Wednesday 6 March 2019

Film Review: Captain Marvel

Ten years and 21 films into its sprawling ‘cinematic universe’, the much-loved sausage party that is Marvel Studios finally unveils its first female protagonist in Captain Marvel.

A disjointed first act introduces us to Vers (Brie Larson), an amnesiac commando who fights for the Kree in a vast intergalactic war against the Skrulls, a race of nefarious shape-shifters.

Tutored by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Vers remembers very little about her past and refuses to play by the rules as a result. When a tussle with Skrull commander Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) causes Vers to wind up stranded on Earth, the fiery solider must untangle her past to learn the truth about her future.

If you’re not up-to-date on your Marvel lore, the first 30 minutes of Captain Marvel won’t sit and wait for you to catch up. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck aren’t interested in lengthy exposition or explanation in what can only be described as a disorderly opening. Things start to settle into a groove once Vers arrives on Earth and the customary fish-out-of-water shenanigans begin. Set in 1995, a killer soundtrack and lots of humour at the dated technology ensures laughs aplenty.

Crossing paths with SHIELD agent Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson, back in all his Jules Winnfield glory courtesy of a computer) and a fresh recruit called Coulson (Clark Gregg, also sans wrinkles), the jigsaw pieces in the Captain Marvel puzzle start to fall into place during a much stronger second act. At its core, Captain Marvel is a film about empathy and embracing your inner strength – it just takes a while for all this to coalesce into a coherent narrative.

The film struggles to make everything fit, offering us glimpses of Vers’ mysterious past while also tying the film into the wider Marvel timeline. It works, but you get the feeling that a lot has been surgically removed to trim down the runtime – most notably McKenna Grace and Annette Bening’s heavily-reduced roles as young Vers and [redacted].

A powerful finale makes good on the film’s early promise; once Vers gets going, nothing will stand in her way – an apt and resonant message that feels essential in 2019. The only thing really holding Captain Marvel back from reaching that upper echelon in the Marvel pantheon is its presentation; the action is often dark and murky, a far cry from the vivid bursts of colour splashed across the screen in James Gunn’s similarly space-bound Guardians of the Galaxy films. Meanwhile, its villains are run-of-the-mill and rote, with Marvel’s batting average with antagonists continuing to slip further into ‘disappointing’.

When it works, it really works. But this is a clunky and inconsistent opening chapter, akin to 2016’s Doctor Strange or the first Thor. As origin stories go, it's remarkably unremarkable. I suspect, as with those characters, Captain Marvel will really come into her own when she gets to bounce off others in the upcoming Avengers sequel, Endgame. Until then, we’ll have to make do with ‘good enough’.

The Verdict: 7/10

It takes a while to find its feet, but Captain Marvel concludes with a soaring finale that sends a bold statement: she ain't here to make up the numbers. Larson and Jackson share great chemistry and the 90s vibe is fun, but the emotional beats don't hit as hard because the film struggles to make us care some of its key players (Law, Bening). 

Captain Marvel is in cinemas across Australia from tomorrow Thursday March 7.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really looking forward to seeing it this weekend! I've heard a few other people say the opening is a bit messy too, I'll have my expectations in check.



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