This is an incredibly tough review to write. I love Captain Marvel as a character, so I was excited to see this movie finally release. I also admire Brie Larson, who made some (somehow controversial) statements about wanting more POC and women to be involved in the press screenings and able to review the film, which I totally support. This statement somehow translated to “Brie hates white men” and now some pockets are boycotting or review-bombing (giving negative reviews) on sites like Rotten Tomatoes. My honest and not always positive feedback here is based on the film alone.
Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is a member of an interstellar military force, though she can’t remember how she came to be on this planet or her life before. She’s mentored by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), who teaches her to ignore her past and to ignore emotion. This military force is tied to an alien race called the Kree, who are at war with a shapeshifting alien race called the Skrulls (led by Ben Mendelsohn). This fight ends up sending Danvers back to Earth, where she starts to uncover her hidden history. She encounters a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who helps her to uncover the secrets she’s looking for, including the identity of a woman (Annette Bening) who appears in her dreams. Danvers also reunites with someone who can help her piece her memories together, an old friend named Maria (Lashana Lynch). This is a prequel film, set in the 1990s, so we also see some characters from Guardians of the Galaxy before that film takes place, including Djimon Hounsou as Korath and Lee Pace as Ronan.
Movies like this are difficult, as we know where some of these characters end up, but this serves as a neat way to discover the early days of SHIELD. This movie leans into the 1990s aesthetic, including tons of music and references that will leave many of you feeling nostalgic. It’s also interesting to see other MCU characters involved that we thought we’d never see again.
The biggest challenge with being a prequel is presenting us with younger versions of these characters. We’ve seen snippets of this CGI effect in films like Civil War and Ant-Man, but here, we’ve got one of our leading characters being de-aged. And it looks fantastic, truly breathtaking. You forget that Samuel L. Jackson is a 70-year-old man. It’s incredible what they’ve done.
I also appreciated the Skrulls as an enemy, although it takes a wild divergence from what fans of the comics might be expecting. Ben Mendelsohn is great and I can’t really say why, but it’s a refreshing and interesting take. It brings up some questions about the future of the MCU and how the Skrulls play into that though, so comic purists may be frustrated.
What doesn’t work?
Unfortunately, not everything is great with this movie. Now, I do think this is an important movie but it flounders in similar ways as other MCU origin stories have. I think yes, young children should see this movie and be excited to wear Captain Marvel costumes for Halloween next year. I think it provides some important messages, but that doesn’t make it immune to some critique.
This movie feels a bit bland, in terms of tone. It never gets super serious, which could’ve actually benefited it. There are some (meant to be) chilling moments involving the shapeshifting Skrulls but they’re instead played for comedy. So like other MCU movies, it focuses on that humor and feels generally the same as those other films. I compare it mostly to the first Thor film. Asgard didn’t feel like a real place, it’s full of exposition, and it’s a starting point for a cool character. I feel that way about Captain Marvel. Future movies might really let her loose, but here, it was a bit generic.
And while the visual effects for Samuel L. Jackson were phenomenal, the effects for Brie Larson flying through space were usually a little subpar. She looked like a videogame for most of these sequences. When she’s on land, it appears much better, it’s really only the space sequences that look… unpolished.
I also hate to do this… I don’t know if Brie Larson is a perfect fit here. I think she’s great as a person, but her performance here wasn’t the highlight of the film. When you see Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, you think “There’s no one else that can be that character.” Here, anyone could’ve played Carol Danvers. I thought the same thing with Thor, so maybe she just needs a few more movies to really embody that character.
I also felt an underwhelming excitement. There were moments that should have given me goosebumps, lines that should have been WOW moments. Instead, it felt a little underwhelming, either because the humor undercut the seriousness or sometimes because of poor music editing (they’d lower the music to be so quiet, so you could hear the witty one-liners).
An average score is not bad, I feel like I need to remind people of that. It’s average. With 20+ Marvel movies so far, this is smack dab in the middle. It’s a fun look at the history of the MCU and introduces a character that hopefully someday really knocks our socks off. The movie has a lot of technical problems but a powerful message, so if you temper your expectations, you should have an absolutely fine time here.