“Captain Marvel” Movie Review


     “Captain Marvel”, the 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, may be the first to have a female lead, but it also suffers from a “we’ve been here before many times” kind of feeling.  Never once does the storyline or the characters who populate it seem fresh or groundbreaking, as the formula used in so many of these superhero origin stories has now become stale and pedestrian at times.  That’s not to say directors Ann Boden and Ryan Fleck haven’t delivered a colorful, entertaining, and often hilarious take on the character’s origin story, but much of what we see on screen contains imagery seemingly lifted from other recent films, particularly an unmistakable “Guardians of the Galaxy” vibe that plays like a second rate imitation. This is the definition of formula filmmaking in its most obvious state.

     Since the 2008 debut of “Iron Man”, the MCU has successfully hummed along without a hitch, creating a behemoth franchise of which I have continually sung its praises.  And with each character introduction came the juicy possibility of a team up and ultimately something bigger where an entire collection of heroes would stand against unspeakable evil and somehow prevail in the name of humankind.  All of this, of course, was realized in “The Avengers”, which has nearly every filmgoer on the planet anxiously awaiting the conclusion to that ongoing storyline in the upcoming “Avengers: End Game”.  But Marvel felt it was necessary to add someone else to the fold before we get there.  As if all of the character development in the last ten years was no longer enough, and one more savior needed to be thrust into the mix.

     As an origin story, “Captain Marvel” is a by the numbers Marvel experience.  Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, and Geneva Robertson-Dworet wrote a screenplay that effectively chronicles the story of Air Force pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), while also fleshing out the beginnings of the Avengers Initiative and stalwart agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).  Initially, the film has our heroine as a member of an alien race called the Kree, who are fighting an intergalactic war against a shape shifting race called the Skrulls. When one of these battles temporarily goes the way of the enemy, “Vers”, as she is known to the Kree, is captured and her mind is raided in order to find the location of a mysterious technology that happens to be on Earth.  All of this leads both the Kree and the Skrulls to Earth in order to acquire it, which  jogs the memory of Danvers, who now begins to question whether she might have once had a life on Earth.

     When all parties arrive it’s the mid 1990s, and the filmmakers waste no time ensuring the music and production design is jam packed with every brand, style, and cliche of the time as Danvers initially crashes through the roof of, wait for it, a Blockbuster Video store.  And even though the aisles are filled with VHS tapes and other long gone forms of media, she immediately takes a page from the “E.T.” play book and heads over to the Radio Shack next door where she is able to utilize current communication technologies to somehow talk to her Kree mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and ask for help.  Later on, an alien “science guy” is able to convert a standard aircraft into one capable of flying in space with what seems to be a few simple and quick modifications, which reminded me of Scotty punching in the formula of “Transparent Aluminum” into a 1980's computer in “Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home” in order to get the walls for the whale tank made.  There is plenty of time spent poking at the 90s as if to boast as to how far we’ve come since, when in reality we’ve clearly taken many steps backward.

     Danvers meets Fury, a magically de-aged Jackson, via his investigation of her initial arrival on Earth and both soon find themselves in the middle of a race to find a certain artifact already well known within the lore of these films while attempting to avoid the Skrulls, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), who seem desperate to reach it first.  This leads the duo, who share a great on screen chemistry together, through the streets of Los Angeles to secret military bases and eventually into space.  Along the way, Danvers, who already possesses the ability to fire powerful energy bolts from both fists at her enemies, begins to discover other abilities, as well as the answers to where she came from and how she somehow found herself a part of the Kree with no memories as to how she got there.

     All of this ties in nicely with the current and upcoming Marvel storylines in an effort to wedge Captain Marvel into “End Game”, but I have to wonder whether or not this film might have been better served to come after rather than before.  Perhaps the character could’ve spearheaded a completely new storyline in the MCU instead of being forced into the current one less than two months before everything we’ve seen culminates together in “End Game”.  Regardless, it is clear the character will have a huge roll moving forward, as the MCU could end up spending more time with its alien characters, rather than the Earth based heroes we have been accustomed to.

     And while the post credit scene in last summer’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp” left the audience shocked, the obligatory exercise in “Captain Marvel” gives away what potentially could’ve been an emotion filled entrance in “End Game” by concocting a half baked scene with those left from Thanos’ extermination of half the population that completely whiffs and takes all of the drama out of the pager explanation, after having seen Fury activate it in the post credit scene for “Infinity War”.  Come to think of it, why do these films need post credit scenes anyway?

     That pager, by the way, which is not used as a plot device for this film, but rather one that connects “Captain Marvel” to the upcoming “End Game”, brings forth the question I most often ask after seeing these films.  Danvers instructs Fury to only use it to summon her in an “emergency”.  Is that to say the myriad of threats these heroes have already faced in previous entries did not constitute an emergency?  And what expertise does Fury have to make that determination when the Avengers regularly face adversaries who arrive from other planets?  

     In the time span between the mid 1990s and the present day storyline, there is quite a bit to explore in further installments that could open the door to yet another Danvers / Fury partnership, but also an entire universe of new yet to be unveiled characters.  And I know it is necessary (and financially lucrative) to do an introductory story for every main character, so even if “Captain Marvel” is not the studio’s best work, there is always a purpose which lends to something much bigger.  With the origin story told, perhaps her “End Game” appearance is more of a beginning than an end.  Marvel Studios has earned the benefit of the doubt.  Lets see where they take this.