REVIEW: Captain Marvel is exactly what you were expecting.


Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Still of Brie Larson as Carol Danvers

It might feature the first female lead to carry a Marvel film, some nostalgic ’90s throwbacks, and a ginger cat that plays a surprisingly large role in the development of the plot, but Disney’s Captain Marvel follows the studio’s cookie-cutter formula to present a perfectly acceptable but unsurprising film.

Directors and co-writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck take us to 1995, a previously-unseen era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that follows Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she finds herself caught in a war between two alien races. Amid the intergalactic battle is the internal struggle our protagonist faces as she tries to piece together her own identity through a string of fragmented memories, old friends, and new lies.

Larson delivers an adequate performance but is outshone by Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of a young Nick Fury – who has the most convincing anti-aging CGI we’ve seen in any film to date. Other notable performances include Annette Bening’s role as the quirky yet sly artificial intelligence leader of the Kree people: an alien race first introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), and Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos, the leader of a race of shape-shifting aliens known as the Scrull. The film’s biggest sin, however, is not allocating more screen time to Lashana Lynch, whose portrayal of Danvers’ best friend Maria Rambeau was the strongest performance of the piece.

Despite the stellar cast, Captain Marvel fails to deliver anything we haven’t already seen in the ever-growing list of superhero movies. Splattered between the rehashed plotline of a superhero discovering that their true power comes from within, prepare to be bombarded by well-choreographed but overly-cut kickboxing scenes, lots of fiery explosions, a plot twist, our hero shooting beams of energy from her hands as she flies into space, two people punching each other on top of a moving train, and plenty of car chases. In fact, one scene includes a car chasing a moving train while two people stand on the train and punch each other. Oh, and it would be remiss not to mention the many classically-Marvel mid-fight quips.

The film faced some backlash leading up to its release following comments about mandatory diversity in films and privilege by Boden, Fleck and Larson. Fans seemed concerned the film would be too politicised, and that the primary focus would be virtue-signalling and identity politics. In fact, so many fans down-voted the film on Rotten Tomatoes’ “Want To See” rating that the site removed the ability to comment on a film before its official release altogether. Of course, it cannot be verified if the severely low rating for Captain Marvel was a result of genuine fans or simply the work of internet trolls.

Nevertheless, the overarching message of Captain Marvel will leave concerned fans pleasantly surprised; the feminist themes are not in-your-face, and it certainly does not feel like there is a political agenda behind the film. Rather, Marvel empowers women everywhere by treating our protagonist no differently to how they have male superheroes in the past. Her character arc does not rely on the fact that she’s a woman, but rather that she’s a human. She overcomes obstacles, discovers her true power, and stands up every time she’s knocked down not just because she’s female, but because her strength is linked to her personal identity. The character of Captain Marvel is not presented to us as a ‘female superhero,’ but rather as a regular superhero who happens to be female.

Yet, despite the positive themes, the film remains completely ordinary as it follows Marvel’s formulaic structure. It gives us a fun ride with light-hearted humour and passable special effects, but you won’t find yourself thinking about it in the middle of the night. Hey, if it ain’t broke, right?

At a runtime of 124 minutes, Captain Marvel seems slightly longer than it needed to be, but it’s certainly worth the watch in the lead-up to the long-awaited Avengers: Endgame, coming to cinemas late April this year.

Captain Marvel – 6.5/10