Movie Review: Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel wins the award for best Marvel movie featuring Nine Inch Nails merch. That was about the only award I could think to give it.
I’m sitting here eating Vanilla ice cream, sipping on my Vanilla Coke, listening to Milli Vanilli (bet you thought I was gonna go with Vanilla Ice, didn’t you?), trying to think of a word to sum up my experience with Captain Marvel, the latest entry into the MCU. For some reason, it escapes me. I’m sure I’ll think of it soon enough.
Captain Marvel is not a bad movie… it just isn’t a good one. Its pacing drags you by the nose, the acting is so-so, and the action never set my heart on fire. After three unique Marvel Movies (one being uniquely bad), a formulaic, paint-by-numbers action flick just didn’t satisfy me. Which is sad, because I like Captain Marvel (whenever Marvel isn’t assassinating her character to sell a crappy Civil War sequel.) I’m glad she’s finally made it into the movie pantheon. In the future, I’m hoping she’ll get the time and attention needed to blossom into something special (looking at you, Thor). In the meantime, I have to relay the sad news that Captain Marvel is anything but special.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Vers (Brie Larson) is a promising new recruit in the Kree galactic empire. Despite her commander’s (Jude Law) reservations about Vers’ ability to reign her emotions in, she is given her first assignment: track down a sleeper agent gathering information on the Skrull invasion of a Kree controlled world. Things go pear-shaped, and Vers gets a free trip to C-53, a backwater planet known to the locals as Earth. There she teams up with Nick Fury, agent of SHIELD (Samuel L. Jackson). As they track down their shape-shifting antagonists, Vers learns that she has a connection to this planet, one that will redefine her place in the Universe.
A lot of the best Marvel movies have had the benefit of the background becoming a character unto itself. From the lush vistas of Guardians of the Galaxy to the afro-futurism of Black Panther, the world-building has elevated their respective movies into the upper echelon of MCU films. In Captain Marvel, the hook is the time period of the film: the 1990’s. It’s… not as strong. It feels like a whole lot of show and not a lot of tell. Yes, we caught that Street Fighter 2 cabinet. Okay, we think it’s so funny that Captain Marvel has to raid a Radio Shack for her tech. And for the love of god, did you just buy a “Now That’s What I Call the 90’s” CD and copy-paste it into the soundtrack?
That this world never gets a chance to breath is also due to the pacing. This film is always on the move, from one convenient MacGuffin to the next. You never get any time to take in the vibe. The film hopes blaring TLC or Nirvana at you loud enough will prove it’s 90’s bona fides. I almost give the film the benefit of the doubt on its pacing; maybe it was also trying to feel like a 90’s action movie (it did make sure to Easter egg True Lies at one point). If so, then it’s just a poor choice: action movies in the 90’s sucked.
If the vibe feels like one ironic trip to a Hot Topic, the cast does little to save it. I like Brie Larson. I just wasn’t feeling it with her take on Carol Danvers/Vers/Captain Marvel. She’s quippy and too cute; we have way too many quippy and too cute characters in the MCU right now. And she’s trying to bounce her snark off of Samuel L. Jackson, a master of the smart-cracking craft. Compared to his style, Larson always feels like she’s not waiting long enough to deliver her burn, and at one point it seemed like Sam laughed at her non-joke joke simply because it said in the script: “Nick Fury laughs”. It felt forced.
So, the film bounces along its merry way, from somewhere colored gold to somewhere colored brown to somewhere gold and brown. This film will not have anyone mistaking it for Guardians of the Galaxy 2.5. It might have been a conscious choice after two GotG’s and Ragnarok to restrain the color palate, but the movie is some kind of well-lit drab. Desserts and rocks, and the cold, bleak blackness of space. Fun.
The special effects look nice (like I said, this is at least a well-lit film), and the CGI used on fights felt a lot less clunky than the end fight of Black Panther. The only real effects issue was Agent Coulson. The facial de-aging worked pretty well for Samuel L. Jackson, but it leaves Clark Gregg looking like a statue, his signature cocked eye-brow shepherding us into the uncanny valley.
The action is pretty straight forward. Carol punches things until she gets the chance to blast things. The choreography is decent, but nothing that hadn’t already been done better in Age of Ultron. While I can’t wait to see her power-set in action with the rest of the Avengers, the one man wrecking crew got stale. The one standout scene was a dogfight in a canyon. It had a solid Star Wars meets Top Gun feel to it.
Nothing in Captain Marvel (other than finally giving a solo lead to a woman) innovates. If this movie had come out 5 years ago (like it was supposed to), fatigue would not be detracting from my enjoyment of this film. But we’ve had tons of Marvel movies, and many have raised the bar for a comic book action movie. OK isn’t OK anymore. Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you.
Got the T-Shirt
I didn’t hate this film, which might seem odd as I’ve been slagging it for six paragraphs now. While Brie Larson takes the character in directions I wasn’t thrilled with, whenever she decides to get tough, she’s a delight. Her best friend’s daughter Monica Rambeau (you might have heard that name, if you read the comics) was a gem. As sick as I am getting with the jokey phase of the MCU, some of them do land pretty well. And fine, I liked the cat.
Captain Marvel did what it needed to: get the character into the MCU without tripping over its (refreshingly nonexistent) dick. It just doesn’t blow your mind like some previous films do, and it’s hooks never dig deep enough. Oh yeah! that’s it. I finally thought of the word: Captain Marvel…