Review by Tim Robins
The Plot: Captain Marvel is an extraterrestrial Kree warrior who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. Living on Earth in 1995, she keeps having recurring memories of another life as US Air Force pilot Carol Danvers.
With help from Nick Fury, Captain Marvel tries to uncover the secrets of her past while harnessing her special superpowers to end the war with the evil Skrulls…
The Review: Captain Marvel is not the stepping stone to the next Avengers movie that you might have been expecting. However, it is, to all other intents and proposes, exactly what anyone familiar with the MCU’s origin stories will have been expecting, even if Brie Larsen’s performance is, thankfully, not another iteration of Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark.
Captain Marvel is a prequel to the whole Avengers Initiative shtick. It teams the central character up with a startlingly young looking Samuel L. Jackson as Nick-call-me-Fury (the origin of his missing eye is one of the few humorous moments in this determinedly dour movie). But the film is also a pretty much by the numbers adventure. Scene after scene, the dialogue and action have been seen countless times before from CGI aerial space ship action to running through warehouses.
Even the down time is reminiscent of the original Star Lord, at least in my memory. And no one will expect a mysterious ginger Tom that turns up wandering the corridors of SHEILD to be anything other than an alien.
I can see why one commentator described the film as “weird”. If you are unfamiliar with Captain Marvel’s many iterations, the effect must be much like I felt when I went to see Serenity without having seen the TV series Firefly. Captain Marvel plunges the audience into a world of Kree, Skrulls and hangers on from past continuity such as “The Supreme Intelligence”, here sadly not envisioned as a green coloured cross between Jabba the Hutt and Medusa of Greek Myth, and Ron-Yogg a baddie since the days when Marvel Comics launched their coyly named Mar-Vell, a bloke in a white and green space suit.
One of the problems for Marvel is that when first acquiring the intellectual rights to the name ‘Captain Marvel’ in the late 1960s, they proceeded to do nothing of any interest whatsoever with the character or the name.
To retain their trademark, as noted here on CBR.com, to all intents and purposes Marvel has had to publish a Captain Marvel title at least once every two years since, leading to a number of ongoing series, limited series, and one-shots featuring a range of characters using the character.
The current cinematic version combines aspects of this lacklustre biography. Once, Brie Larson’s character was named ‘Ms.Marvel’ but that name is now taken by a young Muslim woman whose award-winning adventures are a lot more fun than anything offered here.
(Sure, a Captain Marvel collection of recent reprints was the most pre-ordered graphic novel in January, but print runs are normally around one thousand issues, less than my fanzine sold in the 1980s).
Guardians of the Galaxy established a new sci-fi- Marvel Universe to play in, but the sequel got bogged down in urbane wise cracks and unconvincing family dynamics – leaving Captain Marvel ploughing a rather lonely course. The decision to play the Skrulls as leftovers from a British gangster movie did nothing to endear me to these beloved villains who, as adversaries of the Fantastic Four, were once left as herd of cows – a decision Mr Fantastic must surely regret if he has had a chance to ruminate on the consequences.
What Captain Marvel needed was a distinctive ‘take’ on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Skrulls opened up the possibility of a Men In Black comedy or a more paranoid tale of alien infiltration a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Of course, none of those options would have been any more original, but it would have let Captain Marvel at least feel different.
To be fair, after The Invasion, the 2007 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Nichole Kidman, Hollywood basically decided that female protagonists were box office poison. So kudos to Marvel for giving their character a shot.
Brie Larsen caused a bit of a storm in a tea cup with some misinterpreted words about film critics. Congratulations must go to numbskull, online know-nothings who helped Disney’s marketing department by fabricating a controversy in which Larsen was (wrongly) represented as hating Captain Marvel’s core audience of White, Middle-Aged Men) while, at the same time, re-enforcing Larsen’s star persona as a strong, independent woman.
Larsen’s words of encouragement to young, female cinema audiences of colour may well have opened Captain Marvel up to a wider audience. That said, the cinema in which I saw the movie was entirely populated by White, Middle-Aged Men (although I rose the average age by at least a decade).
We all waited dutifully for the mid and end credit sequences as Marvel has trained us to do, then left filled with the dull pleasures of ticking another Marvel movie off our watch list. Welcome Captain Marvel, yet another Marvel character who fires beams of energy at people!
• Captain Marvel is in cinemas across the UK now. Variety reports on its opening weekend International Box Office here
• Marvel’s Captain Marvel: The Art of the Movie is available now (Amazon Affiliate Link)
• Captain Marvel the Official Movie Special (Amazon Affiliate Link)
A freelance journalist and Doctor Who fanzine editor since 1978, Tim Robins has written on comics, films, books and TV programmes for a wide range of publications including Starburst, Interzone, Primetime and TV Guide. His brief flirtation with comics includes ghost inking a 2000AD strip and co-writing a Doctor Who strip. He reviewed comics and films in posts and podcasts for The Mindless Ones until he became a net diva and forgot to name check the rest of the team at a San Diego Comic Con panel. The Mindless Ones gave him the nickname ‘Tymbus’
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