Movie Review: Captain Marvel (Spoiler-free)

The CAPTAIN MARVEL online trolls were out in full force a few weeks ago even before they had a chance to see the film and the vitriol was so intense — not to mention absurd — that it caused Rotten Tomatoes to change how films are rated on its site. (Users are now barred from leaving comments or rating a film until it is released in cinemas.) Now that the film is out though, you can be sure that these insecure Mom’s basement dwellers will be back with a vengeance. This time, however, their criticism of the film may be somewhat justified.

CAPTAIN MARVEL is the first film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to star a female superhero and it’s the first MCU film to be released following the death of Stan Lee last November at age 95. To honour the characters’ creator, CAPTAIN MARVEL opens with a respectful and classy montage of Lee’s many cameo appearances in the MCU films superimposed over the background of its corporate logo. The story then begins on the planet Hala where Vers (Brie Larson, KONG: SKULL ISLAND; THE GLASS CASTLE; ROOM; SHORT TERM 12; THE SPECTACULAR NOW; DON JON), which rhymes with “years”, is sparring with her mentor and fellow blue-blooded Kree, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law, FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD; KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD; SPY). Vers has a bit of a problem though. She can’t remember her life before she came to Hala six years earlier though she keeps getting flashback memories of it. That all changes when she is captured by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn, DARKEST HOUR; SLOW WEST; EXODUS:GODS AND KINGS; STARRED UP), the leader of an enemy alien race, the shape-shifting Skrull, who probes her mind looking for information on the Supreme Intelligence, an organic, artificial intelligence that rules over the Kree. Every Kree sees the Supreme Intelligence as someone from their past. For Vers, she sees a woman (played by Annette Bening, FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL) but she can’t place who she is. Vers eventually escapes from the Skrull and flies to the planet C-53, which we call Earth, where she meets Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, GLASS; LIFE ITSELF; KONG: SKULL ISLAND; THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD; THE LEGEND OF TARZAN; THE HATEFUL EIGHT), who is an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. With the Skrull and the Kree is hot pursuit, Vers and Fury try to piece together Vers’ past and save the good guys in the nick of time. In the process, they’re helped by an orange cat named Goose (played by four very well trained cats) and Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), a test pilot Vers’ once knew.

Following the runaway success of rival franchise DCEU’s WONDER WOMAN two years ago, Marvel was under pressure to make CAPTAIN MARVEL just as good if not better. (Okay, it probably wasn’t huge pressure given that MCU’s cumulative box office take is almost four times that of DCEU’s.) For the most part, Larson is up for the superheroic challenge, kicking some serious alien male butt and injecting both humour and a warm smile along the way. CAPTAIN MARVEL is no WONDER WOMAN though, as the actress is let down by a rather mundane script that borrows surprisingly heavily from the STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES films. I mean, doesn’t Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY; THE PROGRAM) look like Emperor Palpatine holding Thor’s Mjölnir? Speaking of Ronan, he’s not the only character from this story we’ve seen before. Djimon Hounsou (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY; KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD; THE LEGEND OF TARZAN) also reprises his role as Kree mercenary, Korath. And, of course, Samuel L. Jackson is back after appearing in eight MCU films so far, four of them being cameos and three of those four being uncredited. This time, though, he looks much younger — and has two functioning eyes — because it’s sometime in the 1990s and the CGI wizards at Marvel Studios used de-aging technology on him. (Did Jackson ever look that good?) About that time frame, the film does have some amusing scenes, mostly revolving around the use of Windows 3.1-era technology, although there are no Blue Screens of Death to be seen. (Kids, if you don’t know what that is, google it.)

Lackluster screenplay aside, the film’s action scenes aren’t very impressive either. The obligatory chase scene, which is somewhat reminiscent of the one in FRENCH CONNECTION, really could have benefited from a heavy shot of adrenaline. We saw much better in BLACK PANTHER and even in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING. The other action scenes don’t fare much better and it could be that because Captain Marvel is so powerful, her enemies are really no match for her. We need to see her square off against a more formidable villain. Fortunately, we only have to wait seven weeks for that to happen with the release of AVENGERS: ENDGAME on April 24.

As far as female empowerment films go, CAPTAIN MARVEL is pretty good, though I still think we’ll see more little girls dressing up as Wonder Wonder than as Captain Marvel come Hallowe’en. (Even WW’s outfit is more interesting.) As far as origin stories go though, CAPTAIN MARVEL is just okay. It’s about on par with THOR, which means it will make about a half a billion dollars at the box office.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, March 8th at 8:30 am HK time!

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