Captain Marvel - Review
Marvel's first standalone female superhero has finally arrived. Captain Marvel is a nostalgic 90's romp that is maybe too familiar for its own good. There is a lot to love in the movie, but not a lot of new, groundbreaking events to set it apart from the rest of the universe that has been building since 2008.
There will be minor spoilers ahead.
Origin stories are always tricky nowadays, even ones for characters unfamiliar to the general public. But Captain Marvel does its best with the formula, making the character discover her own story with the audience. That, paired with the segmented piece-by-piece non-linear method, makes the format feel as fresh as it can, though it is still held back by having to tell that story too.
The Kree-Skrull War is famous in Marvel lore. For directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to bring a piece of that to the MCU was exciting. However, the movie would have benefited from that being the entire premise. The movie being too beholden to a familiar macguffin hinders Captain Marvel from reaching it's full potential.
The character work outside of Brie Larson's Carol Danvers is shoddy too. The film would have benefited from seeing Fury realize SHIELD must be something more. It also unfortunately wastes Coulson. He gets one or two moments to shine, but we see a seed of what is the basis of his and Fury's relationship. Nothing more. Outside of Danvers, the only other character who really feels like we see a complete journey is Ben Mendelsohn's Talos. Jude Law's character is a one-dimensional stereotype, which is a shame. At least it's better than the last movie I saw him in.
The movie's biggest stroke of genius (besides Goose) is the twist concerning the Skrull and The Kree. The movie turns its own premise on its head in the second act, and the story is stronger for it. That twist was the smartest thing the movie did, and turned a very slow first act into an extremely entertaining second and third act.
The MCU has evolved since 2008's Iron Man. But Captain Marvel feels like a Phase 1 movie. That could be by design, as the film takes place in the 90's, before all the others (save Captain America: The First Avenger). But if you are familiar with the MCU, and didn't know the title of this or see the opening logo, you could guess it was part of the MCU. It has a sense of familiarity about it. Some of that is good. Too much, and the movie runs the risk of saying nothing. It towed the line pretty well.
Speaking of the opening logo, Marvel will hit you right in the emotional core of your soul with it. There were gasps, applause, exclamations and tears when it came on, before the movie had even really begun.
The special effects were dazzling. The space stuff looked better than anything in the Guardians movies. It seems that Marvel has perfected the digital de-aging process as it was flawless on Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg. Though it does help that both of those humans seemed to have stopped aging naturally anyway.
Goose the Cat was an absolute blast, and with the exception of Mendelsohn, was the movie's scene stealer. Going in knowing things about the characters because of the comics can sometimes be a detriment. Goose's big moment was met with shock, laughter, excitement, and applause. Something that isn't as powerful if you know what to expect from the character. It was awesome to hear the reaction, and as a cat lover myself, I hope Goose has many more appearances in future MCU properties.
In terms of power, the MCU has found its Superman. It seems, based off of the mid-credit scene, that the MCU has also found its new face. With a lot of our heroes bowing out after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel will be the anchor for everything else. Now that the origin story is out of the way, and the character can be brought into the present, the potential for her is very exciting.
The Stan Lee cameo was extra special, as this was the first live-action one after his death. (He cameoed in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse as an animated character.) It also paid tribute to what he was doing at that time in 90's, which holds a special place in my heart. So it is easy to say that Stan Lee's Captain Marvel cameo is my favorite one he's ever done.
I'd be remiss not to mention Annette Bening and Lashana Lynch. Bening is the latest female Hollywood legend to appear in the MCU, she joins the likes of Angela Bassett, Glenn Close, and Michelle Pfiefer. If you throw in men like Robert Redford, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Douglas, and Kurt Russell, you have a pretty powerful pool of Hollywood legends adding to the superhero lore. Bening's character is great, and the slow reveal of who she really is was a brave choice, and one of the best twists of the movie.
As for Lynch, she was tragically underused. Her character Rambeau is vital to Carol, and that relationship needed to be featured on screen more. The movie had other business to handle, but hopefully Rambeau has a much larger role in the inevitable Captain Marvel 2.
There was one tiny issue I had with Captain Marvel fitting into the overall MCU, and it is something that could be explained away in a future TV episode or companion comic if they wanted to. But Fury and Coulson were very much SHIELD already in the 90s. But in the first Iron Man, Coulson wouldn't use that acronym. It's a little thing, but a noticeable thing. 99% of the audience won't care, so it hardly matters to anyone but me.
Captain Marvel wrestles with some script issues and an overreliance on a familiar macguffin to propel the movie forward. It being trapped by it's future is the films biggest downfall. It is a risk you take making a "prequel", though that isn't really what this is in the strictest definition. But it overcomes a lot of that by providing a ton of fun moments and emotional resonance for a pretty entertaining journey. Being the 21st movie in the series, Captain Marvel is closer to the top than the bottom, but once the shackles are remove and the character isn't bound to any future events, she will really shine. Think of it like Captain America: The First Avenger, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The first Captain America is a very good movie. But The Winter Soldier is even better - because it didn't have to do anything in the larger world. It just had to tell its own story. Once Captain Marvel gets that same opportunity, it will shine just as bright.
Captain Marvel is in theaters everywhere now.