Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
Riding Shotgun with an Imitation
Personally speaking, Captain Marvel looked blasé leading up to its release. The trailers had the film feeling like another generic and formulaic adventure from Marvel and there was this sense of dread on the other side of this keyboard. The MCU has been an enjoyable endeavor over the past two decades, but the formula for the typical Marvel film has become so tiresome and redundant. This is a household where all superhero films, Marvel, DC, or otherwise, are on constant rotation and most of the films are starting to blend together because they feel so similar. Captain Marvel had a lot of controversy before its release with toxic fans attacking its Rotten Tomatoes page and men’s rights activists boycotting the first female led Marvel superhero film from the beginning, but all of that was blown out of proportion for a film that is essentially average overall.
Arguably, the highlight of Captain Marvel is the orange tabby cat known as Goose. Renamed from her comic book counterpart (Carol names her Chewie after Chewbacca from Star Wars in the comics), Goose is a reference to Top Gun, which seems to tie into Carol’s backstory of being a pilot fairly well. Goose combines the cuteness of being a cat and the unpredictability of what a Flerken really is that is teased and toyed with throughout the entire film. A close-second to Goose is the highly underappreciated Ben Mendelsohn as the Skrull known as Talos. Talos is a source for a good portion of the humor featured in the film and is enjoyable nearly every time he’s on screen
The chemistry that Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson have is also an aspect that keeps the entertainment value of the film from feeling stagnant. The back and forth bickering and ability to conversationally bounce off one another in a natural and often comedic way is what keeps the story moving forward in Captain Marvel. Even though Nick Fury is training a then rookie Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), Fury spends the majority of the film pursuing his investigation on his own. Meanwhile, Carol is separated from the rest of the Kree-loyal military task force known as Starforce. The two seem to bond over seeing similar characteristics in one another and becoming unlikely allies in their ability to break protocol over their own stubborn attributes.
Carol Danvers has been referred to as the most powerful Avenger to date, but what’s interesting is that Captain Marvel is the first Marvel film to go out of its way to point out that being human is what makes someone unique. Carol’s human nature is that she never gives up and always gets back up after being knocked down. For the first time ever, being, “only human,” is a trait that makes an individual special rather than a weak and laughable origin. While Captain Marvel could be seen as inspirational to girls and women everywhere, its message also seems to be suitable for everyone because at the end of the day our emotions and our headstrong nature are what make us different from anyone else.
If every solo comic book movie under the Marvel umbrella comes along with a main character that spews sarcastic one-liners, then these personalities are all going to feel the same once they are inevitably featured together in an Avengers-type of film later down the line. The film also goes out of its way to remind you that this takes place in the ‘90s. Some have compared the music choices in Captain Marvel being as enjoyable as the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks, but the Guardians music was basically a part of the storyline; an organic mixtape that bled over into reality. Captain Marvel seems to rub its audience’s nose in the fact that this is America in the ‘90s with its grunge music, long loading screens, and reminder that Blockbuster Video was an enjoyable thing and it’s more than a little annoying.
The film’s storyline seems to be purposely written to frustrate the audience. What Goose can actually do, Nick Fury’s eye, and Carol’s memories seem to be stretched past their limitations to torture the viewer and are only fully revealed when we’ve become exhausted or are passed the point of fully caring. There are certain things that are done to seemingly unite the MCU films or at least have everything connect in what feels like a full circle between Iron Man and Captain Marvel like what Dr. Wendy Lawson’s (Annette Bening) core really is or how Nick Fury came up with The Avengers Initiative. Those connections are amusing, but everything else feels like run of the mill and monotonous territory that has been explored many times before in the MCU.
In a way, Captain Marvel is more effective than Wonder Woman. You feel for Carol during the final act of the film and being the best version of yourself despite how quick tempered you may be or how imperfect you may think you are is what defines us. The Captain Marvel character is kick ass, but you can’t help but feel like Brie Larson is phoning it in a bit. Other than a few scenes when she yells, she seems to be going through the motions and Larson’s performance feels lethargic for someone who won an Oscar for a lead performance just four years prior.
First impressions of Captain Marvel were that the film was overwhelmingly clunky in its first half, but improved during its second act. After seeing the film a second time, the conclusion is that this is an average superhero film with a powerful and long-lasting message. If it wasn’t for Goose and Talos, Captain Marvel would likely be an incredibly forgettable Marvel superhero outing. However, it’s exciting to consider what the inclusion of Captain Marvel in Avengers: End Game will mean for Thanos and the events that transpire in the film that will serve as a finale for the first two decades of the MCU.
© 2019 Chris Sawin
Chris Sawin (author) from Houston, TX on March 21, 2019:
I think Marvel was purposely vague so they could dive into who Carol Danvers really is in either End Game or future Captain Marvel films. By, "introduction," I mostly meant having her appear in something before End Game and apparently becoming the leader of the next phase of the Marvel Universe.
Raziel Reaper from Hyrule on March 16, 2019:
Goose was a little more than a mascot to me. Whether it'll get fixed in future installments or no... Well, one can only hope.
Maybe if Captain Marvel was made in 2013 it would have been more acceptable. The movie as a whole just feels so outdated and outdone a year after movies that touch on racial relations and genocide. I also think Captain Marvel - despite the relatively serious topic of one empire trying to eradicate an entire species - was a little too comic for its own good, and even then, not as funny or as clever as Guardians 2 (which suffered a similar problem at times) and Thor Ragnarok.
I'd also argue that as a whole, the movie also doesn't really offer much of introducing Carol into the MCU to make her appearance more understandable in Endgame. As a prologue, it's rather lacking.
I'm down for another Captain Marvel movie; if Marvel managed to rescue the God of Thunder from the scrappy status in one movie, there is no reason for them to fail with polishing Danvers. Given the 20+ year gap between Cpt Marvel to Infinity War, we have plenty of material to work with and, maybe, finally give Ronan and Korath some well-deserved development after those glorified cameos.
Chris Sawin (author) from Houston, TX on March 15, 2019:
Agreed. Even Goose's big moment is a rehash of Groot's impaling arm/thirty guy takedown followed by him smiling at the camera from the first Guardians of the Galaxy. I feel like Captain Marvel will be cooler in End Game and beyond. Her origin was necessary to introduce the character, but it wasn't anything we hadn't seen before.
Kevin Feige and Marvel are hinting that she may have had more adventures in between the ending of Captain Marvel and when she shows up in End Game. How many sequels they plan to milk out of that will also be interesting.
Raziel Reaper from Hyrule on March 15, 2019:
I found the movie to be fairly standard, easily the MCU's weakest offering since 2011's Thor and 2013's Thor: The Dark World. It's not without a heart, but for the most part it just... imitates its frankly superior predecessors, especially Guardians. I didn't hate it, but in the end I felt pretty unsatisfied.