A solid superhero adventure, Captain Marvel simply does the minimum to be passable. An average origin formula and little ambition to bring something new, the film seems more intent on setting Carol Danvers up for future appearances than making her first film great.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel tells the story of Carol Danvers, a woman who’s past unlocks secrets of the wider cinematic universe. The 21st Marvel film and the first to feature a female lead, Captain Marvel feels much like the phase she should have arrived in, Phase 1. The first origin story Marvel has made since 2016’s Doctor Strange, the film brings a more serious, yet uneven tone than other counterparts. With a plot structure similar to 2011’s Thor in many ways, the film does an average job balancing the story and slowly revealing Carol’s origin. It was pleasantly surprising to not be hit with a million jokes at once while disappointing that the film had to keep reminding us that it is set in the 90s with flat jokes.
The film does have shining moments. The first act of the film is likely the strongest, with the audience and Carol being thrown right into the action. Carol, who has little memory of her past life or of her true power is gleefully unaware and is bought in her lifestyle. With Kree military training through Yon-Rogg, the film starts off with a neat action sequence. The audience and Carol are on a journey to realize her true destiny. In this sense, the film is quite similar to most superhero origin films in today’s era, which ultimately hurts it. The second act was choppier and slightly more formulaic. Unfortunately, Marvel continues to suffer from a color grading issue where films look more like TV shows than films. Much like Clark Gregg’s Agent of Shield, the second act of this film was more or less another episode. Holding the majority of the film’s comedy and classic Marvel tone, the act is saved only through the banter between Carol and Fury. Finally, the third act dials everything up and delivers on some of the most powerhouse sequences in the franchise so far. If one thing is meant to be made clear in this film, it’s that when Carol is using her 100%, she’s the strongest hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Led by Brie Larson as the titular hero, Captain Marvel boast a solid cast. Surrounding Larson is Samuel L. Jackson returning as Nick Fury, Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, Jude Law as Yon-Rogg, Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson and Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambea. Most of the cast does a solid job in their very one dimensional roles, with Jackson doing a stellar job as a younger Fury. Larson also does a good job embodying the identity of Captain Marvel as she will continue to do with years to come. The center of the story is definitely Captain Marvel, with other characters blending in and out. While this leaves the motivations of a few characters thin and undeveloped, the film manages to skate by it without too much damage. Without spoiling, the villain of the film is one of the weakest of the franchise and Marvel took a step backward with the villain when compared to Avengers: Infinity War or Black Panther.
Like some Marvel films, Captain Marvel tends to play it safe with the material. With very few twists and turns and a super streamlined and simplistic plot, the film feels very much aimed at younger audience. On that front Captain Marvel does a good job at framing itself as a solid experience for the youth. Captain Marvel will definitely be popular for young girls watching and it is easy to see how the character will be a fan favorite for years to come. The closest explanation to this film is Doctor Strange. Strange, who in the eyes of many fans, was utilized much better in an ensemble setting than a solo, just felt more believable in Infinity War. It would be safe to say that Captain Marvel could go through a similar treatment in Avengers: Endgame. Simply put, the film did a better job creating the character of Captain Marvel and setting her up for future films than it did focus on making this singular film great.
Overall, Captain Marvel is just a solid film. The movie takes little to no chances on being anything greater than the sum of its parts. While it does not drop the ball, it doesn’t give the audience anything it hasn’t already seen before. Setting up the character for films to come seems to have been the only goal and on that basic level, it succeeded. At the end of the day, as long as Captain Marvel inspired others, it did its job. Younger audiences, especially young girls will definitely fall in love with Carol and be invested in her future appearances. Unfortunately when looking at the film on its own singular merits, Captain Marvel seems to be very comfortable on just being average for a hero that deserved greatness.