‘Captain Marvel’ Is A ’90s Remix Of Superhero Origin Movie
Skimmed a few reviews: some says it’s good, some says mediocre. Checked its Rotten Tomatoes score (“relatively high”) before I went in and kept in mind that Marvel movies tends to get overpraised (i.e., Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Civil War) most of the time. How did it go? It’s middling. Just another Marvel movie: bland-looking, snarky and banter-heavy, therefore entertaining, a little short on character drama, and lots of incoherent and poorly done action scenes.
Carol “Vers” Danvers is a Kree, a race of “noble warrior heroes” who are at war with the shape-shifting Skrulls. She’s a member of the Starforce and during one of their missions, she’s captured by the Skrulls, who “messes with her head, her memories,” it seems. She eventually escapes her captors and crash-lands into planet C-53 (Earth) and the Skrulls, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) follows her to Earth. The Skrulls are after Dr. Wendy Lawson, the scientist she/they saw in her dreams/memories.
Vers crashes into Blockbuster Video store and we’re transported back to 1995 and meet a de-aged Nick Fury. I mean, no, Vers can’t time travel, her story is actually set in the ’90s. (She actually started her Starforce training under Jude Law around the time Pixies’ second album Doolittle came out.) After some minor scuffles with Talos and upon meeting former Air Force pilot Maria (Lashana Lynch), Vers uncovers her past. She also discovers that this whole time, she’s on the wrong side of the war.
I like how Captain Marvel tries to “remix” the old Marvel template for superhero origin movies. This though, has its trade-offs. For one, it takes a while for the movie to piece together Carol’s story, identity, or personality. This takes away a relatable hero early on in the story.
Unlike in Thor, Iron Man, or Captain America, the latest from MCU doesn’t follow the typical origin story. Brie Larson’s snarky photon-blasting superheroine doesn’t need to be humbled, have a change of heart or undergo some experiment and difficulties, she’s already strong when we first see her, she only have to realize how powerful she is. That may not be relatable for some. And it also makes it appear like she’s lacking in the character arc department. But this is probably by design and part of the movie’s empowering message: she’s already who she is, and she doesn’t have to change and prove herself to anyone.
This “remixing” also makes the story unpredictable, which, with fuckton of superhero movies out there, makes Captain Marvel a bit more memorable than, say, Black Panther (basically a Thor rehash), Doctor Strange (which is Iron Man plus magic, minus the engaging middle third) or Captain America: The First Avenger (the most predictable origin story of them all). It also gives us something different: Vers and Nick Fury (more like Nick Funny) in a buddy cop comedy, the Kree-Skrull war, which turns out to be the real heart of the story, and well, a parade of ’90s references (Radio Shack), music cues (Elastica, Garbage, TLC) and gags (dial-up internet, grunge fashion).
There are a couple of revelations in the second half that made the movie for me. That and Ben Mendelsohn, who’s great as Talos even when he’s under thick Skrull make-up. My only disappointment with Mendelsohn’s character is that he did not show off his shape-shifting ability upon Nick Fury and Maria’s request while they were on that plane just for the heck of it. He could have turned himself into Jude Law. Or Brad Pitt. Or Jennifer Aniston. That would have been hilarious.
Brie Larson is OK as Carol Danvers. She’s smart-ass, tough, and not just a little bit snarky. Though compared with the mo-capped Rosa Salazar in Alita: Battle Angel, Larson doesn’t have much in terms of emotional moments as Carol Danvers. What she has is a Thor: Ragnarok moment where she beats the hell out of her enemies to the tune of No Doubt’s “Just A Girl.” They make good use of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” too. And for a moment there, it felt like it’s the ’90s again—y’know, like watching Gwen Stefani doing push-ups on MTV.
Captain Marvel is a little more than just a “fun little diversion” before we all got sucked in into the blackhole that is the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War (hey, it’s called Endgame). It’s fun, it’s minor compared to Avengers but it’s more than that. It has a strong feminist message like Wonder Woman, and unlike in Wonder Woman, the final battle doesn’t “suck.”
There were some controversies about Captain Marvel, Rotten Tomatoes and Alita: Battle Angel, even before it came out. Some people “review-bomb” Brie Larson’s movie on Rotten Tomatoes before its opening date (actually, they gamed the “want-to-see” score, a feature RT has since removed). There were also some videos on YouTube “commenting” on Larson’s feminist comments, while favoring Alita: Battle Angel. Some fans says they’re watching Alita: Battle Angel again on Captain Marvel‘s opening day.
Well, I’d say watch them both instead of dragging these two female-led comic book/manga-based movies into the “culture war.” These two movies are actually more similar than they are different. But I understand the sentiment. Alita, while lacking in terms of story, delivers on the action, the fight scenes (especially with its thrilling, balls to the walls Motorball sequence), in which Captain Marvel clearly does not. Alita got mixed to negative reviews. It is underrated, while Captain Marvel seems to be a bit on overrated side.