Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Screenplay: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg, Jude Law, Annette Bening
Running Length: 124 minutes
Synopsis: Set in the 1990s, Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that follows the journey of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she becomes one of the universes most powerful heroes. While a galactic war between two alien races reaches Earth, Danvers finds herself and a small cadre of allies at the center of the maelstrom.
Review: It’s “only” taken 10 years and 20 films for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to finally produce a female-led superhero movie, but if you were hoping for Captain Marvel to do for female empowerment what Black Panther did for black representation, I would suggest you look elsewhere. There’s no denying that Captain Marvel does what a Marvel superhero movie typically sets out to do – it is an entertaining (if less than consequential) romp through the MCU via an origins story – but the marketing around the movie is positioning it as a positive beacon of female empowerment, which really quite overstates the case.
When the directors of Captain Marvel were announced, it seemed like a pretty interesting decision – Boden and Fleck are more known for their indie films, and helming a big budget action movie may not make them the most intuitive choice. And honestly, this could be part of the reason why Captain Marvel comes across as a rather uneven movie. While the comedic beats are quite good (the regular jibes at 90s tech will be particularly amusing to anyone who’s actually lived through the era) and there’s an easygoing camaraderie amongst the cast (channeling a little bit of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies), the action sequences in the film are some of the most inadequately choreographed, muddied scenes in recent memory. In fact, even the money shots of spaceships engaging in battle feel like they belong more to a TV episode of Star Trek than a mega-budget movie like this one.
It’s also unfortunate that while Brie Larson is a perfectly capable actress, the fact that she needs to spend almost half a movie in an amnesiac haze does her no favours. Carol Danvers is simply far less interesting as a character than she should be, and while there are occasional glimpses back to a time where she’s a livelier person, the supporting cast members like Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch and even Annette Bening are actually far more engaging throughout the film. Special mention must be made of Goose, the super adorable orange tabby (played by four different cats!), who plays a pretty important role in the movie and manages to steal whatever scene he shows up in. (P.S. stay through the entire credits sequence for a cute but none-too-consequential second coda.)
The key drive of many female-led movies seem to be centred around the idea of “if men can do it, women can do it too”, and this is an old, tired trope we should already have moved away from years ago. Female empowerment in Captain Marvel literally refers to imbuing a woman with superhuman abilities that allow her to stand toe to toe with male counterparts, but how is that identifiable or teachable in any meaningful way? The solitary scene that bucks this typecasting is a collage where we see Carol Danvers literally standing up to adversity near the end of the film, but it’s too little, too late.
While this could potentially be asking too much of a superhero movie, coming off a high watermark year of 2018 (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and even Ant Man & the Wasp had more convincing female empowerment on display), Captain Marvel feels more like a throwaway sidestep before April’s Avengers: Endgame (where Captain Marvel purported plays a pivotal role) comes around. The film is a perfunctory, middle of the pack Marvel film that does just enough to justify its existence, but is a retread of a path already frequently trod on by its MCU predecessors, rather than taking the mega-franchise in any new direction.
Rating: * * ½ (out of four stars)