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Review: Captain Marvel (2019)

Captain Marvel (2019)

Directed by: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Premise: Set in the 1990s, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is part of an intergalactic space force. She is stranded on Earth and rediscovers details of her past that challenge everything she believed about herself and the causes she fights for.

What Works: Captain Marvel continues the balance of action and humor that has defined the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In many respects, Captain Marvel is closest to Guardians of the Galaxy within the MCU oeuvre. Some of that has to do with the story’s intergalactic setting; it revisits several characters and locations seen in the first Guardians film. Captain Marvel also uses humor and especially popular music in a similar way. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy films were driven by a funk and classic rock soundtrack and Captain Marvel uses its 1990s setting to include bands of that time like No Doubt and Nirvana and in a few cases songs are placed ironically. This movie also has a sense of humor and surprisingly much of that humor comes from Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as Nick Fury. Jackson hasn’t been given many opportunities to do comedy and when he does it is usually lampooning his bad ass shtick. In Captain Marvel, Jackson shows another side of himself and of Nick Fury and he gets many of the best moments in this film. Also notable is Ben Mendelsohn as a member of the alien race. The intentions of Mendelsohn’s character are ambiguous and he’s at turns threatening and sympathetic and even comical and it’s a testament to Mendelsohn’s talent that he’s able to blend all those parts into a single performance so seamlessly.

What Doesn’t: The weakest element of Captain Marvel is the title character. Carol Danvers is not interesting. Brie Larson is a talented and capable actress but the film doesn’t give her much to work with. The character has no motivation to be a hero. By comparison, Iron Man/Tony Stark was driven by his ego and his guilt over creating weapons of war and Captain America was motivated by a sense of duty. Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel isn’t driven by anything and she has little or no stake in what she’s fighting for. Her character is thin and the lack of motivation makes her heroics impersonal. The action sequences of Captain Marvel are adequate but unremarkable. Like a lot of the MCU, the fights and chases are standard Hollywood action set pieces with very little style. Captain Marvel’s links to Guardians of the Galaxy extend into some of its flaws. Like the first Guardians film, Captain Marvel becomes a lot of comic book gobbledygook whenever it gets into the backstory and minutia. There is a lot of talk about intergalactic warfare but it is unclear how these people and groups relate to each other, how they fit into the larger universe, or what is at stake.

Bottom Line: Captain Marvel is a middle tier comic book film. It’s serviceable and provides enough action and comedy to satisfy its intended audience. But Captain Marvel often settles for being average and it’s often generic and forgettable.

Episode: #741 (March 17, 2019)