I was going to start this article out by saying there’s not really a point in being critical about the Marvel films. I go to see them all, regardless. Some are good, some are bad, but I sit through each and every one and I usually genuinely enjoy them, at least in the moment, and especially if I see them in theaters (recent duds like Ant-man and the Wasp and Dr. Strange were both watched at home on the small screen… Thor: Ragnarok I don’t have an explanation for). That being said, I don’t have to start the article like that, because Captain Marvel is just a whole lot of fun.
After a nightmare Vers (Brie Larson) goes to chat with her commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). She lives on Hala, the capital of the Kree Empire, and serves as a member of Yon-Rogg’s elite strike force. Vers doesn’t have any memory of who she is or where she came from, and believes the dreams might be connected to that. Yon-Rogg encourages her to suppress her emotions, so they don’t rule her. Soon the team is set out to battle some Skrulls (shape-shifting green aliens). Vers is captured, escapes, and crashes down to Earth, where she teams with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, de-aged) to try to prevent a Skrull invasion.
It’s all sort of bonkers, which is exactly as it should be. Iron Man was a pretty down to earth movie, all things considered – no The Dark Knight, but it felt like it more or less took place in our world. Marvel has since abandoned that, building a sprawling universe of bizarro planets, species, spaceships, and magic. Why not? As I’ve frequently said with late stage Marvel, pretty much anything is on the table, so just go for it. Captain Marvel does. I’m wasn’t shocked to begin my journey on Hala, with a bunch of blue aliens ruled by a “Supreme Intelligence” that takes the form of Annette Bening. I’ve already seen a living planet, a shiny nordic planet governed by gods, and six magic stones that can wipe out all of existence. The less explanation the better.
The real crowning achievement of Captain Marvel is it’s pacing. Marvel movies at this point often have a lot of ground to cover, and while I think they might benefit from slowing down occasionally to just let their characters hang out and build bonds (the party at the open of Age of Ultron remains a high tide mark for the series as far as fun character moments goes, and I am still a defender of the farm foray though I haven’t rewatched the movie since theaters) most of the speed of this movie works well. The situation changes constantly, creating a tremendous sense of drive. Act One, for example, takes Vers to three separate planets and sets up a galactic conflict. It could have been a disaster but the movie handles the exposition and battles breezily. Vers’ backstory is doled out in a similar way. While in Skrull captivity her memories are scrubbed, and we see moments from her childhood, her air force training, her family, her friendships. It’s only bits and pieces, but it’s enough to sketch her out, and it also leads to a funny moment where a memory is repeated three times, overlapping itself, so that the same character keeps walking away from her in a different direction. Marvel movies rarely choose to do something particularly original or fun with their CGI playground, and this was a nice moment that wasn’t combat.
I guess it’s necessary to point out some downsides. This, being a Marvel movie, spent some time in a hanger and some time in a lab, and both were just as boring as they always are. The speed at which the plot moves means we don’t get a lot of time to actually learn who the hell Vers/Carol Denvers/Captain Marvel (a name that is not once used or even loosely tied to Larson… there is a totally different character that goes by the name Mar-vell though…). It’s probably why the plot has to move so fast, because for most of it there’s a hole at it’s center, a blank person. In part there isn’t a lot the movie can do about that – her memories have been wiped clean. Still, her personality remains intact and while we do get bits and flashes of it, just not enough to ever really create a full sense of character. The movie seemed to coast primarily on “here is Brie Larson, is she not charming?” As a counterpoint to that, she is absolutely charming, and Captain Marvel is extremely likable if not someone I know very well. Definitely would be willing to hang out a second time. The action is, as always, sort of boring, but even in this the movie distinguishes itself a little – there is a hilarious sequence where Vers fights a Skrull disguised as an old woman on a train and the other passengers keep trying to stop her. The “final battle” too involves a series of villains who aren’t a CGI army – there are six of them, and they all carry different weapons, and as a result we can actually distinguish them and have an idea of how the battle is going. It’s still not inspired fight choreography, but it’s definitely a step up. Even the villain of the movie is more fully formed than Marvel usually delivers.
I guess I’m bordering on gushing, which is silly, because in truth it was a perfectly fine movie. I didn’t love it with the stupid ferocity I love the Russo Brothers entries, but I definitely had fun the whole time, and while I think it’s important that we look at art critically, I don’t think the Marvel movies have ever asked us to do that. They’re not about our world, and they don’t take place in it. They’re about themselves and nothing more, and they, like Carol Denvers, are primarily focused on doing the right thing while slinging jokes and having a wry smile on
I give Captain Marvel 8 cats named Goose out of 10 blue aliens.
- The Skrull are just really fun character design.
- I wanted Ronan to be a bigger part of this movie. I really thought he should have been an all out hero in it. That being said, I enjoyed the few moments of “politics” between him and Yon-Rogg – Ronan likes to show up and bomb the threat, and Jude Law likes to be covert and avoid civilian deaths. It’s a nice contrast.
- The running gag with Goose is pretty fun. It pays off in the end, but I would have been equally happy if all the aliens were just terrified of cats.
- [SPOILER]: The end scene has Brie Larson show up in Avengers HQ to hang out with Don Cheadle, Captain America, Scarjo and Bruce Banner. It is very exciting! I was like “great! You get to meet all my other friends!” I am so damn excited for Endgame I just don’t care I know.