Hey everyone! It’s been a few weeks since a movie I’ve been willing to see in theaters has come out. Lo and behold, with Marvel releasing their first movie of what will undoubtedly be an eventful year for the MCU, the spring and summer movie season is starting to get under way!
Captain Marvel is co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and stars Brie Larson as our hero, Vers, and is accompanied by Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg , and Samuel L. Jackson. Taking place in the mythical land of…the ‘90s, Captain Marvel follows Vers and a crack squad of fellow Kree warriors on a dangerous mission against the treacherous, shape-shifting Skrulls. One thing leads to another, and before she realizes it, Vers finds herself being hunted by Skrulls on a strange planet inhabited by a primitive species: Earth.
What Was Good?
First and foremost, one of the most buzz-worthy aspects of this movie is the use of CGI to make Samuel L. Jackson look EXACTLY like he did back in 1995 (they also used the same tech on Clark Gregg’s character, but I didn’t know who he was back in 1995 so I can’t make the previous claim for him, but I assume they were spot on with him as well. Anyway, I’m getting off track). They featured similar technological techniques in Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War for about a scene a piece, but even then, you could sort of tell something fishy was going on. But here, they did the same thing for an ENTIRE MOVIE, and it was flawless. CGI is most effective when it blends together with elements of what is actually captured on camera in a way that tricks the audience’s eyes into thinking the entire picture is just…reality. Going into this movie, I knew that this was the technique they used to create young Nick Fury, so I was sort of looking to see whether or not I could tell that it was fake. Folks…I’m telling you, it’s seamless. You cannot tell where current day Jackson ends and computerized ‘95 Jackson begins. It’s truly stunning.
Ground-breaking visual effects notwithstanding, Captain Marvel plays host to a number of solid action sequences, most notable of which consist of Vers fighting her way through a spaceship and another in which she is beating the living daylights out of what appears to be an elderly woman on a train. While not mind-blowing by any means, the action scenes cut the mustard for what you’d expect from a superhero movie about a woman who can shoot energy beams from her fists.
While the humor was hit-or-miss overall, I must say that I laughed the most due to one of the best performances in the movie, Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, the villainous Skrull leader who goes toe-to-toe with Captain Marvel. His timing was great and his comedy wasn’t cheesy like you might think; it did not compromise any dramatic moments in the film. Brie Larson and Sam Jackson also had some pretty good banter here and there as well, which is important since much of the movie plays out like a buddy cop flick that you’d probably see in the ‘90s, oddly enough.
And of course, there’s Goose. Personally, I’m a dog person. But I can’t deny it: Goose was adorable. You’ve seen the trailers. I’ll just leave it at that.
What Was Bad?
Before I say this, I want to specify that I think that Brie Larson is a great actress with plenty of promise going forward. If you haven’t seen 2015’s Room, she is devastatingly amazing in that film. I’m not even ashamed to admit that that is one of the few movies I’ve ever seen that has legitimately made me ball my eyes out. I say all this to soften the blow that, if I’m being completely honest with myself, I can’t help but feel that Brie Larson was possibly miscast as Captain Marvel. I feel that there were certain aspects of her character that were a bit forced, not least of all her comedic timing (or lack thereof). Unfortunately, at this moment in time, I’m not 100% bought in on Brie Larson being a sci-fi action star. It reminds me of Natalie Portman as Padme in the Star Wars prequels. While Portman is an Academy Award winning actress, she struggled to be convincing in those movies and just didn’t feel natural in the role. I fear the same is the case for Brie Larson in Captain Marvel.
It’s very possible this could change. The only other time I’ve felt that Marvel hadn’t done a perfect job casting their lead hero was Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. While he is one of my favorite actors, his humor was cringey for most of his origin flick and he didn’t quite sell me as the Sorcerer Supreme until perhaps the closing moments of the movie. On the bright side, I’ve grown to like Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange more as he developed through Avengers: Infinity War under the Russo Brothers’ direction. My suspicion is that the directors and writers didn’t do Larson many favors here, and it’s possible that their vision for the character didn’t set her up for success. With Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel presumably playing a significant role in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, I have a feeling that she will thrive under the Russo Brothers’ tutelage, and she has the potential to become one of the better Avengers. As it stands in this movie, however, I don’t think Brie Larson nor the directors nor screenwriters tapped into this character’s full potential.
Anyway, le't’s move away from character-centric stuff and focus on the story itself. As promised in the trailers, a significant part of the plot revolves around Larson’s character’s identity and her efforts to uncover this mystery. The movie sets up her discovery through a series of vague flashbacks throughout the film. My problem is that the pacing of these flashbacks and, in turn, her moment of epiphany seem rushed, off-balanced, and lazy, to be quite honest. The movie attempted to incorporate a Jason Bourne-type mystery around her identity, and while I applaud and welcome the effort since it’s something new to add to the MCU, the execution of this storyline just didn’t quite stick the landing for me. It also doesn’t help that going into this movie, the title literally tells us that regardless of where she came from or who/what she actually is, she will become Captain Marvel and proceed to kick ass.
Finally, while I appreciate the movie’s attempt to stoke my nostalgia for the ‘90s, all the musical and visual call backs to that decade were either not executed well, unnecessary, or perhaps some combination of the two. Valiant effort, but it just came up a little short for me in that department.
What Should Catholics Know?
Unfortunately, there’s not much I can speak on with regard to moral themes or things that can be related to Christianity without digging into spoiler territory. Instead, I’ll shift focus to a more political realm (oh no, SOMEONE STOP ME!). You may have heard a lot of things regarding feminist themes and whatnot surrounding the movie, particularly in light of Brie Larson and several filmmakers’ comments about critics and the movie industry in general (I’ll let you look those up and judge her/their comments for yourself).
I tried to block all this stuff out going into the movie to make sure none of that controversy clouded my judgment going into it. If you are worried about different political messages or overt references to different agendas being present in this movie, don’t be. Despite the controversy surrounding different statements that have been made, the movie stands as a solid superhero movie that, yes, has its flaws, but also has its strong points and is worthy of seeing in theaters.
As controversial as it might be, I believe that the success of movies like Black Panther and Wonder Woman are symptomatic of the fact that if filmmakers dedicate a certain level of devotion and craft to creating a good story well-told with compelling characters and conflicts, audiences will love it, regardless of the gender or race of the lead character. Conversely, if the movie has its flaws, as Captain Marvel did, it is fair to criticize the quality of the film without it being an attack on the gender or race of those involved.
Should You See It?
Captain Marvel is a middle-of-the-pack entry in the MCU, which, to be honest, is not really a bad thing, considering Marvel and Disney’s track record with their previous 20 movies. With stand out performances by Ben Mendelsohn and Samuel L. Jackson, this superhero origin story features enough action and humor to satisfy any diehard Marvel fanboy or fan of the superhero genre in general. While the twists and turns of the plot as well as its sci-fi heavy mumbo jumbo logic aren’t always executed in the most graceful of manners, the story is unique enough to separate it from other MCU movies and is full of enough surprises to keep you engaged. The true saving grace of this movie is the seamless use of de-aging CGI effects on Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg’s young Nick Fury and Agent Coulson, respectively. This is an achievement that makes Rogue One’s digital recreations of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia look like a video game played on a used N64.
My Score: 7.1/10
By the way, I started watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime (I tried to make a Captain Marvel-based pun for the title of the review. Not my best work, but oh well). Although a little vulgar and featuring some highly unnecessary nudity in the first episode, I’ve heard that was an outlier as far as the rest of the show goes and gets pretty good after that. Other than that, it’s pretty good so far so we’ll see how that goes!
Anyway, thanks for your time everyone! Hopefully you started off your Lent right on this past Ash Wednesday. Best of luck with your 40 day Lenten sacrifice!
So have you seen Captain Marvel yet? What did you think? How does it stack up with the rest of the MCU? Does it have pumped and ready for Endgame? As always, stay tuned and God Bless!