There ain’t no stopping the superhero-movie genre. It’s still a license-to-print cast. “Aquaman” made over a billion dollars; “Avengers: Infinity War” made two billion dollars. Audiences seem to have an endless appetite for this smorgasbord of superheroes. At this point, I think it’s fairly well established I’ve become bored with the genre. Every so often something deviates slightly from the established formula and manages to be better than average. Unfortunately, “Captain Marvel” is not.
Origin stories suck—they just do—but the superhero origin story is a boring necessity for the genre. It has to be endured to get to the actual entertaining stuff. We meet Vers (Brie Larson) a short-fused firecracker who possesses some amazing powers and is a warrior for a race of aliens trying to win an intergalactic war with the shape-shifting Skrulls. It seems as if the Skrulls are interested in universal domination, and only Vers and her crew of Kree-space soldiers can stop them.
After an intergalactic skirmish, Vers ends up on Earth during the most awesome era in American history: the 1990s! She learns the Skrulls are after a light-speed engine, and she takes off to find the scientist who created the vital piece of technology. Her journey is interrupted by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), a younger version of the SHIELD agent that’s been hanging around the Marvel cinematic universe since the tail end of “Iron Man” in 2008. Fury decides to help Vers track down the mysterious scientist in hopes of saving the world from alien invaders.
There’s a few twists and turns in this road-trip/buddy comedy/origin story. Vers has a secret history on Earth she has forgotten, but the trip begins to open up memories of experiences and people that—gasp!—connect to the exact thing they’re investigating. What are the odds? It’s a Marvel movie, so the odds are pretty damn good.
“Captain Marvel” suffers from the same redundancies plaguing most modern Marvel movies. Every character is a snarky, quip-spewing smartass, with a superpower of amazing improv skills and delivering sick burns. Our heroine is no different than Tony Stark, Starlord, Peter Parker, or any other hero who dishes out jokes at the same pace they exact punishment. In an effort to make the films appealing to all ages, the edges have been sanded down, leaving no sharp corners, and therefore, no real stakes. It’s difficult for an audience to buy into a grave threat when everyone seems to laugh at it.
Maybe that’s why “Avengers: Infinity War” worked so well. The movie had consequences and no one was laughing at the end. “Captain Marvel” is one of those films where the events are an interconnected string of moments rather than a cohesive journey. The movie has two goals: light comedy and female empowerment, and it does a much better job with the female empowerment angle. Basically, we learn Vers is a woman always being told to control her emotions, but the key to saving the world involves her embracing her inner passion to keep fighting.
“Captain Marvel” isn’t a terrible movie, but it is terribly mediocre. Brie Larson is a bland, unlikable lead. She lacks the instant charisma of a Chris Pratt or Gal Gadot. Sometimes audiences root for characters because they like them; other times it’s a matter of the movie insisting audiences root for them. I never really cared about her journey because the performance never allowed her to be vulnerable. Sure, there’s a Rocky-esque montage about the value of getting up, but I never saw or felt the character’s emotions. Samuel Jackson gets reduced to the role of comic relief as Captain Marvel’s sidekick in the most stereotypical fashion.
There are a few cool action scenes and a couple of interesting twists to the traditional hero and villain roles, but “Captain Marvel” is nothing special. It’s just another average Marvel origin story. The silver lining is now we have this out of the way, the character can be taken to more interesting places— like her forthcoming appearance in “Avengers: Endgame.” Like most Marvel heroes, they’re far more interesting when grouped together. As a solo effort, “Captain Marvel” lacks a punch.
Directed by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn
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