So where does Captain Marvel slot into the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Well, in terms of abilities, the character is hands down the most powerful out of all the MCU superheroes. As a movie experience though, it’s less Black Panther and more Ant Man, with a dash of the original Iron Man.
Despite the galactic scope of the film, which transports you to different planets and several spacecraft, Captain Marvel feels oddly constrained – a lower-budget Green Lantern. Its story also shares some similar beats to that DC Comics title as it follows human fighter pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) who barely survives a plane crash in 1989. She is saved, hauled off to space and given special powers by an elite Kree military force, under the leadership of Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Amnesiac Carol is largely happy in her new life until a botched mission brings the war between the Kree and their shape-shifting arch-enemies, the Skrull, to Earth in the mid-Nineties. Dropped in the middle, Carol must resolve the conflict and uncover the mysteries of her past, while grudgingly working with new SHIELD agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
That sounds like a
Instead, they’re about providing two hours of breezy popcorn movie fun sprinkled with a few surprises and a deft handling of increasingly complex universe lore (pro tip: you may want to revisit Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 before watching this one). Captain Marvel doesn’t deviate from the formula at all. Despite being the first MCU movie to centre on a female protagonist, it doesn’t strive to stand out the way Black Panther did last year. Good news for some guys though: Captain Marvel doesn’t come with a heavy-handed feminist agenda (although there is a hilarious nod to a certain Internet controversy triggered by the movie).
What you’ll find is considerable amount of humour, a depiction of actual female friendship and mentorship (the emotional heart of the movie), Ben Mendelsohn’s entertaining yet layered Skrull commander, serious 90s nostalgia value (with an amazing period soundtrack to boot) and a delightful bond between Samuel L. Jackson’s de-aged Nick Fury and Goose the cat.
Captain Marvel just lacks deeper resonance, thematically and emotionally. As much as I loathe to pit two women against each other, the Marvel film didn’t give me wish fulfilment chills the way Wonder Woman did. The montage of Brie Larson’s title character falling and getting up through her life forms part of a longer scene of inspiring personal triumph, but it still feels like visual shorthand. It’s no crossing of No Man’s Land.
Then again, Carol Danvers is a very different character to Gal Gadot’s charming and graceful Amazon Princess. Although they share the same moral code as highly trained warriors, Carol is a smart-mouthed impulsive rule-breaker. Broadening representation a bit, she’s another type of female hero for women to identify with – the childhood tomboy-turned-scrappy-fighter who routinely finds herself in the midst of trouble. Oh, and she actually smiles a lot, normally when she’s blasting holes through things and flinging about enemies. So there may be no finely-crafted No Man’s Land moment but Larson gets to show Carol celebrating her powers with pure, unadulterated, holler-at-the-sky joy à la Spider-Man. There’s also no unnecessary love story crowbarred into proceedings.
It’s still a little disappointing though that Captain Marvel plays it so safe and close to MCU formula, instead of embracing the daring of its lead character. For a significant entry in the franchise, it’s neither ambitious nor exceptional. It might be different for little girls dazzled by an inspiring, likeable heroine but I’m sure for the most of the adult audience it will be a case of watch, have fun, stay for all the credits scenes, go home, forget.
Note: Look out for Kervyn’s review as a hardcore comics fan and eagle-eyed Marvel easter egg hunter tomorrow.
Last Updated: March 6, 2019