First things first, we’ve decided not to tackle the controversies concerning Brie Larson, the lead of the movie, and the fanbase, a huge part of which chose to get enraged. None of this serves the movie well, and we’d rather focus on the newest entry in MCU itself :).
Captain Marvel is a definitely smaller and less ambitious movie than the entirety of the Avengers franchise; in fact it’s one of quite a few origin stories Marvel has put on the screen through the years – from Iron Man (2008), Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) through Ant-Man (2015) and Doctor Strange (2016). We should probably also include Hulk (2003), at least from the chroniclers’ duty point of view, even if the majority of fans would prefer to forget it 😉 Captain Marvel also the first Marvel female-centered movie, despite fans’ ongoing pleas for a Black Widow flick. It is symptomatic, then, the the female superhero Marvel decided to depict in their response to the popularity of the Wonder Woman movie (2017) was a similarly beefed up, overpowered character of an ex-fighter pilot, who at the beginning of the movie remains an outside force not connected to Earth’s troubles or humanity, and whose main story arc revolves around the issue of getting involved and starting to care.
Captain Marvel is a well-established comic book character who possesses uncanny superpowers resulting from an accident with a strange, extremely strong source of energy. As the movie starts, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), known to everyone (herself included) as Vers, remains in the employ of an alien race of militaristic Kree fighting their unending war with shape-shifting Skrulls. She seems content within her small special ops unit and under tutelage of an experienced Kree warrior Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and the only thing bothering her at all are her strange dreams. It is not until Carol lands on Earth when she realizes she isn’t a Kree at all but rather a slightly unusual human.
Ola: The plot is simple and predictable, at times even overly so, with a generous amount of light fun (especially the references to the 1990s, from Top Gun to arcades to grunge) and a few nicely twisted tropes. It was definitely refreshing to see the conflict resolved in a different than the usual Marvel total-destruction mode 🙂 The message is very family-friendly and well-meaning, and in general Captain Marvel may be considered as an entry on the lighter end of the MCU continuum.
Piotrek: Yes, that is a friendly movie. Well-executed, simple story, with quite a few presents for nerds (I probably liked the old computers the most!), dynamic but no overly violent action, likeable characters and quite a bit of optimism.
Ola: The main strength of the movie was for me its supporting cast. Nick Fury actually gets a solid role to play and he enjoys it a lot – and the viewers with him :). He gives this movie the momentum it otherwise sorely lacks as, I’m sorry to say, Larson’s performance seemed very eco-friendly, i.e. wooden. It might not be entirely her fault, the role of Captain Marvel was written with absolutely zero development possibilities, and that’s my main gripe with the movie and also an issue I’ll address fully a bit later. I also appreciated Ben Mendelsohn’s role of the Skrull leader Talos – surprisingly, Talos and Monica Rambeau’s story arcs form the heart of the movie, becoming the main relationship anchors for the lead character. Cameos from Clark Gregg (unforgettable Phil Coulson) and Annette Bening were a welcome sight, and Jude Law did what he could with his role (which admittedly wasn’t that much).
Piotrek: The heroine was wooden, but not pathetic, and I don’t know enough about this character to really judge Brie Larson. But Samuel L. Jackson definitely was my favourite character of the movie and I wanted to see more of him in a Marvel film for quite some time. Jude Law made a serviceable character out of a poorly written one, I liked Ben Mendelsohn here more than I did in Rogue One 😉 I’m writing my part of the post in response to yours, and I have to admit I’ve yet to find a point to contest…
Let us check now how the movie fares in its supposedly main purpose – as MCU’s first female-led movie (we had a series in Jessica Jones, something we ultimately judged to be a failure). It was not a perfect protagonist for that, and while they tried, I’m mostly happy they did not try too hard.
Ola: My private measurement of gender equality in superhero genre is quite simple. It takes into account several things, most important of which are: 1) if the female character is a conscious actor, shaping and being shaped by the events on equal footing with male characters, 2) if the female character can be a convincing, fully fleshed and motivated villain (without the prevalent victim vibe or appearance issues), and 3) if the female character can be an unlikable asshole. Captain Marvel in the comic books passes the test with flying colors, falling squarely under point 3 (and maybe even a bit under point 2) as a result of the Civil War II storyline :P. Yet Captain Marvel in the movie fails the test miserably. She has absolutely no room for internal development as she has no vices or weaknesses to start with. She is in fact depicted as a victim of preying, manipulative men wishing to use her for their own purposes, and her only growth comes from the fact that she overcomes external factors designed to limit her abilities. Getting out of victimhood is a noble and much needed theme, granted, but seems not entirely suitable for a superhero movie – at least it did not work for Captain Marvel. But the root of this issue is much deeper – it starts with a character that is fully formed from the get-go and has no ability to grow. As such, it is not believable nor relatable. It’s basically an iteration of the the Wonder Woman flick problem – Diana was so ideal, without blemish or imperfection from the start, that the only thing she could have done so as not to be seen as an invariable fixture, was trying to bring to perfection the world around her. In Marvel movie at least the problem is less pronounced and paired with enough humor to make it definitely less nauseating. Yet it points to a problem within the popular culture movie industry – the approach to gender equality seems superficial; a fig leave covering up the fact that the male characters still have infinitely more ambitious, more enjoyable and more relatable story lines. Bring it on, Black Widow!
Piotrek: Yeah… although it definitely wasn’t sexist. It was just the type of superhero we got here. My thought was – they did not want a repeat of Captain America’s story, they did not have time for a fully-fledged origin story, so they did what they did and we got a decent movie anyway. Enjoyable addition to the great MCU, just not the breakthrough feminist superhero WW-haters are still waiting for. Black Widow definitely deserves her own flick, that could be it!
Ola: One of the rare occasions we’re of one mind! 😛
All in all, Captain Marvel is an enjoyable, family-friendly, feel-good movie. It is a light, funny and openly unambitious addition to MCU, with a few refreshing twists to the superhero formula hidden within a largely predictable plot.
Piotrek: It’s a movie for fans of the genre, and they won’t be disappointed. Marvel delivers movies at least competent, and only some of them are revolutionary. But, you know, not every western was Unforgiven either.
Score: Ola 6,5/10 Piotrek 7/10