Captain Marvel is right up there with some of the phase one origin stories of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. When the world was a much simpler place and superheroes were still not so established. But its placement after Infinity War and so close to Endgame makes its stakes feel rather insignificant. Ant-man and Wasp came right after Infinity war as well but that had lovable returning characters whose situation we were worried about during the events of Infinity war. Captain Marvel is a brand new character we’re supposed to get to know now so that her presence in Endgame makes sense – she doesn’t enjoy the popularity of Spiderman who could be directly thrust into Civil War after 10 minutes of chatting with Tony Stark. While it is a great story and a wonderful piece of cinema, the cinematic universe format that Marvel has carved for itself has ended up pushing it into the shadow of the looming threats of Endgame.
The cool stuff
We have so many superheroes in the world now that a new origin story would undoubtedly draw comparisons with previous heroes. Marvel’s tried to break out of the pattern of the “person gets powers – person struggles to control powers – person rises to the occasion and learns to use powers – a hero is born after battling a villain with his exact same powerset” by playing around with the screenplay. We learn her origins the same way she does, in discordant flashes and glimpses and an eventual exposition. The movie doesn’t even make an effort to explain her powers at this point. We are so used to superheroes now that we don’t need to know if its gamma rays or Vibranium infused herbs or radioactive spiders that gives them powers. The movie literally says, “Look. This is an “energy core”. It exploded, she was nearby, she can now fly and shoot photon beams. Moving on.” and we are perfectly fine with that information. The movie does end with the hero owning herself, with her first flight and is reminiscent of the “I am Iron man” moment. It was so refreshing to see Nick Fury get freaked out by aliens and in the brief moments Phil Coulson appears as a rookie, for an Agents of SHIELD fanboy such as myself, it satisfied my every brain cell.
With all the controversy surrounding the movie’s feminist flavour, I’d say the movie handled it extremely well. No scene screams in your face that men are bad and women are awesome, no dialogue felt out of place just for the sake of glorifying women or to exaggerate sexist threats that women face. The threats were era-appropriate, it is just unfortunate that the era was sexist with women not allowed to fly combat and the catcalling etc… One very frustrating comment when the trailers initially dropped was that Brie Larson doesn’t emote, that she never smiled and didn’t look very excited to be a hero. I do not know if that was planned or not, but a particular scene in the movie directly addresses the “you should smile more” guys out there. The movie had every chance to add a “Let’s show the boys how it’s done.” or even a throwaway, “Pfft..Men, amirite?” or a shot of the women high-fiving with a “Girl power” chant, but not once does it go there. Classy move. The flarrowverse shows on CW trying to go political should take a hint or two.
Marvel is so full of wise-cracking heroes and while Brie does get her share of quips, most of the humour in the movie is derived from the supporting cast. Be it Fury fawning over Goose or his disbelief towards Carol’s abilities, the men’s curiosity about Skrull penises and the 90s tech being too slow, the humour isn’t largely reliant on Carol and I think that was a good movie, at least in comparison with the previous movies. However, Brie Larson does ooze confidence in every scene she appears. This is a woman who knows she can fry up everyone’s face in the room and walk out if she wants to, who knows this entire planet is utterly ill-informed about the rest of the universe and it shows. Not as an arrogance out of superiority that we’re supposed to assume is charming but just confidence and dare I say, swagger.
Being a movie with a female lead, people expect the movie to talk about the feminist agenda, but what the movie more deftly does is nod at the immigrant crisis using Skrulls. We were already introduced to the Krees as bad guys in Guardians of the Galaxy, so we had an inkling that the Skrulls aren’t all that evil as they are portrayed to be. It ended up being massive smear propaganda against Skrulls as malicious identity thieves when all they wanted was a home. It had this whole “foreigners steal our jobs” vibe to it. Plus Skrulls are given a very human treatment in the film, even when they are not shapeshifting and in their green-alien-with-pointy-ears self. There is humour in their interactions and bittersweet joy in their reunion. Ben Mendelsohn has somehow brought emotions to the surface through all that green prosthetics.
The movie opens with a very special tribute to Stan Lee that was totally unexpected. Good job, Marvel. His particular cameo in this movie has some very interesting implications in the Marvel Universe. I didn’t really catch it when I saw it but later found it on Nerdist. It’s better if I let the experts explain it.
The not so good stuff
Right off the bat, the soundtrack felt far too generic for me. I religiously download the soundtracks of movies before their release and have special playlists made for them but this movie fell into the typical horns-blaring/patriotic “hero music”. They could’ve gone full Guardians and used all the 90s chart toppers but they didn’t, except for maybe a couple here and there.
Marvel is known for its villain problem in its origin stories and this movie is no exception. However, the situation here is a bit more unique. The story essentially has no definitive villain at all and is pretty much all about Carol Danvers figuring out who she is and just what she can do. We are led to believe that the Skrulls are the bad guys in the first half, and then it looks like Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg is the big bad. But then he and Brie barely share screen space for more than 15 minutes in the entire movie. The “Supreme Intelligence” could be thought of as the big villain but that brings us back to Marvel’s villain problem. It’s just not significant enough.
Especially now that we’ve seen cities fall and heroes dusted, an AI shooting forcefields or six missiles shooting out of a spaceship just doesn’t seem to cut it. Sounds frivolous, but its MCUs fault for making such stakes casual Friday for us. This also adds to the fact that the key moment of the story ends up being greatly underplayed. Carol Danvers owning herself and her powers is supposed to be what the entire movie is building up to. It’s supposed to have the effect of Wonder Woman walking across no man’s land, or Spiderman pulling two halves of a ferry together or at least Captain America holding a fricking helicopter down. While the sequence of Carol always getting up after a fall sort of steers us in that direction, her walking up to an AI pushing a green force field against her just doesn’t cut it. The movie could tell us that this is a big deal, the other Kree members could drop their jaws but in the end, we, the non-Kree “human” audience, are going to be more awestruck by the weight of ferries, helicopters and World War I mortar shells. That’s just what we know of and can relate to better. The scene is definitely inspiring, but it could have been so much more. Maybe it would’ve had that effect had they not showed Captain Marvel going full binary in every single trailer. Experiencing that for the first time, in that scene, could’ve saved it. Meh, it still looked pretty cool though.
Another flaw in marketing was every single person stressing on how powerful she is and how much Goose steals the show. Given what we see in the movie, her power levels seem to be on the same line, if not slightly lower than, Thor or Hulk. She flies, shoots energy and sort of radiates in outer space. We aren’t really shown anything Earth-shattering. In the grandma fight sequence, she is so very easily held back by three humans. She does shrug them off like its nothing, but nonetheless, the hype was too much on her being OP. It’s not a bad thing at all; it’s actually good to have your heroes struggle, but they could’ve held back with all the “OMG, Thanos beware!” tweets. Goose was a fun gag, sort of expected given its role in the comics, but it was nowhere close to scene-stealing as the first reviews suggested. Although the great Nick Fury losing his eye to an alien cat is as Marvel as Marvel could get at this point.
Tie-ins to the greater MCU
I’ve been dying for the MCU to acknowledge Agents of Shield for years now and even though I might be reaching a bit, I’m gonna do it anyway. The movie shows Coulson and Fury’s initial days and why he’s such a favourite to Fury. It also establishes Fury’s familiarity with the Kree and that he knows the value of Kree blood in a human body, which is directly how he saves Coulson using project TAHITI. It’s a magical place!
The very first Avengers opens with Fury walking down from a chopper into a military facility named Project Pegasus where they are attempting to weaponise the Tesseract. We are shown here that Project Pegasus was Dr.Lawson’s project where she was using the Tesseract to create a light-speed engine, which to be honest is a better use of the Tesseract given it encases the space stone and can get you anywhere in space in an instant. It just gives us a general idea as to what the Tesseract has been up to since Howard Stark fished it out of the ocean. The movie ending with Fury renaming The Protectors Initiative to The Avengers Initiative just as Alan Silvestri’s OG theme slowly starts piping up is probably the best way they could’ve ended this movie. The camera panning on Fury’s face rather than show us the word “Avengers” being typed on the monitor was very reminiscent of the screen cutting right as Captain America is about to say “Avengers Assemble” at the end of Age of Ultron.
We are of course shown Fury being handed the pager “for emergencies only”. For all those questioning why Fury didn’t use it during Avengers or Sokovia, the only answer we have is to assume that Fury thought the Avengers could handle it. The mid-credits scene is similar to the snippet from Civil War we got at the end of Ant-man – a direct cut scene from Endgame. The post-credits scene is a usual, annoying, short gag that 99% of the hall stayed back to watch and shake their heads at nonetheless.
The whole point of the movie could be summed up by the air force tag that breaks off during her birth-explosion. A huge chunk of “Carol Dan…” stays on Earth while just the “..vers” is taken to Planet Kree Homeplanet. Carol who believes that she’s always been a Kree warrior, realises that she’s predominantly human and can kick anyone’s ass, and then the curtain falls. As origin stories go, this was definitely good, it just wasn’t anything anyone who’s been following the MCU isn’t used to by now. The recent origin stories such as Antman, Dr.Strange and Black Panther had their own elements of novelty like the shrinking shenanigans, interdimensional magic and Wakanda whereas Captain Marvel has a colour changing suit, can fly, glow and is really strong. Cool. When’s the next trailer of Endgame gonna be out though?