By Michael Nacey ’19
Captain Marvel, (not surprisingly) Marvel’s new addition to its monopoly on the superhero genre is a grapeshot of new ideas, characters, and settings. This lack of precision detracts from the film, however, leading to a movie that is satisfying but not savory. Therefore, the 21st Marvel film doesn’t hit the heights Black Panther did in dealing with serious issues while providing brainless entertainment, which it could have done considering Captain Marvel is the first female-led Marvel film. Meanwhile, it doesn’t provide brainless entertainment so bad that it makes you intensely scrutinize why it’s so bad while watching it as it did with The Incredible Hulk, otherwise known as the one Marvel movie we don’t talk about…
Marvel does occasionally hit its mark, however, nailing its casting. Brie Larson literally and figuratively shines as Carol Danvers, a brain-washed, amnesiac recruit by the Kree Empire bent on destroying their mortal enemies, the Skrulls, until she accidentally returns to her home planet and discovers secrets from her past. Larson imbues Danvers with a swagger and style that embodies Marvel’s signature badass superhero-comedian. Danvers also perfectly counters Captain Marvel’s setting during the ’90s in the United States, a time when sexism was much more prevalent. For example, when a motorcycle rider catcalls Danvers, who ignores him, she waits until he leaves into a store and steals his motorcycle. Also because it’s the ’90s, a few relics from Marvel’s archives return to crack jokes and beat the bad guy. These are Nick Fury and Agent Coulson, played by Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg. The main difference and the reason why they bring so much levity to the screen is that both are new at SHIELD in this film, making them less hardened, more relaxed, and more likely to be taken by surprise than they are in Iron Man 2 or The Avengers. Jackson, in particular, lets his weird sense of humor take control, bonding closely with a cat he finds in a bunker and disappointedly explaining that he doesn’t like to be called Nicky.
The weak point behind these performances is the dialogue. The writing isn’t completely bad, the plot is air-tight with several surprising twists and turns, but the dialogue, when compared to Thor Ragnarok or Spider-Man: Homecoming is subpar. Somehow Marvel has managed to pack some seamless comedy into its previous movies, but its attempts to do so here mostly fall flat. The best moments are those that the actors make up; the key to finding those is that they are the most ridiculous.
So, there are pros and cons to seeing this movie beyond the fact that it is the first of three Marvel movies to be released this year (Avengers 4 barrels into theaters in less than a month). It introduces a classic new Marvel hero to the screen successfully, but it doesn’t pepper the production with pieces of punky, punny, pristine Pringles of quippy Marvel joy (for those of you in ELAP, that there’s the rhetorical device of alliteration (and maybe hyperbole)). It connects to several other Marvel entries predictably, but it does so in an original way. Some of the plot might help to inform your decision: Captain Marvel begins in space, but its premise is that it’s set in the ’90s. Gaps such as that are filled in originally. True to the up-and-down aspect of this movie, however, others are face-palming inducing explanations of minor plot details in other Marvel movies. Such is film. Such is Marvel.