‘I’m not gonna fight your war. I’m gonna end it…’
For every massive Marvel fan there is a negative Nancy like myself who feels like the quality of their films has become diluted simply because there are far too many Marvel movies on the market. While I must admit that Avengers: Infinity War was a masterpiece, I found Black Panther, Doctor Strange and many others to be pretty average and forgettable. I enjoyed Captain Marvel more than both of those entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there are still many reasons not to be cheerful when viewing Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s first foray into superhero movies.
I’ve been a keen advocate of Fleck and Boden ever since their criminally underrated Ryan Gosling vehicle Half Nelson. The question was whether they could translate their low key, emotive filmmaking style into a Hollywood blockbuster. The result is a mixed bag.
Firstly, I absolutely adore Brie Larson and she is refreshingly unshowy and relatable here. There are shades of Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen here although perhaps without as much heroism. Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury enjoys much more screen time than he has done in other Marvel entries and he makes the most of it. Any scene that involves Jackson lovingly stroking a cat on his lap is a winner in my eyes. Ben Mendelsohn also somehow manages to breathe life into a character that is mostly CGI and make up, and Boden and Fleck’s script has moments of touching poignancy and lighthearted mirth. So far, so OK.
The downsides come thick and fast however. Jude Law is hideously miscast as the face turned heel in one of cinemas most predictable plot twists. The second that Law opens his mouth and his stilted English accent comes pouring out of it, it’s clear that he is a villain. That the film takes nearly 90 minutes to confirm this is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
Secondly, the prospect of having a Marvel film set before all of the others (excluding the first Captain America, of course) is an intriguing one. Having it set in the ’90s should make Captain Marvel even more exciting, but instead we are ‘treated’ to such eye-rollingly obvious references as Blockbuster Video and dial-up internet (although I must admit I did enjoy seeing Captain Marvel wearing a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt). No real effort is made to make the movie feel like it’s drawing from pop culture’s best ever decade – even the music is too on the nose to really have much of an impact.
The great shame of Captain Marvel is not that it is average and forgettable, although it largely is those things, but that it could have been so much more. Groundbreaking directors, one of the world’s best actresses and an opportunity to make a movie that isn’t tied up in knots by the restrictive timeline imposed by the MCU are all wasted. I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.