[REVIEW] Larson's a Supernova Amongst an Adequate Marvel Movie
[Spoiler Free] We've been waiting for a female-led Marvel movie since, well, since movies were a thing - and now that we have one - was it worth the wait?
MARVEL STUDIOS' Highly Anticipated Captain Marvel is Finally Here!
We've been waiting for a female-led Marvel movie since, well, since movies were a thing - and now that we have one - was it worth the wait?
Absolutely. For Carol Danvers alone. But does the surrounding package live up to Brie Larson's hero, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large?
Not really, no.
Our Captain Marvel, Brie Larson, is an absolutely captivating, gutsy lead that has you on board with her mission pretty much from the get'go, but everything else around her is just... fine. Thanks to a clunky script and some rather odd studio choices we are treated to an origin film that tries its hardest to make another Captain the center of the Marvel Cinematic Universe mere months before ENDGAME - instead of giving Danvers the respect and room to breathe (on her own) that she deserved. And if her first film ends up feeling shoehorned to audiences, its because it is, as it took Marvel Studios over a decade to get around to a female protagonist. Unfortunately, it shows, and this alone is responsible for the film's most glaring missteps.
"...it took Marvel Studios over a decade to get around to a female protagonist. Unfortunately, it shows..."
Larson looks absolutely natural in Danver's U.S. Air Force flight-suit.
The film will no doubt be compared to DC's Wonder Woman at every turn, but the two origin stories share practically nothing in common. Marvel, and the multiple writers involved, were smart to keep a love interest absent from her story, as Danver's has entirely too much on her plate to even think about courting someone - let alone giving them the time of day. What we're treated to, instead, is a fresh take on the 'origin film', that somehow doesn't feel that fresh at all.
Larson's supporting cast is strong, with Samuel L. Jackson providing our only real link to the MCU at large as we discover quite a bit about his younger days. Agent Coulsen's return to the fray, however, is little more than a cameo, unless the studio decides to play on a certain plot-point we won't spoil here.
It's the new additions that truly shine, with Lashana Lynch's Maria giving Carol's past, present, and future the heart it needs - and Jude Law's excellent turn as Carol's mentor that serves to create most of the narrative's tension.
The real M.V.P, though, is Ben Mendelsohn as the Skrull warrior Talos, who's personality is all over the proceedings - even if some of his dialogue doesn't exactly land.
Law as Yon-Rogg and Mendelsohn as Talos, with Larson as Danvers front and center.
The rest of the cast does the best with what they're given - which is a clunky script that feels every bit as rushed as Marvel must've been to get their first female superhero flic up and out the door before ENDGAME hits theaters a mere two months after it's release. But they did right by us where it counts when they put all their faith in Larson, as her Carol Danvers owns every single moment, whether its throwing her fists into alien faces - or quietly rediscovering her past. She is an absolute blast of a lead (pun intended), and as you witness her getting up over and over and over again, you'll be anxious to see her do it for films to come.
And it is this excellence in casting, acting, and character execution that leaves the entirety of the surrounding package feeling rather... bland. While the studio did indeed find new ways to explore a superhero origin film, they managed to fall head-first into their own biggest flaw at the same time:
Larson and Jackson make for a great buddy cop dynamic, but are both stinted by the studio's desire to set up their own films.
Captain Marvel becomes a forceful exercise in retconning MCU storytelling instead of letting Danvers shine on her own.
After a decade and over twenty films, Marvel releases their first female-led film two months before the closing chapter to said decade's storytelling. To make this make sense, they've decided to bulldoze to the center of their universe, doing away with years of earned character development simply to place Danvers as the new center of it all. It feels off - unearned and out of place - simply because our only point of reference is Nick Fury, who is so far removed from the super-spy leader we've come to know since the end credits of the very first MCU movie (2008's Iron-Man) that even his presence isn't enough to make Captain Marvel feel "at home" within the canon. Neither does the inclusion of two (excellent) actors from the Guardians of the Galaxy series.
And with all this, Captain Marvel becomes a lesser building block of a film, made as a way to shoehorn the character into ENDGAME and the MCU at large, rather than giving her an epic, respectable standalone.
Black Panther succeeded in ways this film did not, because it was entirely its own entity. Very little of that film was influenced, or steered, by the need to "set up" other films in the MCU. Captain Marvel, however, is nothing but that - a footnote for ENDGAME - and this is a big shame.
In a perfect world, one where it hadn't taken Marvel this long to put a female hero front and center, we would've seen something better - because their obvious hesitation to back a heroine resulted in an even more obvious last-minute attempt to try before it was too late.
This all sounds overly-harsh, but it isn't meant to be. Captain Marvel is a good film. It just should've been great.
Either way, here's to seeing her kick all the @$$ in AVENGERS: ENDGAME.
CAPTAIN MARVEL hits theaters March 8th Nationwide