Movie Review: Captain Marvel
Right off the bat, I can give you two reasons why Captain Marvel is a film not to be missed, but it will also depend on your history with Marvel. First, if you’re a huge fan of Stan Lee, then, Captain Marvel is one of the last few films with his cameo in it after his passing. I will not go until the extent of claiming that I’m his huge fan, but, suffice to say that we are all able to enjoy the films by Marvel Studios as what they are today, thanks to this man. And undeniably, after his passing, watching his cameo did pull me down much more deeper, emotionally. It is no longer a quick blink-and-you’ll-miss scene that is only good for short laughs.
Secondly, if you have been a somewhat close follower of all or most Marvel films that are converging into Avengers: Endgame this April, then, I think, getting a ticket to Captain Marvel for yourself is a no-brainer. After all, I suspect that you would rather come out of the cinema cursing how bad Captain Marvel is (IF, it is bad), than cursing yourself during the screening of Endgame, realizing that you might have missed a big story chunk of the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) timeline.
Captain Marvel takes you back to 1995, a beautiful era of boxy cars, internet cafe’s and Street Fighter II arcade machines. Unlike Ant-Man & The Wasp, which supposingly takes place simultaneously with Avengers: Infinity War, this one takes place way before that. Like, way back in time before Nick Fury crumbles into ashes yelling ‘MothaF*cka’. Back at those days when he still had both eyes intact, and Phil Coulson was just a newbie in S.H.I.E.L.D. Yes, I’m a hundred and one percent sure that many of you out there are catching up Captain Marvel specifically to see how Nick Fury lost his eye. You cheeky rascals. But no need to be ashamed. I’m one, too.
But first, let’s debunk some lingering questions pertaining the timing of the film’s release, versus the timeline of the story within the MCU. For most, it is a giant oddball, because if it takes place in 1995, why don’t they release the movie right after Captain America: The First Avenger? The answer can be found tucked within Carol Danvers’ (extreme) superpowers. Yes, just a fair bit of warning, she’s on the spectrum of being overpowered. She’s unlike any member of the Avengers that you’ve ever seen. I will not doubt that her powers will be one of the factors that will lead to Thanos’ defeat in Endgame. If Marvel Studios unveil this character in, say, 2011, then, what would have happened to films like Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy?
The next reasoning will not be all that pretty. It somehow has to do with Marvel’s attempt to build anticipation for their soon-to-be their most ambitious project ever: Endgame. If Ant-Man & The Wasp (and its post credit scene) served as a spark to this objective, Captain Marvel takes that spark and multiplies it into a combustion. Captain Marvel is already punching at the box office as the time of writing, and thus, with this kind of snowball effect, the number of audience who will be clawing their way to Endgame this April will be pretty much unimaginable.
With all that strategy and chess game that Marvel Studios is playing, one crucial question is almost left forgotten: is the film good? The fact that Captain Marvel is part of MCU’s array of films doesn’t automatically guarantee that it’s a good one with just a snap, or is it? I’ll try to lay down the elements that make it great, together with some factors which might bog down the movie.
For a start, it feels so close to its peers within the MCU at heart, but at the same time, it rocks a different vibe not usually found in any Marvel film. Yes, you still get plenty, plenty of CGI (which some are pretty impeccable, while some did more harm than good). Marvel still chooses to tone down the suit of their superheroes a tad darker to give it a weathered, realistic look, which I really dig. If you compare it with the likes of Aquaman and the upcoming Shazam, you will get the idea.
You still get plenty of blasting action scenes, but it seems that more body combat is infused this round. At least that’s what it is before before Carol Danvers arcs steeply into her godlike form. Still, one thing that continuously amazed me is, how Marvel is able to build world after world without me actually feeling that their latest creation is a rip-off of another. In this case, the civilization of Kree called Hala, where the ‘improved’ Carol Danvers originates from. It’s certainly no Wakanda or Asgard, and it gives out a distinctive but unknown aura, at first. But as soon as you arrive at the scene of jet fighters chasing down each other in narrow rock valleys, you’ll get a realization that Captain Marvel has been exuding a strong sci-fi aura all the while. It reminds me of a film that takes place long, long time ago, in a galaxy, far, far away. Cough.
Now, right here, I would like to make a bold claim that is most probably true. Which is, if you have not seen Captain Marvel, then you have not seen the best of Nick Fury. This is somehow expected for most of you who had glimpsed the trailer, but even then, I was simply shocked by the level of connection that the character establishes with the audience of the film.
The usual culprit is of course, none other than the CGI mask. Again, the de-aging digital masks look flawless on Fury and Coulson. Even under rapid-changing lighting, Jackson still appears believably 20 years younger. Furthermore, I’m not even sure what else of a trickery that they put in, but Fury sure looks more slender than he did in Avengers. Yeah, I hear you, there is such thing in this world as a good workout-and-diet combo. Nonetheless, he doesn’t look anything like a ripped-middle-aged-man slender, but rather, looks like a newbie special agent who skips lunch to chase after members of secret organizations kind of slender. The way he walks. His gestures. It all look more youthful than the usual Nick Fury. Nice touch.
Overlooked mistake or intentional it might be, but as soon as Fury meets Danvers, judging from the way they throw cheeky jabs of words at each other, you’ll be hard pressed to believe that it is the first time that the duo have met in the entire MCU timeline. Those scenes are not actually limited, and it goes until the extent of Danvers carrying an interrogation on Fury and vice versa to establish that none of them is a Skrull in disguise at the moment of time. Which brings me to realize another feat accomplished by Captain Marvel; it can dish out Iron Man or Deadpool levels of comedy without RDJ or Ryan Reynolds in the cast line up. Which is a huge surprise, because, aside from Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson is not exactly well known to be in witty character roles. Somehow, Ben Mendelsohn’s role as Skrull leader, Talos, helped, but I’m afraid that I can’t elaborate further due to the grey area that his character is in within the film.
Beyond that, apart from those pinpoint sharp dialogues, your ears will find joy and dance together with the tunes of popular hits from the 90’s like ‘Just a Girl’ by No Doubt, and ‘You Gotta Be’ by Des’ree. You’ll acquaint yourself to those sweet memories of how things used to work inconveniently, like a loading CD, or having to find a phone booth for any meaningful means of communication. Like Bumblebee, Captain Marvel is huge on nostalgia, and it gets all the deserving, precise nits and bits of 90’s treatment scattered throughout the plot.
Surprisingly, the story-line doesn’t get the same treatment as with other superhero flicks in general. Instead of placing an obvious villain with the intention of conquering or destroying the world in the middle of attention, Captain Marvel placed more emphasis on the mystery of Danvers’ past that seems to mess around with her mind, and together with that, the minds of the audience, too.
And indeed, the patient and compelling storytelling during the reconstruction of Danver’s past is something to be applauded. Danvers starts off in the film as a Kree soldier, with a slight hint of having a hot head, as well as really hot hands. And I really mean JUST a soldier, despite of whatever noble warrior hero which she prefers to call herself. Then, as she recalls bits and pieces of memories of her past, things got more and more interesting as much as they are emotionally vesting. It’s a smart and well played unfolding of events, a lot like Alita: Battle Angel. It’s just that Danvers obviously doesn’t suffer the same initial naivety like Alita does. Yet, if there is any further resemblance, Danvers is just as overpowered and seemingly invincible like Alita.
Now, I think it is time to dwell deeper into the third act of the film. The tremendous and rapid rise of Carol Danvers’ powers are dangerously overwhelming, even more so during the final battle in the height of the conflict. I may call the scale of the conflict as appropriate, and satisfying even, but the pace which the film is pushing the audience through the third act ride is just too lightning-quick, that when Danvers easily breezes through the final battle (most possibly in her full CGI constructed form, no less), it is perilously treading on the borderline of being mindless, and unintentionally hints Marvel’s bombastic plans for the movie. It might be just the way Captain Marvel is, as set up by the comics. But, just by putting myself in the shoes of a Marvel newcomer while watching Danvers doing her pew-pew thing in the final battle almost had me hitting the “cringe-worthy” button. But make no mistake, overall, Captain Marvel is still very much a substantial installment to the MCU.
A note on how Fury lost his left eye, though. It’s definitely not what most of us has been expecting. Just a small hint, it’s not because of a car crash. Or a spaceship crash. Or due to any gruesome torturing session. It’s not what you think it is. Period
Addict Verdict, AV:
Standing up against initial web trolling and skepticism of her monotone expression throughout the trailer, Brie Larson joined hands with Marvel Studios to prove to cinema-goers that Captain Marvel is a solid superhero film. Larson’s Danvers is surprisingly charming as much as she is empowering, and together with the uplift by Jackson’s impeccably masked young Nick Fury, the film is a fun, funny, and nostalgic final piece of puzzle that you just have to plug into the whole picture of MCU before the final showdown of Endgame. Who would have thought that a messy blonde hairstyle and a rubber suit combo would look so good on screen?–The Film Addict
*This review was originally published on The Film Addict