I’ve had mixed feelings about past Marvel Cinematic Universe movies before, including the likes of Ant-Man And The Wasp and Thor: The Dark World. However, those movies were still enjoyable to a degree, while Captain Marvel has left me simply whelmed, which best encapsulates my overall thoughts and feelings when the credits were rolling.
What does “whelmed” mean? It’s an adjective originally coined by the character Robin in the animated series Young Justice, which means “a state of being where you are not over-excited nor unimpressed, but just satisfied and calm”.
Origin and Bridge Movie In One?
Let’s just get to it, shall we? It’s hard to discuss what happens in Captain Marvel without spoiling anything since the crutch of the entire movie lies on the repressed memories of Carol Danvers and the secret history of her life on Earth. With that setup, I was disappointed to discover that the movie still stubbornly adheres to familiar origin tropes: alien girl with repressed memories has powers and works for space corp, girl finds out she’s not what she seems in sudden turn of events, girl makes a comeback after the second act realization and memory catch-up.
Captain Marvel follows the same formulaic origin structure that Marvel Studios has been using since 2008’s Iron Man, with little in the way of surprises and experimentations. I won’t lie; the movie does contain a few twists that subverts certain established elements from the comics, some of which are an unexpected improvement over the source material and some of which I consider to be baffling choices.
The origin formula, in and of itself, isn’t much of a problem, though it does contribute to the increasing superhero movie fatigue phenomena. An origin movie is best when it gradually makes viewers invested in the protagonist throughout the duration of the movie.
In Captain Marvel, I didn’t really care about Carol Danvers, and the general stakes of the movie were unclear until at least the end of the second act.
The whole movie acts as a bridge for the entire MCU. This particular responsibility was previously thrust upon 2011’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and now Captain Marvel is here to shoulder that same responsibility. Wanna know how Nick Fury lost his eye and how he thought of the Avengers Initiative? Well, you’re getting your answers at the expense of the movie itself.
This jarringly leads to some continuity headaches and perceived errors in timelines. I had to refresh myself of previous events in past movies before I could string together satisfying and coherent answers to some of those lingering questions (but not all of them). I have no idea how this will affect the viewing experience of more casual viewers.
Sure, maybe some people can relate with Carol Danvers’ plight of getting undermined by everyone who says that she can’t do something or that she’s not strong. Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg even berates her only weakness throughout the movie as being unable to control her emotions and that she relies on her power (read: privilege?) too much.
By the end of the movie, she rises through all that, by proving to everyone that she’s the most overpowered character in the MCU. Yes, that sounds extremely relatable to all the young girls out there (insert: sarcasm?). It seems that Marvel doesn’t care enough to make Carol an interesting character in her own right. but instead more intent on convincing the naysayers that she is indeed the promised saviour of the MCU; namely the key to defeating Thanos.
Remember how 2017’s Justice League used Superman? It currently looks like she will be fulfilling that same role for Avengers: Endgame, which I sincerely hope will come true. I remain positive that the best is yet to come from our Mightiest Avenger.
A single movie is not enough to determine the value of a character, least of all an origin movie, which is literally the beginning of that character’s journey.
Humans vs Aliens
Brie Larson manages to do a serviceable job in the role of Carol Danvers and Captain Marvel, stoic and sassy at times, as well as emotional and charming at times. She does appear to be stoic most of the time, especially during the first half of the movie when she still believed herself to be Kree.
The relationship (and chemistry) between Carol Danvers and Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) forms the emotional crux of the movie, a humanizing plot device so to speak. This also applies to Carol’s relationship with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who is still merely an agent at this point in the MCU. Seeing Fury’s reaction to aliens and the more fantastical elements is a hoot, as he is far from being the all-knowing director of SHIELD we know and love.
Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos is another noteworthy performance, and I very much like this different incarnation of the character.
The unexpected twist that comes with the Skrulls is one of those welcomed narrative turns I mentioned above, the revelation of which completely caught me off-guard. I love it when Marvel Studios take risks like this.
Am I talking about a possible Skrull Invasion or a misdirection? You’ll never know until you watch the movie.
In contrast, the antagonists are a bit bland and too “straight” for their own good. However, accusing the villains of being one-dimensional is ironic, since they’re supposed to be the comic book version of a group that preaches racial supremacy. I should point out that it’s great seeing a younger Ronan (Lee Pace) in the movie already showing signs of his future extremist zealot self.
What does it mean for a movie when a non-human character often steals the show more often than the protagonist herself? That’s right, I’m talking about Carol’s pet cat, Goose, who gobbles up all the attention in every scene it’s in, thanks in part to its interactions with human co-star Nick Fury.
Forced 90s Nostalgia
The movie’s 90s setting provides nostalgic value to those who lived through the era, though most of it didn’t mean much to me. The Blockbuster video joke from the trailer remains amusing, as well as several other 90s-era gags, my favourite of which involves the time it takes to load a disc on a computer. The others feel a bit shoehorned in just for the sake of reminding the viewer every few scenes or so that yes, this movie takes place in the 90s.
This is especially true when it comes to the use of 90s music in Captain Marvel. Imagine more of a Suicide Squad kind of situation where it feels like someone played their playlist of the 90s’ greatest hits and less like Guardians of The Galaxy’s more natural application of its soundtrack, turning certain scenes more cringe-worthy.
Stripping away all ties to the larger MCU and its 90s-era shtick makes me realize that Captain Marvel can’t stand on its own. Unlike other past MCU origin movies like Iron Man and Doctor Strange, the movie failed to make me even like the character as much as I did Tony Stark and Stephen Strange by the end of their respective movies.
As Captain Marvel is the first MCU movie to be released after the death of Stan Lee late last year, it features an additional touching tribute to the late legend beyond his usual expected cameo. I won’t spoil it but it was definitely an endearing remembrance of the Man and his long history of cameos in Marvel movies.
The most important question of all is whether Captain Marvel is an essential watch before Avengers: Endgame arrives.
The answer is leaning heavily towards ‘yes’ since it serves as an introduction to the titular hero and acts as a reminder of all how it all began before we get to how it all will end in Avengers: Endgame.
Let’s be honest, the biggest thing going for Captain Marvel is that its sort of a prelude for Avengers: Endgame, and that’s the reason why viewers will be flocking to it. There are only a few MCU movies that I would prefer not to rewatch unless I bored out of my mind, and this is one of them.
FINAL RATING: 60/100
Captain Marvel is now showing worldwide. We caught the movie on TGV Cinemas IMAX via press screening, courtesy of The Walt Disney Company (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.