Captain Marvel: Meh or Marvelous?

The build-up and ballyhoo surrounding Marvel’s latest film, Captain Marvel, would lead many a true believer (or non-believer) that the film was either the second-coming of Logan or a politically-correct bastardization of all that comic book fans love.

In truth, it was neither.

Captain Marvel was one part origin story and one part connective tissue to introduce Carol Danvers to the next installment of Avengers with some context. It wasn’t a great film by any stretch, but wasn’t a couch-puncher like Batman vs. Superman, either.

While Captain Marvel felt like a mid-tier comic book movie, the brigade of butthurt surrounding the film is unsubstantiated. I don’t get why so many people were getting their shit hot, crying “Grrrrr!!! It’s a SJW agenda movie!” It’s not. You have to REALLY be reaching to be offended or think, “EHRMAGERD! Snowflakes are r00ning muh comix!!!”

Yes. They took some creative liberties, but they were nothing to be upset about, even if you are a longtime fan of the books.

Taking a more in-depth view, here’s the “marvelous” and the “meh” in Captain Marvel:

What Was Good About Captain Marvel?

  • Samuel L. Jackson as Fury: You can always count on Samuel L. Jackson to deliver a solid performance as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. This installment of the franchise shows us a younger, pre-Avengers Fury who is sans eye patch for most of the film. For the most part, I was bored unless Jackson was on-screen as he provided the film’s humor, grit, and served as the viewer’s link to the Avengers we know and love.
  • Goose the Cat: In the comics, Carol Danvers has a pet cat named Chewie who is a key player in some of her intergalactic adventures. Re-dubbed “Goose” in the film, the feline also figures prominently into the story. Not only is Goose adorable, he’s a functional furry addition to the film (and, if featured in Avengers: Engame, may likely have some interactions with Rocket Raccoon). Next to Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury, Goose was one of my favorite things about Captain Marvel.
  • The ’90s References: If you fondly remember the days of Blockbuster Video, alternative rock, Radio Shack, arcade games, and flannel-as-fashion, Captain Marvel will trigger your nostalgia for the decade. Nods to the ’90s are sprinkled throughout in a way that doesn’t feel heavy-handed, but true to the time period. (For the most part.)
  • The Stan Lee Tribute: The opening credits of Captain Marvel feature a brief montage of Stan Lee, the driving force behind The House of Ideas who died late last year. The film also marked (what may be) Smilin’ Stan’s last cameo in a Marvel movie. The words he utters on screen are enough to hit longtime fans right in the feels.

What Was Bad About Captain Marvel?

  • Brie Larson as Captain Marvel: Larson’s portrayal of Carol Danvers felt phoned in. It was surface-level conflict of her remembering her past and trying to reconcile what she thought was true versus what was Kree conditioning. While the character was conflicted and certainly flawed, Larson didn’t play Danvers as some simpering Mary Sue. (I’m grateful that the writers didn’t feel the need to shoehorn some cornball love interest into the plot to try to flesh out her character.) Maybe she’ll grow into the role, but despite Larson’s Oscar-cred, she didn’t carry the same charismatic feel as the comic book version of the superhero.
  • Inaccurate ’90s References: While most of the ’90s references were on point, some of them were caricatures. Having came of age in the 1990s, I can tell you that we didn’t play Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” on vinyl. Get out of here with that 2019 hipster bullshit! Back in the day, you played your music on a CD player or Discman that skipped when you walked. Also, the giant cell phones were primarily used in cars (unless you were Zach Morris or Paul Heyman). And Alta Vista? Puh-lease! Any early ‘net geek worth their salt used Dogpile to aggregate the best searches before Google cornered the market.
  • The Skrulls: While the Skrulls in Captain Marvel were actually likeable, Skrulls in the Marvel-verse typically herald a deus ex machina. They’re an easy-out from having to create a logical ending due to their shape-shifting nature. Someone can die and be resurrected because…. Ooops! They were really a Skrull and never dead to begin with! In Captain Marvel, the Skrull storyline made them out to be the misunderstood good guys and that the Kree were the bad guys all along. (If you’re a fan of comics, the Skrulls and Kree are both pretty shitty. It’s not as cut-and-dried as the Captain Marvel made it out to be.) However, the super-snuggly way the Skrulls were portrayed made me half expect Sting to rework “Russians” for the film to croon, “Skrulls love their children, too.” While the storyline wasn’t awful, I fear that an otherwise outstanding lead-up to Avengers: Endgame may get scuttled by a ham-fisted ending where Skrulls save the day. Lame.

I went into Captain Marvel with low expectations — as one does when one hears too many glowing reviews alongside too many negative reviews and angry commentaries. It’s not an SJW love-fest, nor is it a tear-down of the Marvel mythos. Simply, it’s a comic book movie with a female protagonist. While No Doubt’s female empowerment anthem “Just a Girl” serves as the background track to a fight scene in the film, there is no bludgeoning of viewers that “OMG! It’s a super hero! With girl parts!”

And maybe this is where I’m failing to give Larson credit for her rather blasé portrayal of Captain Marvel. Today, it doesn’t seem like as quite a big deal to have a woman bust through glass ceilings. In the ’90s, having a surge of female-fronted bands and strong female voices was something to … umm… marvel at. And that was what didn’t feel particularly true to the ’90s setting, even though it felt like a refreshing change in 2019.

Overall, you’ll enjoy Captain Marvel a lot more if you view it as a bridge between the Avengers’ history and their Endgame. Take it for what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

Grade: C-

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