turned out for the God of Thunder, there are worse fates than that. Whatever Marvel Studios has planned for the future of the character, hopefully things only get better from here on out.
Rating: 5/10 - Mediocre