Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 20, 2020

Captain Marvel doesn’t meet high expectations

By COLE DOUGLASS | March 14, 2019

Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0 Brie Larson plays MCU’s first female protagonist in Captain Marvel.

As the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to center on a female superhero/protagonist, Captain Marvel has been placed in the unfortunate predicament of having to justify its existence. Prior to its release, the film was subjected to a fairly significant smear campaign online, to the point that review website Rotten Tomatoes was forced to block users from leaving negative reviews before they even had the chance to see the film. Having actually watched the movie, I can confidently say that Captain Marvel is a perfectly average superhero flick. It might not rise to the heights of Black Panther or Thor: Ragnarok, but Captain Marvel is an enjoyable, if somewhat shallow, film and a fine addition to the MCU canon.

At the start of the film, the titular Captain Marvel (also known as Vers) is a member of the Kree Empire, an intergalactic organization engaged in a centuries-long war with the shape-shifting Skrulls. After being captured by a Skrull, Vers escapes onto Earth, where she discovers that the Skrulls are searching for a weapon that could help them end the war once and for all. As she attempts to prevent her enemies from obtaining the weapon, Vers starts to uncover mysteries in her own path and is forced confront both friend and foe in her quest to discover the truth.

Overall, the film’s narrative definitely isn’t one of its strong points. The film never really goes beyond its setup, and it feels like other films have already covered a lot of the narrative beats. There are good guys and there are bad guys, and the good guys have to stop the bad guys. There are some twists and turns that muddy the waters a little bit, but Captain Marvel never really strays away from the basic setup. There are also some pacing issues in the film’s second half that prevent some of the more emotional moments from being as impactful as they could be.

However, there are definitely a fair number of amazing moments when the film manages to be exactly as emotional and comedic as it wants to be. Captain Marvel never takes itself too seriously, and many of the jokes scattered throughout its runtime are genuinely hilarious. One running gag in particular — which focuses on a cat named Goose that may or may not be an alien monstrosity in disguise — is built up throughout the film to an incredible payoff during the climax. Though some of the quieter, character-driven moments feel a little rushed, they still touch on facets of the human experience that are engaging and sincere. Generally speaking, its a fun movie to watch, and its narrative failings never really stopped me from enjoying the experience.

The talent of the cast also helps to cover up some of the film’s flaws; across the board, they imbue the characters with enough personality and vibrancy to overcome some occasionally shallow characterization. Brie Larson brings a lot of stubbornness and passion to the titular role, and her camaraderie with Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as Nick Fury is one of the film’s most enjoyable aspects. Personally, I could not stop watching Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau, a mysterious woman who Vers begins to remember shortly after arriving on Earth. The moment when the two characters reunite for the first time is incredibly heartwarming, and Lynch makes even the most rushed emotional moments feel genuine and heartfelt.

Visually speaking, the movie is a bit of a mixed bag. Some shots are well-crafted and visually striking, such as the scene where Captain Marvel loses a member of the Skrull in a crowded train station and the camera slowly zooms out to reveal the suddenly ominous crowd around her. Others are not so put together: The CGI definitely gets a little shaky during the fight scenes in the film’s climax, causing Larson’s face to look a little plastic. Essentially, there aren’t any visuals that are particularly awe-inspiring, and most of the film simply looks fine.

All in all, Captain Marvel is a perfectly serviceable entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It might not have the strongest or most compelling narrative, but its charm and talented cast help elevate the material to a much higher level. Though it might not make viewers fall in love with the superhero genre, it is definitely a worthwhile watch for fans of the MCU and a good way to prepare for the long-awaited release of Avengers: Endgame coming later in the spring.

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