» Blog Archive Review: Captain Marvel Stutters On Takeoff -

“Higher. Further. Faster.” is the slogan that follows all of the marketing for Captain Marvel, but what it doesn’t tell you is that it’s going to squander all the potential it has going for it in a lowly, fractionally, and slowly moving manner, dragging you through a meandering second act that takes away the appeal of the character’s strengths. Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is billed as one of – nay, the – the strongest Marvel characters put on screen, and while it’s clear that her power level rivals that of Thor and possibly the insidious Thanos, what she isn’t strong enough to overcome is clunky and uneven writing and bland acting that ultimately show blemishes on a franchise that has routinely done better in recent years than it has any right to. While not a failure on all accounts, it’s very apparent Captain Marvel deserved more than it was given.

    I’m not in the “Carol Corp,” as her fans are called, but I have enjoyed the character in her Ms. Marvel and recent Captain Marvel days. To say the least, I’m familiar with what she can and can’t do, and as such I know she isn’t a pushover of a character, either. The movie acts as a non-linear origin story in which Vers (Also Larson) goes to investigate an instance of Skrull attacks and, coincidentally, crash lands on Earth, where she learns of her ties to the planet. Along for the ride is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson once again) and Goose the cat, as well as a rotating supporting cast that develops as the movie goes on. You’ve got Jude Law playing Yon-Rogg, Ben Mendelsohn playing an alien Skrull named Talos, and even returning actors like Djimon Hounsou and Lee Pace reprising their characters Korath and Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy.

    Mostly everyone’s trying their best, but all fall victim in some capacity to one of the most uneven scripts in Marvel’s long-running series of films, in which all of the time spent on Earth is plodding and an excuse to use 90’s nostalgia in both sight and sound to put my generation of 20-somethings into seats to live out their childhood they can barely remember. When Captain Marvel is taking us into space and going full superhero sci-fi a la Guardians and Thor, it wades rather than immerses and it still acts like we’re not 21 movies into a franchise. Raccoons talk to sentient trees. I’ve watched said raccoon get picked up by a man with a vibranium arm who was made into a weapon by ex-Nazis and has been alive since World War II. I’m almost insulted that they tried baby-feeding the audience this information, especially when they are so openly accepting of the weird nuances of the universe.

    While the writing has plenty of problems, I find that ultimately a great deal of it is placed upon the shoulders of the directing duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Oftentimes it seems actors are given little direction or received none at all, and it’s not like we haven’t seen these actors do their job before. Performances fall flat, pivotal scenes are shells of what they could have been, and unless you’re playing Nick Fury there’s a good chance you’re floundering about and trying to find a reason to care to be in this movie beyond the obvious $$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

    There are technical problems very much present, as well, with one fight scene (A quick one, nevertheless) being almost entirely done against a bright blue-white light and the combatants are almost entirely indiscernible. Granted, you’d be right to assume Captain Marvel is amongst them, but because there’s a lack of style and flare to them and Carol barely uses her powers here, it isn’t always clear who is who. Complete with occurences of sloppy editing (Of which there are a few in this movie) there’s a lack of cohesion that brings the movie together. At the least the cinematography is nice, but some shots are so clearly from an indie filmmaker that they sit out of place in the rest of the film, let alone a Marvel movie.

    Often times licensed soundtrack songs come into the film a la Iron Man and Guardians so to speak, but in a far less effective way that doesn’t end up working for the character. One fight scene has Captain Marvel doing here thing while “I’m Just a Girl” by No Doubt plays over it. This may seem like fun, but the circumstances of the conflict, as well as the urgency of the third act’s stakes, get pushed back with tremendous force and any tension disappears right away once you hear Gwen Stefani’s signature voice cut through the mix. It’s okay, guys. The music’s playing so we know she’ll be alright. No need to worry.

    The aforementioned space and alien sequences are the film’s strongest points and the third act is relatively solid and fun when Carol is making full use of her powers. There is a lack of explanation as to what her powers do other than shoot lasers and make big explosions (And they look good, too!) and the ability to fly comes out of nowhere, but it’s all good fun when it’s going down. Ben Mendelsohn is an extremely compelling character who is going to be fondly remembered after this movie, and his scenes with the main cast are something I really enjoyed at the end of the day. Hell, the cat is even amazing.

    When the CGI on Samuel L. Jackson’s face isn’t impressing you or Captain Marvel isn’t blasting radiant colors, the film suffers where it needed to succeed the most. Brie Larson simply hovers and doesn’t fly as the titular character and it’s simply a wait-and-see with her and another director. (Thankfully Endgame is not too far off) How the story is told hurts how the audience feels for her as little empathy is conveyed and her inner peril comes across so monochromatic that it’s questionable if she even cares at all. Her interactions with some cast members are great; a scene with Nick Fury in a certain covert military ship is genuinely nice, but Larson’s quips don’t land while in combat. She isn’t terribly funny, nor is she as intimidating as they want you to believe she is despite the power she displays. I truly do believe this falls onto the directors at the end of the day, but when Carol is having her most important scene – one that sets the third act into motion, mind you – Larson underacts and doesn’t utilize the true magnitude of the developing events to convey sympathy. It doesn’t help that the film doesn’t utilize any empathy for her, either, and any attempts to do so just end up falling flat. There’s no vulnerability or emotional depth to the character, and what’s there is just enough to be passable at best. (Side note: Larson has some extremely cringey bonding scenes with a child actor in this movie who is on an Episode I level of bad child acting. It’s one aspect of the movie that is just outright bad instead of being undercooked)

    I don’t know why Hollywood is so hesitant to make female superhero films, and frankly it’s evident that they can go about as well as a male superhero movie can. This discussion shouldn’t be a controversial one, but evident that they are subjected to the same pitfalls and ascension that their male counterparts have. Likewise, I see the Captain Marvel property going the same way Thor has, in which it is always open to improvement if it is willing to embrace the weirdness and allow its character to develop. It’s not a disaster of a movie, and one you can surely find fun it, but when you’re pushing a character to be at the forefront of a cinematic universe to make their debut, you simply can’t settle for less. Maybe Endgame will fix that.

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