‘Captain Marvel’ Lifts A Great Character Off The Page And On To The Screen, In Spite Of Needing Better Material

When you’re building a universe that has 21 feature films and 11 TV series to its name it’s hard to maintain a certain level of…quality.

While Captain Marvel is still a solid fantasy action flick, in the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe it just all plays out in a perfunctory fashion as it follows the typical origin story beats while setting the table for the big Avengers: End Game  event in a couple of months time.  It only manages to rise above the median thanks to a stellar leading performance.

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 universe’s 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.

The hype around this movie and subsequent news of internet trolls panning the movie in advance of anyone having actually having seen has taken up a lot of the air in the recent news cycle…HOWEVER now that we’ve watched the damn thing we can say there’s nothing wrong with Captain Marvel but with the exception of Brie Larson in the title role, the entire thing doesn’t quite live up to the high bar of standards that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has already set for itself.

The writing and directing team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are definitely making a pretty big jump into the spectacle action movie realm and certainly have some aspects of existing in a comic book universe down pat.  The material here never loses sight of the genuine wit and comedic aspects that come out of these stories and allows those moments along with some of the more nuanced character development moments to have enough room to breathe and allow the characters some space to work and find something that works.

However on the flip side of that, the action sequences while effective never feel like anything remotely special borrowing beats and visual esthetic feels from films that have come before it.  There’s nothing wrong with it, but the world smashing, larger than life esthetic that we got in some of the other MCU films just doesn’t come out as well as would have been hoped.

The score by Pinar Topek (the first woman to score a Marvel movie) captures the essence of the character quite well along with a first rate 90’s era soundtrack to it all and the cinematography by Ben Davis who has lensed other Marvel installments give it all a very unified feel, which actually works against itself at times.  The entire film really needed to feel like more of a standalone affair rather than just the next chapter in a very large story being told.  It’s a film where we wanted to care more about the character then making sure that all the jigsaw pieces that are on the table in this film fit into the ultimate puzzle being built and thankfully Brie Larson pretty well makes that happen.

This is a super hero origin story after all, so a certain degree of indecisiveness and uncertainty is supposed to be in the character and Larson makes the mixture of it all work together so incredibly well.  Heroes are by their very nature flawed, which is what draws us to them and Larson makes sure that her Carol Danvers has the right amount of swagger while walking around in this boys world, still allowing a sense of humanity to creep in.  There’s a part of that knows she’s the most powerful being in any given situation that she’s in, but much like the lessons that she learns from her mentor Yon-Rogg played by Jude Law in the film, not every situation in life is about having the best abilities, but it’s about knowing when to use them, and more importantly when not to.  She ramps up the character to a super hero level of ego, which is exactly what was needed for the character rather than flicking a switch and giving it all to us at once and it makes for a very carefully examined and in-depth character performance

Jude Law does well opposite her and adds a little strut to his step when needed while the consistently under rated Ben Mendelsohn does well as Talos as Samuel L Jackson brings his trademark attitude back to Nick Fury while the digitally aged him younger much like Clark Gregg reprising the role of Agent Coulson.  However the balance of the ensemble with the likes of Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan & Annette Bening just don’t get that much to do and are either under used or simply wasted in some overly involved stunt casting.

Don’t get it twisted, Captain Marvel is still pretty fun and while we wait anxiously to see Brie Larson to bring this character to other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we also hope that she gets some better material to work with the next time around.

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Dave Voigt

David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf, to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema. Having launched his own home; In The Seats (intheseats.ca) back in 2015 for all the latest and greatest movie reviews and interviews he’s one of the leading voices in the film criticism scene in Toronto, and eventually the world. David is the Entertainment Editor for Addicted Magazine.