Review: Captain Marvel (2019) – Higher, Faster, Backwards?

Brie Larson in Captain Marvel

It’s 2019, we’ve been watching Marvel films for over 10 years and have witnessed origin stories for almost all of the heroes that fill up the Marvel Cinematic Universe and while each is unique to its specific characters they all push new and exciting boundaries that bring them to life in a way that makes their worlds hum with a special frequency while still meshing with the universe at large. Captain Marvel feels, it feels like a Marvel film, not a Captain Marvel film. Designed to bridge a gap we cannot yet see, this is a toothless origin story that, despite having a great cast, rests on the laurels of the Marvel brand.

Telling the story of amnesiac Kree warrior Vers (Brie Larson), a woman who is struggling to control a great power within her while finding her place in the universe. When she is thrown headfirst into a conflict between the Kree and an alien race known as the Skrulls she finds herself on 1990s Earth facing a past she didn’t even know she had. With the help of SHIELD agent Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) she begins to find the missing pieces in her story and find where she really belongs.

Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, what comes across most while watching the latest beginning of Marvel’s latest hero is that Vers is a rebellious, fun but generous person. Someone who will choose to do things by herself for the right reasons. A lone rider with a wicked sense of humour and the film crafted around her doesn’t speak to that. It is too wrapped up in getting her from A to B in the straightest way possible that it isn’t nearly as adventurous or rebellious as it likes to think.

Priding itself on it’s 90s setting and the influential nature of Vers as a hero, the whole film feels superfluous, almost as though this whole story could have taken place at any moment in time. It clings to its own sense of importance but it lacks the flair and hard-hitting story to really stick the landing. The boundaries it pushes against it always bounces away from, too fearful of taking the big risks and corrupting a carefully devised timeline 10 years in the making. Fleck and Boden have come across a villain Vers cannot defeat, the MCU itself.

Despite all this Vers is one of the more magnetic heroes of recent years and that is in great part due to a clever, thoughtful performance by Brie Larson. Somehow managing to bring life to a buzz kill of a script that lacks the same humour that has been a staple of these films from the beginning. Although Larson brings certain moments to life, it never really has you singing the same way. In fact most of the films drama is carefully structured but never character driven. Be it a mid film twist that is more for shock factor than actual emotion. it all feels artificial and that is saying a lot for a film about a woman who shoots lasers out her hands and glows.

Lacking a delicate touch, every aspect of the film is overproduced, from the special effects to the way it is edited. It is meant to speed up a story that lacks in real stakes but all it manages to do is remove a sense of cohesion. Suffering the most is the action which is hard to follow, full of unnecessary jumpy editing and never really popping off the screen the way it is intended. The finale while a more lively affair is still a mess of different flashing lights and little functionality.

With an underused supporting cast, a dry and slow approach to character building, Captain Marvel is frivolous non impactful filmmaking that doesn’t want to leave a footprint, not even a little one. This avoidance of damaging continuity and providing a sure-fire hit means that instead of a film what you get is an accumulation of building blocks that have been arranged to look like a film but really doesn’t function as one.

In the end, while having high hopes and ambitious desires it gets trapped within the world it seems like it is trying to create, although it has already been created. The most Marvely Marvel film I have watched and while I enjoy the series I’m afraid that feeding a formula instead of ingenuity is exactly why I didn’t enjoy the arrival of one of the most anticipated heroes of the series.


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