Oscar-winner Brie Larson joins forces with astute collaborating filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as its first female lead in what on-line trolls have been causing a backlash.
Nonetheless, despite the politics (read: diversity) employed by the Room and Kong: Skull Island actress, Captain Marvel doesn’t make for a winning unconventional origin myth tale (cobbled from the July 2012 Vol. 1 Ms Marvel comics). As one that has to provide some continuity between Avengers: Infinity Wars and the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. While it may have enough appeal to the masses with uninspired action beats, especially in the earlier sections, don’t expect anything with the depth and coherence of recent Oscar-winner Black Panther.
What’s on display is a cinematic olio that probably could have used more clarity in trying to check the boxes to meet the requisite superhero demands of the studio. Yes, there’s insouciance, vulnerability, and ferocity in this positing of Larson’s Carol Danvers back into early Internet (AltaVista) 1995 as an original Avenger who would actually meet S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury prior to ‘First’ Avenger Captain America.
Samuel L. Jackson is given the digital makeover to look like he did when he worked with filmmakers like Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino for the first time (sans eyepatch). He arrives when amnesiac Carol (or guardian Vers as she is part of the Kree alien force) hits terra firma (Blockbuster Video) from outer space having a thorny prior existence while sporting photon blasters in place of hands and nary a recollection of being a U.S. Air Force-trained pilot. Shards of a lost identity, particularly of a troubled childhood and gender spurning, plague her.
So, this is a portal into Carol’s frayed emotional state, but an empowering ideology that is more preening than advanced. Larson is disappointingly saddled with material that offers little chance to express her style and wit in what should have been a more clearly fleshed out and potent character. But, the fit actress having a bit of a handle of martial arts does score well in Earth-bound scenes especially opposite Jackson (like when trying to find their way out of a locked office) and also a special tabby named Goose which should please certain fans.
The reason for Carol’s journey into what isn’t flatteringly identified includes her Kree mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and the adversaries of the intergalactic variety are in the form of the shape-shifting Skrulls topped by Ben Mendelsohn’s trenchant Talos. Annette Bening is also an enigmatic, if influential presence in a most potent being unreflective about the changes from what has been bestowed on her. Boden and Fleck (interesting, if bold choices by producer Kevin Feige) aren’t as adept at handling the factory-issue moving parts unlike their distinctive work in low-budget efforts like Mississippi Grind, Half Nelson and Sugar.
Other players in a fine ensemble include Gemma Chan and Djimon Hounsou as fellow soldiers Minn Erva and Korvath, respectively, as well as Lashana Lynch as loyal friend and colleague Maria. The retro fashioning allows for some noteworthy bands of the era like Nirvana to be heard while Marvel’s “biggest female hero” gets to burst into action and occasionally into comic relief mode. Suffice to say, though, the eye-opener that Larson has been and the character aims to be may be realized with more efficiency in future installments. I guess for some Captain Marvel is more of a provocation than provocative escapism, not capturing the best elements of the goofy Guardians of the Galaxy or the more straightforward first go-around with Steve Rogers. Maybe there should have been a love interest like what D.C. did for Gal Gadot’s exotically charming Diana Prince in a more endearing “Wonder Woman.”