So after my last post was basically me begging Marvel not to traumatize Carol Danvers and calling them out for how they treat their female protagonists, I only thought it was appropriate to make today’s post a review of the movie itself. Since I haven’t posted a movie review before, a bit about how I handle it: I’ll do a high level overview of the movie first, which will be spoiler free, and then I’ll delve into my deeper thoughts with some spoiler warnings before I get there. So, just a heads up.
Before I even review the movie, however, a bit about my personal biases: First of all, I love Carol Danvers as a character, and I’ve absolutely dying for this movie to come out since it was announced. Second of all, I love superhero movies in general and the MCU in particular, so I always give them the benefit of the doubt. I cannot express to you how much Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, Aquaman, and Iron Man 3 had to work to get me to dislike them. They managed it, but man did I want to to enjoy them. So this is coming from the perspective of an outright fanboy of the MCU and of Carol Danvers in particular.
That being said, I loved Captain Marvel. Absolutely adored it. Brie Larson was perfect for the role, bringing both the parts of Carol Danvers I love to life while also infusing the character with her own unique brand of charisma that proves why she’s such a sought after actress. The banter between her and pretty much everyone in the film was on point. Samuel L Jackson was as amazing as he always is as Nicholas Fury, and the de-aging technology in play was the best it’s ever been. Clark Gregg reprising his role as Phil Coulson was immensely appreciated, and pretty much everyone in the cast brought their A Game. (we will talk about the exception to that rule in the movies’s weak point, but it’s hard to get into without spoiler territory). The special effects and fight sequences were on point, and the movies overall plot was excellently paced. The Kree homeworld of Hala was beautifully realized, as were both the Kree and Skull ships, and both managed to feel different form the numerous other alien worlds and vessels we’ve seen across the MCU so far.
On the flip side, the movie was not flawless. If some of the hallmarks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe annoy you are deal breakers – rapidly edited fight sequences, over-reliance on CGI over practical effects, a focus on humor that sometimes undercuts dramatic tension, and villians that lack strong motivation – then Captain Marvel will do nothing to change your mind. It doesn’t break any new ground other than having a female protagonist and a power set that’s actually fairly unique for the MCU, feeling more like a suite of powers better suited to a DC character. It is enough different if you’re still invested in the MCU or if you’re on the fence about this one, but if you have Marvel fatigue, the movie clearly doesn’t care about fixing that. I don’t, I could watch one of these movies a week and still love it, but I can understand if you do.
And as far as the question I’m sure some of you are asking based off my last post: the movie puts Carol Danvers though some traumatic stuff, but she is never implied to be traumatized by it. Delving into that more will again, happen below the spoiler line.
None of those complaints are deal breakers for me, but I felt they should be mentioned in the interest of fairness. Overally, I love and recommend this movie highly. There are other things I loved in this film, as well as other flaws in this movie, but they’re things I can’t discuss without a big old spoiler tag on top of them. Actually, a lot of this movie needs spoiler tags before I go into any additional details, so consider this your warning:
***SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS AHEAD. DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS FOR THIS MOVIE.***
Origin stories for superheroes have been done to death at this point, and finding something unique to do with them is tricky at best, borderline impossible at worst. Captain Marvel did find a unique twist to the formula, thankfully – by giving the character established powers and amnesia, the central narrative conceit was Carol Danvers, going by her Kree name of “Vers” for most of the movie, trying to discover her own origin story. It was just original enough to freshen up a story we’ve heard a thousand times before, because while all the usual origin story beats were there – Hero is established as they grow up, we the audience learns what makes character heroic without their powers, we see them get their powers, they learn to use their powers, then they fight a threat that is in some way related to how they got said powers – the nonlinear story means this feels like a remix of the classics as opposed to just a classic.
As mentioned before, Brie Larson was pretty much perfect for the role. Her ongoing devil-may-care attitude really sold the cockiness that defines so much of Carol Danvers, and it meant that the traumatic stuff they put they character through – including giving her amnesia – never felt like she was traumatized by it. It’s an important distinction to make, but given how worried I was that they were going to give us yet another broken woman who’s being punished for being a badass, I’ll take it. It didn’t feel any more traumatic than what male heroes go through in their origin stories, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for.
On top of that, the movie’s female-specific elements were handled well. Carol faces a few cases of outright sexism – a biker telling her she should smile more, a male fighter pilot asking if she know why it’s called a cockpit, that sort of thing. Beyond that, the movie did a clever thing by setting up a central internal conflict at the beginning, where a male character is telling her that she’ll never be able to best him until she manages to master her emotions. Or, to put it even less subtly then the movie does, a man is telling a woman she’s too emotional. Even here in spoiler land I’m not going to say how that gets resolved, but I will say it was handled beautifully.
Also,the movie takes advantage of its prequel status to both do some wonderful 90’s references and answer a few questions that were dangling around this franchise since the first Avengers movie and in some cases before. The reveals for them were fun little shout outs to long term fans while never bogging down the plot for newcomers. The movie also takes advantage of having a de-aged Samuel L Jackson to really flesh out and humanize Nick Fury as a character, something I wish the marvel movies had done sooner but was still nice to see happen.
Beyond that…this movie just works on almost every level. I haven’t touched on Lashana Lynch’s incredible performance in a secondary role as Carol’s pre-space best friend Maria Rambeau, but the two actresses had so much chemistry on screen I totally bought that these two are as close as the movie implies, even with Maria’s limited screen time. I’m going to make a blanket statement that everything I don’t mention in the segment below as something I had a problem with is something I liked.
Now, moving on to…
This is the first move I can think of that was actually hurt by being part of the MCU. It feels weird to type that, but there’s a big twist in the middle of Act II that would have gone better if I didn’t know the Kree already. Sure, the movie plays with insomnia, so you’re basically primed to expect the twist is coming. However, three seasons of Agents of Shield as well as the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie made it clear that Kree are assholes, so the big reveal in Act II – that the Kree were, in fact, assholes – fell flat. It was a prequel movie, so that was kind of inevitable, but it felt like the movie really earnestly believed it was going to catch you off guard with that.
The actor who didn’t work for me was Jude Law as Yon-Rogg, and the entire rest of Carol’s Kree crew. The movie didn’t spend enough time on them to flesh them or their relationship with Carol out, and if they had it really could have made that Act II reveal so much more powerful. Jude Law especially felt like he was phoning in his performance just a smidge, which was disappointing.
And really, gets to the core of the one big problem I have with this movie – in service of that Act II reveal, the villains were flat and uninteresting. That’s been a problem for the MCU for years now, but after Vulture, Killmonger, and Thanos, I’d started to have hope that they’d solved this issue by giving us villains with complex and understandable motivations. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The movie wasted so much time pretending the Kree weren’t the bad guys, even when Carol wasn’t with them so they had no reason to act otherwise, that they lacked depth and any sort of interesting motivation. This was especially noteworthy for Gemma Chan’s Minn-Erva and Djimon Hounsou reprising the role of Korath from Guardians of the Galaxy, both of whom I was really hoping to see more of.
That also comes down to a minor problem with the movie – because the Kree were so underdeveloped throughout the movie, I completely lost track of everyone besides Yon-Rogg. I was going to make a comment about Minn-Erva returning for a sequel, and then realized I could not recall if she’d survived the final fight. I really hope she did though, because Doctor Minerva is a major villain in the Captain Marvel rogue’s gallery, and Gemma Chan is such a wonderfully talented actress that I really want to see her play a comic book villain. (I know she plays a bad guy in Transformer: the Last Knight, but nothing is going to get me to watch Transformers: the Last Knight.)
Again, none of that is a dealbreaker for me. I loved I loved this movie, and will probably go see it again in theaters. If you’re on the fence, I’d suggest checking it out – it’s absolutely worth it.