Much has been made about Marvel Studio’s first female-lead superhero film Captain Marvel. Beyond its huge Box Office takings which as a Marvel film is no surprise, the most recent development is the pig-headed chumps review bombing the film both before and after the films release on Rotten Tomatoes. And while their ridiculous actions will do nothing to slow the Marvel juggernaut, I can’t help but feel for the first time that I’m finally getting fatigue from the onslaught. Now I feel no kinship for familiarity to these fools, but I can’t help but wonder the sudden timing for all this. The trailers really did nothing for me, but I hoped that maybe their ho-hum nature was hiding a better movie. Unfortunately, they were not.
For my money, as soon as the first act ended, I knew something was off. It had a certain lack of momentum or energy as it continued to progress. Was it the bland fight scenes? Or the standard story? Maybe it was some of it or maybe it was all of it, but what I could pin down was that it was the first Marvel movie that felt like it was going through the motions. And this could very well be on the either Marvel or the directors (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) or both, but this lacks any distinct signature or style. It feels, or rather tastes like two-day old pizza. It’s good, but it could be so much better.
Brie Larson is good as the titular character as she brings the quips, the charm, and the heroics. That said, I couldn’t tell you jack shit about who she was. Sure, she has a backstory, she has character and she make her own “choices”, but nothing stands out about her as a character. I didn’t know much about the character before walking into the theater, and I don’t think I could tell you anything about her after the credits rolled. Beyond her powerset, there was nothing I knew about her that could separate her from any other hero. If anything, everything about her could have been gender-swapped with another and they’d still be just as bland. And that sucks, because I wanted to like her, but there was nothing to get attached to. And yet, where Carol Danvers fails to make an impression, her supporting cast does not. Her interplay with a returning Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury and newcomer Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau is an absolute delight. To his credit Jackson imbues his ten-year-old cynical spy with new life. One that shows Fury as a fun wide-eyed desk riding agent who has to contend with a reality where super powers and aliens exist. After years of watching Jackson play the same old super spy, it’s a wonderful change of pace to see how much fun he’s having here and I hope its something we get more of in the future (To say nothing of the phenomenal tech that’s used to de-age both him and Clark Gregg’s returning Coulson). As for Lynch’s Rambeau, I heavily suspect there will be a great deal of shipping and slash-fic between her and Danvers. Their friendship feels remarkable and loving as it becomes the beating heart of the film, one I can only hope is expanded upon in later entries. But by far the greatest standout is the chief antagonist; the Skrull leader Talos, played by the absolute dynamite Ben Mendelsohn. When he was cast, I was very much afraid he would join the ranks of Mads Mikkelsen and Christopher Eccleston as another interminable, wasted villain. I have never been happy to be so wrong. Mendelsohn’s Talos steals the show as he brings both charm, hilarity, and nice heaping dose of sympathy to what is otherwise a one-note alien archetype in the comics. He is by far the best villain in the MCU, bar none. I loved every second he was on screen, and every moment he wasn’t the film fell behind. I can only hope Mendelsohn continues to get many more similarly layered roles. Without him this film falls flat on its face.
Captain Marvel is…fine. It’s a competent film (When is Marvel not?) that does absolutely nothing. The story, while largely banal and empty hinges on some late game twists that while predictable in hindsight, bring the film back to life. It’s not enough to make Captain Marvel a great film, but at least a good one. And while I enjoyed its larger anti-war message, and its idea of a woman ignoring the men in her life to forge her own path, of the two the latter feels more perfunctory than revolutionary. That’s not to say the film is bad for it, but when Carol Danvers feels like an empty character, the message rings hollow. I had hoped for more with Marvel Studio’s first foray into a female led film. And maybe we’ll get there with Avengers: Endgame or, the inevitable Captain Marvel sequel, or one of the many other projects their teasing for the future. But this isn’t it. I recognize that Carol Danvers will probably kick Thanos ass, but that does much of nothing for me. I’ve often heard many people lament that these movies feel like filler to get to the next one, and for the first time I get that. Captain Marvel is good, and I had a fun time, but ultimately, it’s all build up with no payoff, serving itself as nothing more than a glorified prequel to Avengers: Endgame…and that’s disappointing.