Captain Marvel isn’t exactly marvellous

David Kelly

Captain Marvel was better than okay. This appears to be the trend with most standalone Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films today. While Black Panther was nominated for Best Picture, it could be argued that was due to the film’s ‘cultural impact’ as opposed to its cinematic merits.

Captain Marvel is akin to its predecessor insofar as they both boast unprecedented casting in the superhero genre; a black lead and a female lead. Unlike Black Panther though, Captain Marvel has been marred with mediocrity by its critics.

The film centres around Vers, or Carol Danvers, an alien soldier with a mysterious, Earthly past who is committed to defeating the Skrulls. These are an alien race with the ability to shapeshift, supposedly making them masters of infiltration.

The problem with Carol’s character is apparent from the start. She begins her story as a person with immense power, but is told by her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) that to control her power she must discipline her emotions.

However, this isn’t her motivation. In fact, she doesn’t really have much motivation throughout the film. Her role is somewhat passive, with her story often pushed forward by external forces. She has this strange arc that involves something like inverse growth.

There isn’t much for Carol to struggle with in the film. The Skrulls are laughably useless as forces of opposition. Even when the larger villains are revealed in the second act, they pose no real threat to Carol, who pretty much shrugs them off.

It’s difficult to build and maintain tension when your protagonist is the most powerful person in every room she enters. Sure, it’s kind of fun to watch her throw around people and blow up stuff, put it lacks any emotional or personal weight.

Carol is cocksure. At her lowest point, she is still cocksure. Her arc involves her becoming even more powerful, hence even more cocksure. She is difficult to relate to because she doesn’t seem to suffer. Her road to near-omnipotence is paved with witticisms and sarcasm.  

The forces of antagonism are slightly underwhelming. Initially, the movie can’t seem to decide on a tone for the Skrulls. Are they devious, dangerous shapeshifters or funny, little green men? In the second and third act, their role becomes more nuanced, in a twist that serves as the film’s highlight.

The Skrull’s leader, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), is another highlight. Mendelsohn brings such humanity and charm to the role that you forget he’s a green alien. The biggest laughs come from Talos, in addition to the more emotional moments.

The Kree, Carol’s supposed race, are boring. Her military team have some funny ‘Guardians of the Galaxy-esque’ moments to begin with but are completely characterless for the remaining hour. Following the twist, they simply become interchangeable weirdos.

Yon-Rogg, Carol’s Kree mentor, appears as though he’ll be interesting, but he isn’t. Like his Marvel predecessors, he’s underwritten and lame. Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) is the classic Marvel sidekick. She’s what War Machine is to Iron Man, or Wong to Doctor Strange.

The young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is an interesting character. Although the de-aging effect isn’t perfect, it works well enough. He’s a lighter, less rugged version than we’ve seen before, providing levity and a foil to Carol’s fish-out-of-water shtick.

So, where does Captain Marvel stand in the wider MCU? Truthfully, it’s near the bottom. This is nothing to do with the fact it stars a female lead, rather it’s because she plays a largely uninteresting character.

In short, it doesn’t bode well when the mid-credits scene is the most exciting part of your standalone superhero movie.

David Kelly

Image Credit: Cnet