Captain Marvel (2019)

It’s been some time since we had a Marvel movie review ๐Ÿ™‚ But in preparation for Avengers: Endgame we feel we need to review the most recent MCU production, Captain Marvel.

Marvel

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

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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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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! ๐Ÿ˜›

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 wasย Unforgiven either.

Score: Ola 6,5/10 Piotrek 7/10

30 thoughts on “Captain Marvel (2019)

  1. Thanks for a great review! ๐Ÿ˜€ I am ashamed to admit I went to see this movie in the theatre (granted on a very hot day, after lots of work in the sun and then a couple drinks afterward) and fell asleep :/ So I knew the basic premise, but I definitely wasn’t wowed by it. Your measurement of gender equality in the superhero genre is awesome, Ola! I’m definitely going to start employing it. I’d love a Black Widow movie.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Larson made it quite clear that she didn’t want me watching “her” movie, so I haven’t nor do I plan to. And watching a superman movie but without any kryptonite really doesn’t sound fun.

    I have a feeling that after I watch Infinity War and End Game, my superhero movie watching is going to drop to just about zero.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I watched Endgame on Wednesday – ah, the perks of the time difference ๐Ÿ˜€ I won’t talk about it until everyone and their uncle had already seen it, but I can safely say the superhero fatigue is starting to get me – at least in the movie genre ;).

      Liked by 2 people

      • Spoil away. I won’t be watching it until the bluray comes out and I’ll pick it and Infinity War up hopefully as a combo pack. So anything you say, I won’t remember or really care. Besides, I read the Infinity Gauntlet/War comics several years ago so I pretty much know how the story goes even if the particulars are different from the comics ๐Ÿ˜€

        It has been about 15 years, almost 20 depending on when you start counting Super Hero movies as starting, so I figure they’ve about run their course. Now they should start petering out. Like the westerns in the US did…

        Liked by 2 people

        • Ooh, westerns! That’s another discussion altogether ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’d say they never really went away, and the recent decades were pretty decent for the genre, if the only creative element is the reimagination of old tropes. So if that’s the future of superhero genre, I’m content (and really looking forward to the anti-movies, the Unforgiven of the superhero genre :D)

          Liked by 2 people

          • Oh, I was thinking more of numbers than content in regards to Westerns. The 50’s and 60’s and even into the late 70’s saw them dominate the box office and radio and tv. Then they just kind of disappeared except for the odd one here and there. I expect that is the future of the super hero movie. One or four a year at most.

            Liked by 2 people

          • I can live with that ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t need to see a blockbuster a month… but it will take some time to get there, numbers are still pretty strong for superheroes.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Well, with Thanos she will have a stronger opponent, we’ll see how that’s gonna play. And I’m waiting to see the post-Endgame MCU, they will probably try to change a bit, after this long multi-movie storyline concludes. But I don’t see any better genre on the horizon, so I’m not going to give up on this one ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, thank you for a very detailed review that makes me want to re-watch the movie to go past the action scenes and take a good look at the actual “meat” of the story! As super-heroes movies go, this one had enough humor (and some tongue-in cheek humor as well) to counterbalance nicely the action scenes: I don’t enjoy movies when they are all car chases and explosions and take themselves too seriously ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re very welcome! ๐Ÿ™‚
      I did appreciate the lighter tone, though I’d prefer a bit more “meat” on the bare bones of the story ๐Ÿ˜‰ Still, it was enjoyable and my whole family had fun ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your take on gender equality and how you split it into 3 points. I have to admit that this movie falls into the category of horrible MCU movies for me. It was its feminist agenda that really killed me. Not because there was one but because of how explicit and evident they made it, they didn’t even try to hide it or even try to deliver it with tact. That one scene where you see all of her past selves get up after falling felt like an ad for a product with a feminist connotation to it. I also found her character to be overpowered with no room for development. It didn’t help when you see from the start that she was just going to try to prove by the end of the movie that “her emotions” are not her weakness but her strength… And how she defeats all her enemies at the end was cringey! I couldn’t wrap my head around them. Great post nonetheless!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! ๐Ÿ˜€
      I agree, it is very heavy-handed in its feminist aspect indeed, especially the part of being a victim of conservative and blood-thirsty males of Kree; and yet, I still prefer it to WW, where feminism was just a cover for the regular chainmail bikini-clad stupid brunette defeating all by the power of love; surprised they didn’t reach back to the bondage tradition of WW ๐Ÿ˜‰
      But I totally agree with you on the power overkill; it doesn’t even hold up to the internal logic of MCU: however you count it, a manmade (or womanmade) engine could not generate energy able to infuse someone to become a mini sun! That’s why Dark Phoenix makes so much more sense to me – at least within Marvel universe ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hahahha if they ever do Grant Morrisonโ€™s take on Wonder Woman in live-action, it would be the end of the world ๐Ÿ˜‚

        Ahhh Dark Phoenix… canโ€™t wait to see if the movie adaptation will even hold up to the comic counterpart… so far, I donโ€™t thereโ€™s a single person who is excited for that movie ๐Ÿ˜‚

        Liked by 1 person

        • [Shudders] that image just damaged my brain, Lashaan! More to the point, however, I’m sure there’s a group of people waiting for this kind of movie, and they all are over 18 ๐Ÿ˜›

          Ah, I’ve seen the trailer and… exactly. Don’t count me as an even remotely excited fan ๐Ÿ˜‰ Especially after Apocalypse, which was simply terrible – and this doesn’t look to be even a tiny bit better, I’m afraid.

          Liked by 1 person

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