Captain Marvel (2019)
Captain Marvel (2019)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 4 min.

Release Date: March 8th, 2019 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck Actors: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Lashana Lynch, Clark Gregg, Gemma Chan, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace

 


 

A

vicious war rages between the Kree nation and the shapeshifting Skrull race. After obtaining new intel indicating the Skrulls are attempting to acquire a light-speed engine, Kree Starforce Command sends an elite squad of soldiers, led by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), to retrieve a spy hidden on a besieged border planet. But when the team arrive, they are quickly ambushed by Skrulls, allowing Yon-Rogg’s brash, impulsive recruit Vers (Brie Larson) to be captured by the enemy.

Probing the girl’s mind for clues, the Skrulls discover that a Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) has the technology they’re looking for – and she resides on Earth. Unaware of her own connection to the scientist, but determined to stop the Skrulls at any cost, Vers escapes and heads to the human homeworld to find Lawson first. Once there, she convinces the leader of a counter-terrorism agency, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), to aid in her quest to eliminate the Skrull menace. But as the resolute warrior inches closer to her target, memories from her past return, threatening to destroy both the mission and her life.

From the very first scene, Vers has vaporous, orange energy billowing from her fists. And she’s on another planet, much like the alien worlds of “Star Wars,” serving as a soldier of Starforce. This introduction instantly generates a difficulty for the cohesiveness of Marvel’s other entities, especially since most of those are, at the outset, earthbound, gently easing the extraterrestrial elements into the frame – rather than beginning with outlandishness outright. Nevertheless, the plot itself is actually largely independent from the last few Marvel chapters, which have been so steeped in storylines and subplots from other pictures that the previous entries were essential prerequisites for understanding the current characters and motives.

“Lose control again and you’ll have to commune with the Supreme Intelligence.” Despite the standalone nature of “Captain Marvel,” the first 40 minutes or so are fairly rough in design, structuring, and visuals. Not only is Vers suffering from amnesia (a concept so hackneyed that it initially appears irredeemable), but she also hasn’t harnessed her superpowers, and she doesn’t know how she came to be superhuman (the eventual revelation offers only further questions). During some introductory training and combat missions, audiences are treated to a succession of rousing speeches, valiant endeavors, and physical formidability – all peppered with witty yet unconvincing banter (as if the writers were forced to copy the language of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” whose successes with levity ultimately changed the direction for a lot of the franchise’s scripting) – along with action sequences that are so poorly choreographed that it’s impossible to know with certainty who is getting the upper hand at any given moment. Perhaps the filmmakers are using their easy CG accessibility to hide the lack of real fighting skills mustered by the cast.

As one obligatory set piece follows another (a train chase in daylight fairs better, allowing viewers to clearly follow the freneticism), a prominent ‘90s soundtrack accompanies each significant transition, once again stealing a move from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” playbook. Fortunately, it’s effective, especially during climactic showdowns toward the end. A blithe buddy-cop vibe also crops up, as Vers partners with Fury to highlight the inefficiency of deprecated technology and to decipher the colossal advantages of their shapeshifting adversaries. Curiously, the story grows more interesting as the film progresses, aiding in mitigating the disappointment of the start. The mystery of Vers’ Earthly ties, paired with the task of discovering her purpose (like in “The Matrix”) boosts her appeal; as she uncovers her past, the picture itself begins to find its identity. It’s beneficial, too, that a glimpse of pathos works its way in, comparable to the original “Iron Man,” through one of its most influential supporting characters.

“You struggle with your emotions.” Despite the storytelling stumbles, a number of trite lines, and the routine nature of the meteor-sized plot holes (or standard superhero deficiencies, such as a failure to give boundaries to Vers’ abilities or limitations to anyone’s intermittent invincibility), it’s notable that Vers doesn’t have a romantic counterpart. She’s never once driven by cinematic love, nor does she need to protect (or, worse, be saved by) a lover; somehow, the film has excluded all scenes of light flirting, which are staples of many space operas. Plus, there’s not a bared midriff, exposed calf, or hint of cleavage in sight. “Captain Marvel” has expunged virtually all sexuality from its premise – and it doesn’t hurt it a bit. The movie is airy and entertaining, with an uncommonly resolute finale, all without Vers needing any sort of romantic entanglements to connect with (or titillate) viewers.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10