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Review: Middling 'Captain Marvel' tells origin tale of a badass feminist icon

Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios

In the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel is something of an oddity. While the origin story of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) stands out as a cultural milestone, it’s also a pretty average movie.

There’s nothing about Disney’s latest superhero spectacle that’s outright awful, and Captain Marvel does enough things right to be enjoyable despite its flaws. But Danvers’ tale here feels a bit like filler, more a bridge to Avengers: Endgame than a standalone epic. And such a middling position in the superhero pantheon is something of a disservice to a character that is perhaps the most important in the MCU thus far.

In Captain Marvel’s defense, the cards were stacked against it. Coming off the post-Infinity War hype train, it would be hard for any tie-in to carry the same steam, and the movie’s subject makes for a tough hill to climb. Script troubles invariably arise when fleshing out comic-book top dogs, which is why Superman movies are almost always bad. When you’re the strongest of the strong, like Captain Marvel, the stakes can feel somewhat trivial.

But to their credit, the screenwriters found a clever way around that point. Unlike most origin flicks, Captain Marvel starts in the middle of things, with our amnesiac hero-in-waiting living on the planet Hala, the Kree home world. She can shoot energy blasts from her hands, but her abilities are dampened. Though she doesn’t know it, her early skillset pales in comparison to her true power.

That would be all well and good, but because of Captain Marvel’s real-world timeline, things get predictable. After being captured by the shapeshifting alien Skrulls, Danvers crash lands on Earth and soon finds out that things with the Kree are not what they appear.

Of course, those of us who’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy know that this particular alien race has some major skeletons in the closet, and the appearance of two of that film’s bad guys doesn’t do the big reveal any favors. As such, takeaways from Captain Marvel center more on the Skrulls and Avengers than the title character herself.

And yet, for all its faults, this movie still has a lot to love. Marvel’s casting has always been top-notch, and with Larson they’ve found a perfect face for the franchise moving forward.

Danvers shows so much potential that it’s hard not to be pumped for things to come, both in Endgame and beyond. Whether she’s blowing off jerks telling her to smile or pummeling alien enemies with her bare hands, Captain Marvel positions herself as a badass feminist icon. Her humanity solidifies her relatability, and as she picks herself up from the dirt again and again and again, you can’t help but be excited for a generation of young girls—and more—who get a role model that makes Iron Man look like an ant.

So Captain Marvel isn’t the best movie to come out of the MCU, and that’s OK. Thor had two so-so outings before hitting big with Raganarok, and Danvers has plenty of time to make a splash. After all, the future is female.

CAPTAIN MARVEL
Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn
Rated: PG-13
Theater: Now playing, area theaters