Captain Marvel is ... Considerably Meh

Captain Marvel (2019)

Rated PG-13: For Minimal Language and Violence

Running Time: 123 minutes (2 hours and 3 minutes)

Genre/s: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Science Fiction, Superhero

Released on March 8, 2019 (US Release Date; Available for Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

"Carol Danvers" Created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan

"Captain Marvel" Created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan

Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Writers: Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, and Geneva Robertson-Dworet

  • Brie Larson as Carol Danvers / "Vers" / Captain Marvel
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Nicholas "Nick" Fury
  • Ben Mendelsohn as Talos / Director Keller
  • Annette Bening as Supreme Intelligence; Mar-Vell Doctor Wendy Lawson
  • Jude Law as Yon-Rogg

"Only you can define your own strength." After a series of politically charged hiccups, followed by a mediocre marketing campaign and a couple of numerous video essays criticizing the film (and some about the franchise's seeming monotonous nature as a whole), the film's future seemed bleak. This was made even worse with the knowledge that the title character was being teased as a massively important character for the forthcoming Avengers: Endgame, despite never being referenced in any of the previous installments. With an open mind, does Captain Marvel live-up to expectations?

In 1995, "Vers," played by Larson (Room) crash lands on Earth after a battle with Talos, played by Mendelsohn, a member of the shape-shifting alien race known as The Skrulls. Separated from her colleagues at the technologically advanced Kree's elite kill team Starforce, and her mentor Yon-Rogg, played by Law (Both Mendelsohn and Law appear in Black Sea), "Vers" is forced to partner with former C.I.A. operative turned low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury, played by Jackson (187), to prevent Talos from enacting his plans. However, "Vers" begins to suspect that there is more to the war than meets the eye, and only a mysterious woman known as Doctor Wendy Lawson, played by Bening (20th Century Women) might have the answers.

At its core, this movie is about the discovery of one's true self amidst countless acts of deception and lies. Much like how this feature has to prove itself to a world that has already grown accustomed to numerous, more popular superheroes, we have "Vers" also attempting to impress her colleagues, and her world's superior known as the Supreme Intelligence (also played by Bening), who takes the form of the person that each individual idolizes. "Vers," constantly reminded by Yon-Rogg to always have her emotions controlled, eventually realizes the truth that she should embrace her strength, and become the franchise's version of Captain Marvel.

However, even if the core theme of the film does seem inspirational on paper, it is particularly elementary for a two-hour, PG-13 superhero cinematic adventure. Though movies can generally make even the most mundane of themes thought-provoking and insightful, without proper execution, the message would ultimately be lost in translation. Captain Marvel, for all of its intents and purposes, be it to introduce audiences to another big screen role-model, or to further expand the franchise's ever-growing cinematic universe, is unfortunately an example of a fairly corporate theatrical product. It also does not help that this film is predictable to the point that, even without spoiling the "twist ending" (if one would even call it that), one can immediately see that it follows the usual pyrrhic revolution formula, rendering everything incredibly stake-free. 

After being able to explore the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, audiences are once more taken to an uncharted corner of the franchise: the Kree-Skrull War, which is also the title of a highly acclaimed story arc in the comics. However, this is arguably what I believe to be one of the franchise's biggest failures with this film in terms of world-building. Here, we could have seen how the highly advanced Kree species attempted to subjugate the universe in the name of security and peace at an earlier era, while we could have seen how the Skrulls attempted to thrive and survive in a seemingly unending war. In addition, we might have even get to see how S.H.I.E.L.D. functioned as an organization prior to the formation of the Avengers. Outside of a few, context-less and lifeless establishing shots or views of a few, nameless characters interacting with each other, we are never truly engrossed in the atmosphere of the 90s MCU. In other words, the portrayals of the Kree and S.H.I.E.L.D. are so surface-based that each iteration can be switched with any of their earlier appearances in other movies, because of their apparent lack of distinctions from previous appearances.

This surface-based exploration also derails all of the key characters to the fullest degree. As we have no clue on the philosophy behind the Kree's machinations, we also have no idea as to what drives Jude Law's so-so Yon-Rogg, the Supreme Intelligence, and the rest of Starforce into becoming the individuals that they are here. Why Annette Bening's  two-dimensional yet decently acted Supreme Intelligence is so hellbent in taking over the universe, why Yon-Rogg is more than willing to blindly follow the Supreme Intelligence's orders, and why all of Starforce is simply willing to murder their colleague of six years without having second thoughts is beyond me.

To add further insult to injury, the secondary lead character, Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, for all of his efforts, is reduced from an enigmatic agent with years of missions on his shoulders, to a quippy field operative with an interchangeable personality. While the film could have served as a platform to see as to how the enigmatic founder of the Avengers was before he became involved full-time in the world of superheroes, much like how we never understood the reasons of being for the Kree, we never really get to understand as to why Fury even bothers to join S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first place, other than "just because." It also does not help that the truth behind the loss of his left eye was caused by him being scratched by petting an alien disguised as a cat, which severely destroys the emotional impact of Nick Fury's speech about trusting people in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. What was originally one of the most intriguing moments in that flick is now turned into a punchline, and not even a funny one to say the least. In addition, even with the return of past characters such as Ronan the Accuser, played by Lee Pace (The Hobbit Trilogy), Korath the Pursuer, played by Djimon Hounsou (Aquaman), and Agent Phil Coulson, played by Clark Gregg ((500) Days of Summer), we still don't get any sense of development, despite being set on a different era.

The absence of character development for several of the supporting cast members is not as bad as how badly written the titular character is. Even though it is clear that Larson tried bringing to life a seemingly forgotten comicbook heroine for the modern audience with some funny energy, the unfitting dialogue and corny jokes, as well as the lack of any distinctive personality prohibit Larson from really doing Captain Marvel any sort of justice. In addition, the film's main theme of self-discovery should be more resonant with the main protagonist herself. The problem is that we never really felt the sense of urgency that Carol Danvers feels in her quest to prove herself. We never really felt that she was even lost, which would have been more evident if the film featured much more flashbacks of Carol's time on Earth, which is why the final battle feels so iffy. The payoff would have been more emotional if we actually got to know much more of her time on Earth, especially with her interactions with her bestfriend Maria Rambeau, played by Lashana Lynch (Fast Girls) with some level of charm. Yes, we did get to see glimpses of her life here on Earth. But those are just it. "Glimpses."

I have to say though that even if Ben Mendelsohn's Talos is quite predictable in terms of character development, I consider his character and his performance to be the highlight of the movie. With Mendelsohn, we get a fleshed-out false villain with a heart of gold and a few actually funny exchanges with some of the characters ("Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?"), and a complete character arc involving family and war. It also did help that he gets to portray technically two characters here, with the other being his human disguise: S.H.I.E.L.D. director Keller, whom we never get to see that much by the time the third act comes around. His subtle use of accents in-between his transformations is pretty good, and it helps differentiate his two roles from each other. In all honesty, perhaps it would have been better if, for this movie, we only focused on the Skrulls alone, then the Kree on the next installment, or vise versa. That way, we could get to see much more developed characters and an even more developed universe.

Other than the many script pitfalls, the film's bland and clearly rushed, grayish aesthetic, which I never really observed only until now, does not make the film any better. Lacking the unique visual color choices from the likes of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers movies, or even any of the Phase One entries, this film only made Marvel Cinematic Universe all the less engrossing with its dull and boring look. This also affects how locations such as the clearly, purely digital Hala, or the desert-looking world of Torf that bears the appearance of a set made in an alley at night, and unnecessarily edited fight scenes such as the train sequence, or even the boring final battle against an army of Kree ships look.

Though if there is one thing the movie did succeed in, that would have to be its connection to the first Avengers movie. Call it fan-service, if you might, but I honestly enjoyed how the film's use of the Tesseract (the glowing, blue-colored, cube shaped Infinity Stone from Captain America: The First Avenger) as Carol's source of her powers and as a plot device, as well as the feature of the Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. facility, and the revelation that, with her callsign being "Avenger," Carol is the very reason as to why the "Avenger Initiative" came to be is fun, and it does feel naturally developed for a prequel. Plus, the de-aging technology used for Samuel L. Jackson, and the make-up for the Skrulls are every bit noteworthy.

In conclusion, does Captain Marvel live-up to expectations? Sadly, no. It really doesn't, and it all mostly comes down to a screenplay that did not come close to achieving its goal of establishing a major franchise player, even though the cast did do pretty decent jobs. Packed with a generic vibe and an absolute lack of character development, and an unnecessary excess of Easter eggs and callbacks, though enjoyable in some cases as mentioned before, this film overall is not a good movie to keep audiences waiting until the next Avengers movie. Passable in terms of entertainment, sure, but watching the movie until the credits would ultimately leave you with an empty feeling. With that said, I hereby give this film a score of 14/25 (Okay?).

The funny thing is that even though I gave this film a lower score than Aquman, I found Captain Marvel much more enjoyable. And even with my points of criticism, I hope that Marvel could continue developing and improving the character until we finally get the definitive version of her. After all, we could all use more superheroes to look-up to, right?

Before we officially end this review, be sure to listen to three of my favorite songs from the film's soundtrack. Though the application of the songs is not exactly as great as how Guardians of the Galaxy did it, the songs, and a little of Pinar Topak's score did deliver that 90s atmosphere the film is aiming for. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!


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