At this point in the MCU, Marvel is in a weird spot when it comes to introducing big, new characters.
Dedicating whole movies for yet another origin story seems to be played out and each needs to work harder than the last to win people over.
Black Panther relied on set and character design, Doctor Strange on trippy visuals, and Ant-Man on humour (and national / worldwide treasure Paul Rudd).
Captain Marvel, on the other hand, is relying on being set in the past to play around with pre-2008 Iron Man continuity, together with some larger MCU elements which other movies could not have used.
So does it succeed to be a great standalone, or is this just a necessary step for the character to appear in Endgame next month? Unfortunately, it’s more of the latter.
As far as setting goes Captain Marvel starts out strong with more of the cosmic adventure that we’ve been drip fed through other franchises like Guardians of the Galaxy. We start on an alien homeworld where the titular character played by Brie Larson is a “noble warrior hero” plagued by some memories of a previous life on Earth.
A mission goes wrong and the character smashes through the roof of a Blockbuster (we’re in the 90’s, if that’s not apparent) and the real events kick off as shapeshifting Skrulls reach Earth in pursuit.
This beginning half which we’ve been shown in the trailers is pretty fun but we truly don’t get to spend enough time away from Earth before we’re sucked back here. From the get go Larson is great in this and continues with a very consistent smart mouth hero routine throughout.
That being said it’s just formulaic here. We’ve seen these space races before, we’ve had so many characters who like to crack jokes and there’s tropes abundant early on. This only becomes more apparent as the rest of the movie plays out mostly on Earth as more characters are introduced.
Young versions of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) show up, much to the delight of many, and the Skrull leader in Ben Mendelsohn also arrives.
In terms of performances here everyone is doing a great job and the chemistry between Jackson and Larson is fantastic, especially because we get to see a version of Fury that’s less gruff and more starry eyed about this whole intergalactic war stuff.
Mendelsohn is probably the best of the bunch, however. We manages to give a really convincing performance even when he’s weighed down with the Skrull makeup and every time he’s on screen it’s a joy.
There are a few dozen smaller characters here which all do a fine job, and the child actress in Akira Akbar even manages to keep up the quality.
Unfortunately we can’t speak about the plot much more as we’d veer into spoilers, but what we can say is that Captain Marvel has a shakeup in its events that we’re sure the filmmakers thought would be a huge surprise, but its nature has been seen in other Marvel movies before.
With the acting just about great and the plot fine, it’s up to other aspects of the movie to elevate it, but they fail to do so.
The action really is bog standard here and Captain Marvel herself still looks rubbery and fake when she’s going Super Saiyan and flying through spaceships in later fights.
Some are really going to enjoy the soundtrack, but that’s probably because of the setting and nostalgia. Hearing a song from your past used in a blockbuster movie isn’t especially moving or clever, it’s just in line with this film’s setting.
The other big part of this movie is its place in the overall MCU which, again, is a spoiler.
All that we can say is that, for the sake of Endgame and the closing of this chapter of the MCU, we really don’t believe that Captain marvel is all that important. Someone who skips this movie and knows nothing about the character can just be told “hey, a Superman-esque character shows up to help the good guys in Endgame” and that would be sufficient.
Captain Marvel isn’t a bad movie or an uninteresting one, it’s just not unique or impactful enough to really stand out. We can see Larson really making this character hers in a movie or two like Chris Hemsworth finally did with Thor in Ragnarok, but for now she’s just delivering a good performance with a script that isn’t that special.
Overall Captain marvel is an above average film that doesn’t take too many missteps, but is maybe a bit too safe after banking so hard on an inconsequential twist.
All that being said, we can see a lot of people getting a kick out of this new OP Avenger, and the retconning of several small MCU details. If you see all of these movies, you’ll see this one too, and it has a broad appeal for those outside of the fandom, especially if they’re enamoured with the character or the cast.