Captain Marvel enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as a solid standalone film, but fails to live up to the intensity, story and quality of the more recent team-up films.
Set in the 1990s Captain Marvel acts as a prequel to recent MCU films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Infinity War and the upcoming film End Game. The film uses this setting to its benefit with many comedical 90s references and a great soundtrack including the works of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” and No Doubt’s “Just A Girl.”
Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck team up to make their marvel directorial debut and deliver a film that has all the marvel hallmarks of flashy CGI battles and exciting fight choreography, but with a pacing that constantly feels off and a story slow to get off the ground.
Opening on the Kree home planet, we follow Captain Marvel as she fights alongside her Kree brethren on a dangerous mission against the Skrulls. Since this is Captain Marvel’s first appearance in the MCU, and the only other Kree appearance was their role as villains in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, it is hard for the audience to form a connection with the characters. This causes the first act of the film to feel boring and slow.
The film picks up as Captain Marvel arrives on Earth and we’re introduced to Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, a character known and loved by many moviegoers. Fury and Captain Marvel team up to fight the shape shifting Skrulls while traveling the American West to find out Captain Marvels true origins. Unfortunately, the film has an early flashback showing her past, making her mission to find her origins feel like she is playing catch-up with the audience, only made enjoyable by Fury’s comedical role and quality acting.
The third act is where the film finally hits full swing, resulting in surprising twists as Captain Marvel reinvents herself to become a hero the audience can fully embrace and cheer for. This combines with inspiring messages of overcoming weakness, standing up to your oppressors and being true to who you are. The third act and excellent performances help make up for a lackluster first half, and leave the audience at least feeling satisfied with the films conclusion.
Stand out performances from Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn make this film succeed despite its scattered plot.
Larson utilizes her snark and arrogance to expertly play a cocky fish-out-of-water trope as she arrives on Earth as a Kree Warrior and looks down on the ignorant humans. Her character is quickly forced to transition into someone defeated and confused as she learns of her true origins and we watch her have to reinvent her character with inspiring confidence.
Jackson joins Larson as Nick Fury, yet with a completely different portrayal this time. 20 years before his first appearance in the end credits scene of 2008’s Iron Man, Jackson plays a young agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. completely oblivious to the world of superheroes and supervillains that exists around him. This role makes Jackson the comedic sidekick following Captain Marvel on her mission. He constantly underestimates his opponents causing him to begin to develop into the cautious, cold-hearted Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. we know him as in later films. Jackson also cultivates a heartwarming relationship with a cat named Goose resulting in a surprising and comical conclusion at the end of the film.
Mendelsohn plays Captain Marvels adversary Talos the Skrull, adding another great villain role to his film pedigree. He starts the film being manipulative and relentless, but as the audience gets to know his character through some well directed scenes away from the action, Mendelsohn transitions into a relatable character with arguably more humanity than any of the others.
In conclusion, Captain Marvel sits in a weird middle ground compared to other films in the MCU. The film benefits from modern CGI, the plethora of Marvel lore to pull from, and the enjoyable comedy we’ve come to expect from this series. This makes it far more enjoyable than other standalone films in the series like earlier film 2011’s Thor, or the more recent 2015’s Ant-Man. Yet when compared to the exciting modern team-up films like 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, or intense character dramas like 2018’s Black Panther, Captain Marvel never quite stands up to them in terms of story or directing. However, it still continues Marvel’s tradition of great comedy and bringing in amazing actors that help keep the audience invested.
Marvel fans will find this another enjoyable addition to the universe, filled with Easter eggs and references to the rest of the series. Captain Marvel’s exciting action and gorgeous visuals make the film a great casual movie going experience. Those who make it through the slow first and second act will be treated to a surprising and exciting third act with a satisfying conclusion. But, if you’re looking for a deep story that will leave you thinking about it days later, it’s probably safe to skip this film.