For those who don’t know the character of Captain Marvel “higher, further, faster” is legitimately the best way to describe her. Gifted with incredible powers that made her one of the most powerful beings on the planet, if not the universe, Carol Danvers was someone that you did not want to mess with in Marvel Comics lore.
Unfortunately, Marvel Studio’s newest film, the live-action Captain Marvel, never reaches those heights thanks to the massive shadow of the film that preceded it, Avengers: Infinity War.
Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the team that made the solid gambling film, Mississippi Grind, my introduction to Ben Mendelsohn, Captain Marvel is a return to form for Marvel in their cookie-cutter recipe for success films that are undeniably entertaining that ultimately feel like “just another Marvel film”. The story focuses on the origins of Captain Marvel, as Carol Danvers, a young airforce test pilot lands in the middle of an interstellar war between two alien races.
What Marvel did with Infinity War was a return to form to the storytelling that put them on the map with Iron Man. They allowed their characters to go to some truly dark places, Thor’s semi-suicidal revenge story for example and allowed their cast to bring the flaws those dark places created to the surface. Doing so created some very real performances that ultimately made the conflict feel personal to the audience as much as it did to the characters.
Captain Marvel felt more intent on constantly reminding you that this story is set in the ’90s through near-constant pop culture references and 90’s technology jokes, none of which their core audience of children from this era will get. It’s a line that flows through the entire film from the dialogue, story, and even the action.
To the directors’ credit, the action was told to character, starting out tight and blocky to favoring wide sweeping shots as Carol Danvers embraced her abilities and became Captain Marvel. It’s a style that played well, despite a truly questionable tempo, and as this action grew, the cast more than delivered to what their directors were asking for.
Brie Larson went through a truly astounding transformation for this role and took to stunt sequences like it was second nature and was every bit the match against her far larger costars. Jude Law clearly loves what he does. Now the veteran of the film fight sequence, he took the lions share of the fight sequences the story called for and he took to them as a fish takes to the current in the stream. Even Ben Mendelsohn, an actor not known for action, shined throughout the film.
Despite what the internet will have you believe, Brie Larson is Captain Marvel in every aspect of her performance. Larson displayed an inner strength in her naturally soft-spoken acting that created an honesty behind her performance. Ben Mendelsohn’s range as, Talos, the leader of the Skrulls, is truly is astounding through what he can do with his voice down to the simplest predatory look. Despite the fact he spends 60% of the film with his face in heavy prosthetics the inflection in his eyes will capture you. What I love about any role Jude Law plays is the honesty he brings to it. You get the feeling he’s believing what he’s saying and it only helps capture the audience.
Sam Jackson runs a masterclass on acting as he creates a version of Nick Fury, a character he’s been playing for over a decade, that hasn’t been disillusioned to the world around him from a lifetime of being a master spy.
The fact that this cast is as good as it highlights the biggest problem with the film, the pacing. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck excel at character drama and they made a character drama that’s paced like a superhero film. The film runs entirely too fast with far too many characters for Danvers story to be properly told.
And when the film starts to build up and kind of moment, a new 90’s joke plays out and does a fantastic job of killing it. No Doubt’s I’m Just a Girl is not a song to play over a climatic battle where Danvers is facing off against multiple opponents.
Captain Marvel is an entertaining movie. Marvel’s found that receipt for success and has been sticking to it for nearly a decade. The problem is that it doesn’t stand out from anything Marvel has done before and you don’t have any real need to talk about it leaving the theatre. The film is 3.5 stars out of 5 and that’s the worst part of all of this. Because Carol Danvers deserves better than that.