The 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has a lot to live up to. It has to maintain the standard of excellence the decade long film series has kept, lead into the biggest comic book movie event and on top of that find a way to be a fun movie which can stand on its own. All of those expectations would take a superhero to live up to and Captain Marvel may just be that hero.
“Captain Marvel” is the latest offering from Marvel studios, and the first female-led film in the franchise (Evangeline Lilly had to share top billing with Paul Rudd in “Ant-Man and the Wasp”). The movie, which stars Brie Larson in the titular role and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, places Captain Marvel in between two warring alien races and their attempts to find a hidden piece of technology which could change the landscape of the universe.
Oscar winner Larson shines. She is humorous when the script calls for it, she is powerful when the script calls for it and she provides emotional evoking dialogue when the script calls for it. Many critics and moviegoers are criticizing Larson’s performance for a lack of charisma/emotion, but those qualities are ones the character herself is trying to avoid.
Many times throughout the movie it is shown an over display of emotion is her downfall, so remaining stoic and not emotionally invested in her conflicts is essential to her success. If viewers and critics would have understood this plot point perhaps Larson might be receiving more acclaim than she is currently.
Another positive aspect of the film is the atypical plot and character attributes. The skrulls are a race of shapeshifting aliens who are Captain Marvel’s opposing force throughout the film and they provide a unique challenge for Larson’s character. Having to constantly wonder what your enemy looks like and fighting them after you do find them, provide an interesting conflict throughout the movie. Another positive aspect of the skrulls and the plot are later revelations and developments between the Skrulls, the Kree (Captain Marvel’s race) and Captain Marvel. The developments will make you rethink many aspects of the film and the universe it sets up.
Captain Marvel’s biggest issue is the unlucky fact it came out two years after DC Comic’s “Wonder Woman.” With “Wonder Woman” being the most successful (both critically and commercially) female-led superhero movie of all time, “Captain Marvel” was bound to be compared to it. “Wonder Woman” is a better more cohesive film, and that shouldn’t discount “Captain Marvel,” but the fact of the matter is it does.
In addition to not being the best female lead superhero movie of the past few years, the film struggles in two key areas.
The movie’s cinematography is cookie cutter and not visually interesting. Most shots are fairly evenly lit, the color palette is reminiscent of “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in terms of being dimly lit and most shots are framed and structured to just get the done. In a franchise where recent space centric entries like “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” provide bright colors and unique cinematography, the cinematography in “Captain Marvel” is just plain generic.
The other area this movie struggles is a divisive one: references and nostalgia. The movie is set in 1995, and you could tell that whether you were flat out told or not. Nineties pop music is blaring through most of the film, characters wear band t-shirts from the era and Blockbuster even makes an appearance. It is a charming aspect of the film to a certain point, but after a while it feels like the film is winking at you so much that it has a tick and should be taken in for medical attention.
Going into “Captain Marvel,” expectations were low for me. Reviews were mixed, Larson’s performance was being panned and social media was ripe with complaints about the message of female empowerment being incorporated into the movie. However, I thoroughly enjoyed “Captain Marvel” and thought it was a worthy entry into the franchise. Its biggest detractor is it has to lead into the upcoming “Avengers: Endgame,” and it does so with some style and laughs along the way.
My final rating for “Captain Marvel,” is a solid 8/10.