The Movie Waffler New Release Review - CAPTAIN MARVEL | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - CAPTAIN MARVEL

captain marvel review
Landing in '90s California, an alien attempts to piece together her fractured memory, the contents of which are sought after by a chasing alien race.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Starring: Brie Larson, Jude Law, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Annette Bening, Gemma Chan, Lashanna Lynch, Clark Gregg

captain marvel poster

After cowering behind Captain America's shield while Wonder Woman led the charge for female led superhero cinema, Marvel Studios have now decided, after 21 male led movies, that it's now safe for a woman to join their superhero sausage fest. Captain Marvel the character is a refreshing addition to the MCU roster; a shame then that Captain Marvel the movie is simply more of the same in terms of its generic storytelling.

An unconventional origin story, Captain Marvel introduces its eponymous hero as a member of the advanced alien race the Kree. Following a disastrous battle with the Kree's foes, an alien race known as the Skrulls, CM aka Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) flees into space, crash-landing through the roof of a branch of Blockbuster Video in 1995 Los Angeles. With the Skrulls on her tail and employing their shape-shifting abilities to blend in with humans, Danvers must piece together her fractured memory, the contents of which the Skrulls, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), are for some reason desperate to get their scaly green hands on.

captain marvel review

With its emphasis on character over plot and overblown, uninvolving action, Spider-Man: Homecoming was a welcome departure for Marvel, but Captain Marvel is a step backwards, a return to a generic plot that revolves around the retrieval of a glowing blue Macguffin. A team of five writers, including co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, worked on this movie, and yet couldn't come up with a fitting vehicle for Marvel's first female lead.

Anyone who has seen Short Term 12 knows just how good an actress Larson can be, but she struggles here with a poorly defined character that lacks consistency. At times you might wonder if Boden and Fleck directed separate scenes, with one telling Larson to channel Arnie's Terminator, the other Lindsey Wagner's Bionic Woman. In some scenes, Danvers is an emotionless alien, while in others she's a wise-cracking, smirking smart-ass, and it seems to depend on what type of joke Boden and Fleck wish to make at any given moment.

Captain Marvel veers more towards the comic tone of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies than the more grounded marvel offerings, but the gags are dated and derivative, too often reminding us of better executed moments in previous movies. Much has been made of a feline character, but it's a lazy knock-off of Shrek 2's Puss 'n 'Boots, the cute moggy that turns into a vicious ass-kicking machine when needs must. Ironically, in a week that has seen Spielberg labelled an out of touch dinosaur for his comments regarding Netflix, the only joke that produced an audible laugh at my screening is lifted from Raiders of the Lost Ark (yes, it's that one). And is there any more played out gag than the one where Character A goes to great efforts to pick a lock only for Character B to use their physical power to wrench the door open? At a time when so many of the top comedy shows on TV and Netflix are penned by women writers, it's baffling that Marvel couldn't have used their unlimited funds to hire a Tina Fey or Amy Sherman-Palladino to punch up this lifeless script.

captain marvel review

The trailers have leaned heavily on the idea of Captain Marvel as a feminist Top Gun, but Danvers' stint in the airforce accounts for no more than five minutes of the actual movie, glimpsed, along with inspiring childhood acts of feminine strength and defiance, in flashbacks that tease the more interesting movie we might have gotten. Said flashbacks are of a blink and you'll miss them length, but they're more interesting than the plodding central narrative around them.

Marvel movies are often derided for their lack of visual invention, and even by their standards, Captain Marvel is naff looking, and tellingly it was afforded the lowest budget for a Marvel movie since 2011's Thor. Of course, it ends in a trademark action set-piece that rambles on forever, one that suffers from its reduced budget. Both the '70s original and 2000s reboot of Battlestar Galactica had more impressive space battles than those on offer here. And don't expect to come away whistling Captain Marvel's theme tune, as the score is little more than an uninspiring temp track.

captain marvel review

Where Captain Marvel does score marks is the remarkably seamless de-aging of actors Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg, reprising their roles of Nick Fury and Agent Coulson. On a side note, it should also be mentioned that Marvel's embracing of diversity extends not just to the varied inhabitants of our world but to those of its fictional universe, with alien creatures playing a heroic role for a change. Star Wars take note!

For all its nostalgia mining, watching Captain Marvel did ultimately remind me of waiting impatiently for a kid with an unlimited supply of coins to vacate the arcade game I wished to play. Perhaps that's how girls have felt watching the last decade of Marvel machismo, but I wish Marvel's latest beat 'em up was worth their coins.

Captain Marvel is in UK/ROI cinemas March 8th.

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