Captain Marvel - Review

Like all superhero introductions, there is plenty of room to grow, but Captain Marvel begins the savior Avenger’s story on a more than shaky foot.

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Guardians of the Galaxy had dancing. Iron Man had Robert Downey Jr.. Black Panther had Oxnard. Places to begin, to base the reality of a far away world upon; to give us skin in the game. Captain Marvel begins with spaceships, future-cities and alien jargon. Jude Law spews exposition about the “Supreme Overlord” and Annette Benning appears with white hair and green eyes. The latest entry in the MCU cannon begins with dense, neon-lit sci-fi. It gets into relatable territory around the twenty minute mark, but it shows how mismatched the pieces of Captain Marvel are that it begins with heavy plot exposition on a new alien race we have no reason to invest our time in yet. It’s a film of cluttered expectations, the bearer of an underserved burden: it can’t help but crumble under the weight.

It’s great to see Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) treated as more than glue for the various Avengers. His central role in Captain Marvel is essential, providing a much-needed base for a cosmically all-over-the-place story. His inclusion speaks to the need for Marvel to keep their stories grounded, a track they have rarely deviated from, though it would likely do them good at this point. When Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 took things back to Earth for Ego’s plight, the stakes were nonexistent. The Guardians universe was established in space, in a time and place where the trivialities of humans didn’t matter; in Captain Marvel, Earth and its people are inseparable from the equation. Between barrel-scraping “hey, remember that old thing?” comedy and Samuel L. Jackson’s inherent likeability, there is little room for Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) to make room for herself. Her story is massive, world-encasing, and if we’re to believe the end-credits, crucial to the survivability of half the Universe’s population: why then does Marvel feel the need to hold itself back? Like Danvers’s safety collar that prevents her from accessing the extent of her powers, the creative team behind Captain Marvel always shrinks away instead of charging forward. Captain Marvel is a Superman-level hero, imbued with god-like powers able to crush buildings and withhold death, but she also has a blonde mohawk. It’s the same poison that infected Thor: Ragnarok: an assimilation of American culture for the entertainment of the broadest audience possible. When a character in that film started using machine guns instead of his own god-status abilities, the veil broke. The same problem occurs every few minutes in Captain Marvel, only furthering the gap between superhero adventure and bad action flick.

Where Captain Marvel is entertaining, it is borrowing from other, better films. The zany alien-isms brought along by the Skrulls pale in comparison to Guardians’s various creatures. The buddy-cop narrative of Danvers and Fury has been done twice now through Ant-Man and the Wasp, and the fish-out-of-water shtick is practically the first two Thor movies. Captain Marvel inserts one of these ideas when the story slows down, and though they break up the frequent monotony, it gives the film a copy and pasted quality that’s new for Marvel. There is a dangerous lack of ideas in the film, shocking for a studio that is practically bursting with source material; when it senses the audience nodding off, Nick Fury talks to a cat, or Coulson is back, or Jude Law is smug. There is no surprise to Captain Marvel, because we’ve seen it all before: it’s dragged and dropped, seen before, done better, down to the pointless end-credits scene.