Captain Marvel marked the arrival of the first female-led superhero film from Marvel Studios, a fact that would have been far more impactful if it weren’t for that other superhero franchise getting there first and the fact that it took Marvel so many years (and sooo many movies) to finally release one themselves. The film itself, with some distance from its theatrical release, is likely to be best remembered for the petty online bickering between its star and internet trolls (from which neither emerged looking great) rather than any content in the movie itself. This seems especially true now that Avengers: Endgame has made Captain Marvel’s contributions to the franchise almost inconsequential, save a cheesy female-pride sequence during its final battle.
Taking place in the 1990s as a way to put a pin in the whole Avengers situation, Captain Marvel actually begins with a lengthy sequence in space. Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), or Vers as we first know her, is a soldier fighting with one alien race against another one (I could go into more details, but those who care likely already know the names of these alien races). She is on the side of the ones that look more human, so obviously we assume these to be the good guys despite her mentor (Jude Law) using some tellingly chauvinistic terminology in early scenes. In their battle against the oppositional aliens, Vers follows them to Earth, at which point it is the 1990s.
This gives Marvel Studios another reason to utilize CGI in order to change the age of an actor, and this time it is Samuel L. Jackson’s turn to look younger for an entire film as a younger Nick Fury. It is awful and plastic looking, but much of the movie has this same glossy veneer of artifice. Even the cat featured heavily in the film only feels real for a handful of shots in the movie. But even worse than the badly artificial look of the movie is the painful screenplay, from plot holes to dialogue that sounds better suited for a CW superhero show. Also, despite Nick Fury looking younger, he is incompetent and ill-suited for any aspect of fighting in this film, likely to emasculate him in the name of feminism. Most telling is the reason revealed for his use of an eye patch in the modern-time Marvel films.
Shamefully unsubtle from beginning to end, it is always clear what Captain Marvel’s agenda is, which should have been obvious to audiences after the painful way the trailer allowed the ‘h-e-r’ of the word ‘hero’ to linger a bit longer than the ‘o.’ But regardless of the significance of a female her-o (and it’s significance was made clear to me by the exuberance of a young girl watching the film in the same theater as me on opening day), the film still has to be good. Captain Marvel is a movie. More specifically, it is a Marvel movie, which is a studio owned by the Walt Disney Company. It might seem like I am dodging the question of quality, but I believe that those statements are enough.
If you have seen any of the Marvel movies since Disney got its greedy white gloves on the properties, you have pretty much seen any of them. Sure, there are slight differences in themes and your enjoyment is likely to vary depending on your affinity to one hero over another; on occasion the director’s style even manages to defy the production-line methods of filmmaking for some semblance of stylistic expression (most notably Thor: Ragnarok). But most of the time, the Marvel movies are predictable, cookie-cutter, moderately enjoyable products which are the cinematic equivalent to junk food.
It may sound like I am being harsh (and I am), but that is mostly because of how unimportant this film ended up being in the scheme of the Marvel universe and due to how high my hopes were for filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. After having made their name with spectacular independent dramas like Half Nelson and Sugar, films driven by the well-written characters and dialogue, Captain Marvel feels like a de-evolution. Whereas their independent films were built upon realism and subtlety, Captain Marvel brings them to the world of bad CGI and worse dialogue. When it isn’t awkwardly cramming a female-power (more so than feminist) agenda, the film is just obvious one-liners and a lot of pretty visuals.
I’m sure there is plenty in this film for younger audience members (boys and girls alike) to enjoy, but I need a little more intelligence to the films I watch, even if they involve flying heroes and space travel. I expect more from the script, the characters, and even the digital effects. Superhero films keep getting larger and larger thanks to computer generated effects, but they are also feeling less and less grounded in any reality that I care about.
For anyone invested in the petty arguments that were had by so-called feminists and so-called male rights activists (I use the phrase ‘so-called’ because I don’t believe it is true feminism at stake, and because the existence of male rights activism is absurd), the special features provide more fuel for the fire. One of the most obnoxious scenes in the film for me was an obvious reference to the internet battles over stupid troll comments. Some idiots online thought that Larson’s Marvel should have been smiling in the posters, so she changed a bunch of other Marvel posters to put smiles on the male heroes. It was all petty and stupid, mostly because she was feeding right into what the anonymous trolls hope for. They don’t use logic in their arguments, and lowering yourself to their standards just debases the issue further. In other words, I wish Larson would take a cue from the famous Michelle Obama quote about responding to ‘low’ blows.
But I digress. The Captain Marvel Blu-ray (and I am assuming the other home entertainment options) comes with a handful of deleted scenes, some of which are likely to encourage the petty bickering between groups. One in particular involves a violent attack against a man for the mere suggestion that she smile. Ignoring the obvious overreaction (and poor role modeling) displayed in this clip, it is just bad filmmaking and likely why a subtler option was chosen. It is understandable why most of the deleted scenes were removed, making them a bit dull to watch. The gag reel is understandably more enjoyable. There are also a handful of making-of featurettes, most of which are promotional and brief. An audio commentary featuring the filmmakers is also available, although it was disheartening for me to hear these two pat themselves on the back for selling out.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 5/10
Special Features: 6/10