Film review: Pedestrian Captain Marvel fails to deliver on ground-breaking 90s sci-fi promise

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel
Brie Larson as Captain Marvel
Share this article

Academy Award winner Brie Larson (Room) stars as the titular heroine (best known as Carol Danvers) in this mundane, stale and unimaginative adaptation, which also features Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn ,Annette Bening and a ginger cat named Goose.

It’s packed with lots of low-tension obligatory fights and chases which never raise the stakes high enough to make the first woman-led superhero epic from the Marvel Cinematic Universe compelling.

Danvers is simply too powerful and the audience know that nothing can beat her-yet. So what is the point? At least with Superman we have Kryptonite.

Captain Marvel will gross $1 billion which is staggering considering that the best parts of this are the bookends – opening with a moving tribute to the late Stan Lee and closing with an Avengers: Endgame prologue.

Sandwiched in between is a mainly dull, tick all the boxes, generic comic book tale.

It's 1995 and in a story that’s almost impossible to explain, and with plot twists that keep things mostly more confusing, Carol Danvers (sometimes Vers) a soldier in the Starforce, the military unit of the Kree, fights against a species of shapeshifters called the Skrulls (who feel like something out of Power Rangers).

When she crash-lands on Earth, she must locate the Skrulls hiding out — led by Talos (Mendelsohn) — with the help of future S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury( a digitally de-aged Jackson with two eyes), and the memories of the Supreme Intelligence (Bening). As she fights the Skrulls and waits to be reunited with her mentor Yon-Rogg (Law), it starts to become clear that her understanding of right and wrong, past and present, may be radically skewed.

I have to be honest and say I left the cinema wholly disappointed. It’s just the next instalment of the 21st Century's most popular mega-franchise (which so happens to centre on a heroine) rather than the ground-breaking 90s science fiction saga promised.

Yes, it leans hard on the decade specific humour (dial-up Internet, Blockbuster) and these moments are admittedly good for a laugh, but it terms of emotional depth it feels like it’s made then too. Which is not a compliment. It’s utterly bizarre that the husband-and-wife team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are more concerned with filling in the blanks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than fleshing out the title character. Baffling when you consider the fact that Marvel is the leader of diversity in Hollywood and broke ground with Black Panther in 2018.

Captain Marvel is no Black Panther. The latter was specific, revolutionary and ground-breaking for black representation in the superhero realm. Boden and Fleck fail miserably to achieve the same for women in the genre here. The direction and dialogue are pedestrian and the visuals quite frequently muddy. It’s so concerned with being a feminist film that it forgets how to be a superhero movie.

That being said, Kudos for the moment Danvers crashes into Blockbuster and blasts Arnold Schwarzenegger’s head clean off. He won`t be back. A bold statement that it’s time to usher in the era of the heroine and wave goodbye to the dominance of the muscle bound beefcake.

Shame then that this watershed moment didn’t arrive with a more richly imagined central character to empower women, as per the vision of Roy Thomas and Gene Colan in 1968.

This was the golden opportunity for Marvel to present her coming into her own destiny like Tony Stark did in Iron Man. Unfortunately Larson`s performance is one-layered, bland and wooden and from the moment No Doubt`s “Just a girl” blared out in a defining fight scene I knew the movie had missed the point.