Review: Captain Marvel

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Captain Marvel was a good movie. Not… much more to say about it.

Vers, a Kree warrior with a surreal power of photon-blasts from her hands, goes on a mission to destroy Skrulls – dangerous aliens who can shape-shift into anyone. But on this mission, she is haunted by visions of a past she doesn’t remember… a past on Earth.

Marvel Studios and Disney smashed their franchise a home run with 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, immediately revitalising their series by cracking the formula wide open. That film ended with Nick Fury sending a mysterious message on a pager, revealing a logo we hadn’t seen before. So audiences should be very hyped for the immediate “follow-up”, Captain Marvel.
The film however, is quite average in the grand scheme of Marvel’s tapestry. For once, Marvel Studios feels as though they are following DC Comics; their “competitor” releasing their successful female-led Wonder Woman solo movie in 2017, and whether that has any bearing or not, the characterisation in this film feels a little butchered by comparison. The issue perhaps lies in the film’s pacing, which does not stop for anything. This is an all-out science fiction action film; we start with Brie Larson’s Vers training with Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg, and we immediately see the resurgence of shaky-camera hand-to-hand combat. Not seen since Batman Begins. It goes on though, with constant chase sequences, combat and espionage… almost afraid to give characters time to breathe. (I had to look up the name of Jude Law’s character just now). It feels like Marvel falling back into their formula immediately. I wasn’t even sure who the villain was in this one!

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The plot, for involving shape-changing aliens and a degree of conspiracy, really isn’t that deep. You can see where it is going, as the primary focus is our leading lady, whose character trait is… she has amnesia. Boy, we’ve never seen THAT before, have we?
Brie Larson is an amazing actress. Room is an exceptionally well performed movie, yet here she doesn’t have much to work with… often just looking moody, or quipping like every other Marvel hero. For an origin story, her story is scattered to the winds of this amnesia plot, which is disappointing… outside of superficial heroics towards the end, there isn’t much emotional impact to events that unfold.

But, it was enjoyable. A lot of the comedy comes from the almost buddy-cop chemistry between Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Brie Larson’s Vers. These two are great on screen together, with Jackson’s natural charisma giving much needed flared to the functional procedure.
The visuals are very sharp also. Far better than the likes of Doctor Strange or even parts of Black Panther. The weakest elements in this new film are moments that could be considered “minor”, and not entire set pieces; these grand moments are well rendered. Heck, even the cat who features is often a CGI creation… yet it works perhaps, seventy-percent of the time with great effect. It is also nice to see humanoid aliens that aren’t CG faces; the Skrulls are actors in make-up, and it holds up under lighting and camerawork far better than some of Thanos’s mightiest henchmen.
The film is also set in the 1990s, yes, a prequel to almost every Marvel Studios movie to date (except for the first Captain America, obviously) and a lot of the film’s kudos come from references to future events, to objects and faces we’ve become very familiar with over the last eleven years. Most apparent is the return of Agent Coulson. Of course, the film enjoys its 90s references too; taking notes from the ever popular Guardians of the Galaxy, having Vers crash into a Blockbuster store, or the entire film having a rocking 1990s grunge music soundtrack. That was great!

Overall, Captain Marvel (which is a silly name, and it is gratefully not used in the script) is all flash and not much else. One wonders if Marvel have forgotten how to write origin story movies… too invested now in the broader picture, the next big reveal, appeasing the fans with references, rather than making anything of the characters. Like Doctor Strange though, I am sure she will be far better represented in the next stage of the Avengers than she was in her own movie.

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