Review – “Captain Marvel” (2019)

We’re into the 11th year of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the franchise that I will go so far as to say has changed movies forever.  The MCU marks one of the most important pieces of film history, serving as the beginning of franchises being able to link separate films to tell larger overarching stories, but no film franchise has been able to do this as successfully as the MCU.  With their 21st and final film leading up to “Avengers: Endgame,” Marvel has finally revealed who they feel is not just the savior of the dire situation in “Infinity War,” but is also the future of the franchise as a whole: “Captain Marvel.”  Brie Larson stars as the titular role (or Carol Danvers) in this comic book adventure by directing duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.  It’s important to note that Larson’s character is the first titular female character for the MCU (which by the way is long overdue especially since Black Widow has been a main character in the franchise for so long) and Anna Boden is the first female director for the franchise, and if there’s one thing to say about this film, it’s that girl power rocks!

“Captain Marvel” is a lot of fun, managing to combine futuristic wacky sci-fi with a nostalgic, retrograde feel of the 1990’s.  While it may at times structurally feel like a film from the Phase 1 era, which heavily relied on the (at the time new and exciting) superhero 3-act formula, the film presents a lot of potentially interesting directions for the franchise to go after “Endgame.”  It’s a relatively safe story, but at the end of the day, it’s fun, funny, and definitely a thumbs up from me!

First, I’d like to say I grew up reading a lot of Marvel comics, and while I never truly delved into Captain Marvel’s standalone series, it was always a pleasure to see her in a lot of superhero team-up books.  To me, she was always a quick thinking, solution oriented character who never backed down without a fight.  However, I always liked her quips and snarky remarks, which Captain America didn’t do much because he’s too much of a goody two shoes.  Basically, I kind of considered her character to be a good mix of Iron Man and Captain America, so it’s fitting to imagine her being the star of the MCU going forward since we probably won’t see Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans suit up anytime soon.  Going into this movie, I was mainly looking for a character who was able to balance the best aspects of both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, while presenting a unique take on the superhero trope we’ve all come to know very well.  Honestly, I feel bad by admitting that because it meant I had VERY high expectations going into this movie, almost as high as the expectations I have for “Endgame.”  There’s a lot you have to juggle with a prequel in terms of continuity, and this film also needed to nail an arc with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury to set up why he’s such a prominent figure throughout the MCU.

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Source: Marvel Studios

So did the movie live up to the hype?  Yes and no.  While I liked the movie overall, it just felt a lot less exciting than it could have been.  We start the film with Brie Larson as a character simply known as Vers, and she’s part of a Kree version of Seal Team 6 led by Jude Law.  Remember those guys from “Guardians of the Galaxy” led by Ronan the Accusor (Lee Pace)?  Yeah, they’re back, and I actually really loved the first scene with them in action.  Anyways, they’re in an intergalactic war against the Skrulls, these shape-shifting green alien creatures.  Long story short, we have some cool space war stuff that felt like “Star Wars,” and Vers gets to Earth.  There, she starts to have flashbacks of a potential past on this planet.  From there, she meets a young Nick Fury, who was only an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the time, and the two go on an adventure looking to uncover a conspiracy that involve the Skrulls.  Oh, yeah, there’s also a cat.  His name is Goose.  You will like Goose.  He alone is worth the price of admission.

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Source: Marvel Studios

SOOOOO yeah the first act of this movie is amazing.  It’s everything I wanted to see in a Captain Marvel movie.  There are a lot of great VFX on display here from ILM, which has yet to disappoint me in any way.  The VFX team made Captain Marvel look so badass when her full powers are unleashed, and it only made me want to see her more in “Endgame.”  Moreover, the digital de-aging effect for Nick Fury is absolutely flawless.  There’s wasn’t a second when I doubted that was what Nick Fury looked like in the 90s.  The original score by Pinar Toprak (who apparently did Fortnite: YES SHE THE DANCE MEME) has a cool synth vibe that sets it apart from your average superhero fare (you know, the kind of stuff with blaring horns of darkness and those BWAAAAHHH things like every five seconds).  The soundtrack as well is full of famous 90’s tracks.  The first part kind of reminded my of a more serious version of “Thor: Ragnarok” or “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

The acting is really good all around.  I’ve been reading articles that Brie Larson isn’t a great casting for Captain Marvel, but I don’t really think that’s the case.  She’s snarky and lighthearted, yet stern and focused throughout.  Samuel L. Jackson is the real standout of the cast, as this is probably my favorite version of Nick Fury in the entire MCU.  He’s not this omniscient overseer and reacts on instinct as opposed to some grand plan.  Ben Mendelsohn is the other standout, presenting the most fun I thought his character could be.  Lashana Lynch plays the heart of the movie, Carol’s friend Maria, and she has a lot of the heart that ultimately transfers over to Carol.  Annette Benning’s role is pretty bland, but there’s one scene in particular where her acting gets to shine through.  Clark Gregg is finally back as Agent Phil Coulson, and I just couldn’t help but smile when Fury referred to him as the new guy in S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Source: Marvel Studios

Now here’s the bad, and it’s not really what’s in this movie so much as it’s what’s not in it.  You might have noticed that in almost every paragraph in this review, I’ve mentioned “Endgame,” and that kind of sums up my feelings about this movie.  It feels kind of obligatory and rushed just so people know what’s happening when “Endgame” comes out in April.  I found myself thinking of Black Panther and how as a character was set up pretty succinctly in “Civil War” so that we can get to the real meat of his story “Black Panther.”  We didn’t really have to question who he and Wakanda even are because we got that so now we can explore the intricacies of how he deals with issues.  With “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the Russo Brothers had the luxury of someone else already establishing who Captain America was so they were able to tell a more complex story without feeling like they’re leaving the audience out.  Even “Thor: the Dark World,” for all its issues, manages to dive a little more into the characters of Thor and Loki and explore their relationship in a better way than the first film because we’ve already established who they are.  “Captain Marvel,” on the other hand feels like that first “Thor” movie: a set up for a lot of different directions that would be way cooler than the movie we ended up getting.

Perhaps my main issue with the film is how predictable the plot is.  They play the Marvel formula beat for beat giving me the idea that this is “Superhero: the Movie.”  That said, Boden and Fleck add enough visual flair to make the whole experience engaging throughout that it almost made me forget the very straightforward plot.  I feel like they could’ve gone a little more with the Skrulls concept considering Marvel President Kevin Feige is probably setting up a Secret Invasion storyline in the MCU.  The movie did a serviceable job explaining the Kree-Skrull War that wages between galaxies, but it only lightly touches on the grey area of war.  Maybe I’m just going too hard on this movie because I’ve know a lot of the background source material, but at the same time it’s my review.

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Source: Marvel Studios

Now’s a good time to talk about this whole “controversy” surrounding the movie.  There seem to be a small but loud group of people online trying to review bomb this movie and label it as part of some SJW agenda headed by Brie Larson.  First of all, I really do think that it’s important to show different backgrounds and represent different types of heroes so that everyone has someone to look up to.  These movies are primarily marketed towards children.  When “Black Panther” came out, it was culturally significant because it represented diversity in the modern superhero landscape and I remember seeing how it affected children who felt that superheroes didn’t reflect their ethnic backgrounds.  As adults, it’s hard to think that children care about this, but they definitely do.

Last week, I went out for dinner with my family and some family friends, and they had an eight year old daughter.  I asked her if she’s excited for any movies coming out soon, and she jumped and exclaimed “Captain Marvel!”  Then I asked her why, and she said, “Finally girls can be superheroes too!”  We also talked about how she was going to destroy Thanos and that made her really excited too.  I think that small conversation speaks volumes to what this movie means to girls everywhere.  Yes, we had “Wonder Woman,” but now that there are multiple main titular female superheroes in the conversation right now, the idea of a female superhero is going to be more widely accepted.  I think this hopefully furthers the way for a time where everyone feels like they’re being represented on the big screen.

So to answer the group of people trying to review bomb the film because they think it’s some left wing feminist propaganda: calm down and don’t see the movie instead of complaining on YouTube despite the fact that you probably haven’t seen the film.  I’ve seen videos made by popular channels bashing the movie for its relatively poor performance compared to other MCU movies (83% on Rotten Tomatoes is in the middle of the pack for the franchise) and some of them admit that they’re boycotting the film because they think it’s injected with leftist motives.  Just because she’s a female superhero does not make the story anti-male rhetoric.  After seeing the movie, I don’t think it’s a “man hating” movie at all.  It does address good questions about why little girls are put on different standards as boys early on and I thought that was great.  It’s a tough issue to tackle especially in a blockbuster superhero movie in the same way the underlying questions of racial identity are tackled in “Black Panther.”  My favorite theme of the movie was that there seemed to be (this might be a little spoilery by the way) this underlying running message of Carol as an underdog constantly trying to prove to others (mostly men) that she can overcome odds despite others taunting her and saying she’s weak or dependent on others.  Everything Carol does in this is earned, and the lesson becomes pretty well stated by the end: she doesn’t need to prove herself to anyone but herself.

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Source: Marvel Studios

Overall, I’m giving Captain Marvel a thumbs up!  It’s a fun Marvel movie that sets the stage for a character who I imagine will be the main leader of the MCU going forward.  It’s nothing groundbreaking as a film, and my issues with it are what’s lacking, not =what is presented in the final film structurally.  It’s fast paced and focused enough that it doesn’t get bogged down with exposition, though the exposition that is there could have opted for a more organic and less forced route.  Finally, there’s a wonderful tribute to Stan Lee that just got my heart at the beginning, and the film’s ending is absolutely perfect.  I’d rank it somewhere right in the middle of the MCU.  It’s a good movie, I just feel like it’s the type of thing that would come out in 2009.  It’s the best kind of packaging with an extravagant bow on the top and all, but there’s not too much inside to hold onto for long.  It’s an expensive red, blue, and gold box with buttery microwave popcorn inside.  Honestly, sometimes just popcorn does the trick for me.

SCORE: 7/10

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So that’s my review for “Captain Marvel!”  What do you think about the film?  Where do you think it ranks in the MCU?  Feel free to let me know in the comments section!

If you like this article, and you’d like to read more, check out what 20 movies that I’m highly anticipating for this year!  Thanks so much for reading 🙂

Twitter: @MohitPuvvala

Instagram: @MohitPuvvala

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