Movie Review | Captain Marvel
Movie summary: Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races. (IMDb)
I have to admit that after I walked out of my showing of Captain Marvel that I felt a little disappointed. However, I also have to say that this was one of the movies that I was looking forward to the most this year - even ahead of Avengers: Endgame. I think my expectations were almost certainly a little too high and that disappointment was my own fault.
A truly disappointing film retains those negative impressions even looking back, but that isn't the case for me here - even the 'worst' scenes are still enjoyable enough to not offend, and the more I think about this movie, the more I like it. I'm not saying that you should go into this with low expectations so that the movie can surpass them, but it's just not quite that top tier of the MCU.
The biggest issue that I think general audiences will have is the character of Captain Marvel herself. This isn't a criticism of Brie Larson, who is fantastic in the role, or even the movie, but the MCU has always been about the characters more than anything else. This is a strength for established characters, who can appear in merely 'okay' movies and have audiences love them.
However, this movie is about the main character figuring out who she really is, so that character strength doesn't really kick in with full effect until well over halfway into the movie. While I enjoyed seeing Larson's work showing Carol realise her true history, it might still be a little off-putting for some audiences used to MCU heroes being fairly strongly-defined from the moment they appear.
But to genuinely praise Larson now, she is great in the role and I can't wait to see how she develops further in the MCU. Watching her character grow and strengthen over the course of the movie is great, and it's refreshing to see a female hero determined to stand strong for no other real reason than because she can - all the other female MCU heroes have external reasons for fighting.
It's also worth noting that Carol doesn't have a love interest in this movie - much like Frozen, the strongest relationship in this movie is between two women for non-romantic reasons. Larson and Lashana Lynch (playing Carol's best friend, Maria Rambeau) are great together, convincing easily as best friends and a fine example of two women of action who are also regular people with their own issues too.
And it's things like this that - in cinematic terms, at least - are the strongest feminist statements in this movie: women being portrayed in a manner that men have been for ages, and it being treated as if it was nothing out of the ordinary. It's an attempt - and a good one too - at normalising depicting women in way they are not usually shown on-screen.
There are more overt feminist messages here too, with it being outright stated more than once how difficult things have been for Carol and Maria as women in the military - and Maria being a mother on top of that. It never feels forced though, and it's unfortunately entirely believable that these two amazing women have had harder lives than necessary purely because they are women.
Another subtle reinforcement of these points is Samuel L Jackson as a younger Nick Fury than we've seen before. Jackson is great here, and given some brilliant comedic material to work with, but he doesn't care that Carol's a woman - he's more concerned about the actual issue of aliens on Earth. Again, this might seem like a small thing, but it's just one more step in the right direction.
And writing about Jackson has just actually made me notice for the first time that the leading characters in this movie are two women and a black man. The largest roles for any white guys are antagonistic to varying degrees and in entirely natures to each other, with Ben Mendelsohn even buried under green prosthetics for most of his screen-time.
Mendelsohn does deserve some praise here too - his alien Skrull character, Talos, is intelligent and almost verging on self-aware as a movie character at times, but he's never outlandish or cartoon-like in nature despite getting some great fish-out-of-water moments as he attempts to complete his mission on Earth.
On the other hand, Jude Law's character, Yon-Rogg, does feel a little under-cooked and I do wonder if we'll see him return to face Carol in the future as their relationship is one part of the film that doesn't feel properly concluded by the time the credits roll. Law isn't bad in the role - far from it - but he's not really given the best material in the movie to work with.
The other ' unsatisfying' aspect is the final conflict: from a narrative, thematic and character standpoint, it all works, but the problem is that Carol is fully powered up as Captain Marvel by this point and there's no real threat or sense of danger. It looks and sounds great, with the fantastic score peaking at that point, but it's not dramatically-satisfying.
What it is, is triumphant and almost celebratory in nature, with the title character fully empowered and sure of herself, determined to protect that which matters the most to her. I do get the feeling that a lot of men will not be enamoured with this and have already seen some calling the action 'bad' - it's not - and is certainly no worse than any number of male-led action movies.
As I said, the only real problem I have with the ending is that it's lacking in drama as a result, and felt a little underwhelming. With how the story plays out, I can't see any way of improving it without introducing a new character to oppose Carol very late on - which would've been a terrible idea - but that is hopefully something that will be rectified in the inevitable sequel. Moonstone, anyone?
I thoroughly enjoyed Captain Marvel, and the more I think about it, the more I realise just how good it really is. It's nothing revelatory from a story-telling or dramatic point of view, but it does a very good job of setting up a new character and pieces of her background while setting the stage for more to come without ever letting the quality of the movie drop.
Captain Marvel is a great movie that I can't wait to see again. It doesn't have any super-highs, but there is very little here that could be called mediocre or average either. From start to finish, it maintains a high level of quality and is comfortably one of the best debut solo movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.