- Movie Rating -

Captain Marvel (2019)

| March 7, 2019

If there is any one element that has kept the Marvel Cinematic Universe constantly inventive and entertaining over the past 10 years it is that the films, for the most part, have been relatively simple.  Not simple-minded, just unburdened – the plots are thin enough that they get out of the character’s way.  This has been my defense of this series all along.  Unfortunately, this is a credit that I cannot give to Captain Marvel.  Here is a relatively entertaining movie burdened by an unwieldy plot that writers Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden and Geneva Robertson-Dwore are never quite able to get under control.

Going in I was completely unfamiliar with the background of this character which I am led to understand is the single most powerful in Marvel’s super-canon.  That’s a heavy burden to lay on a single movie.  The power cosmic is difficult to wrap a story around because it requires a solid foundation and a firm explanation for the uninitiated.  Part of the issue with Captain Marvel is that it has so much to unpack, so many characters, factions, backstories and powers to explain that the movie’s first half feels like work.

As with Thor, the writers never seem quite certain who his character is or how to approach her story.  The movie has to get her from plucky pilot to fiery goddess wielding the power cosmic and has to introduce and establish the bad blood of an entire universe in order to get her there.

First is the intergalactic war with the shape-shifting Skrulls on one side and the human-looking Kree on the other.  The Kree are under the command of something called The Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening) which I think is a biological collective consciousness that takes the form of the person that you admire the most – this had to be explained to me later.  Anyway, Supe rounds up a squad of specialists – each have a particular set of skills.  Vers (Oscar winner Brie Larson) is the muscle.  Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan) is the sniper.  The brain is Yonn-Rogg (Jude Law).  And Korath (Djimon Hounsou) is also muscle and a character that we met in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Their assignment (I think) was to save a planet of ruins but then they are forced to take a detour to a planet called C-53 – described as “a real s—hole.”  That, of course, is Earth where Vers finds herself crash landing into the middle of Blockbuster Video – it’s circa 1995, you see.  So now, Captain Marvel is an origin story.  Vers hooks up with a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, of course) pre-eye patch and pre-chrome dome whose newly-formed private agency hasn’t quite found its purpose yet.

The bulk of the movie takes place on Earth, specifically in 1995 but actually just a world steeped in 90s references.  They’re fun and so is the movie’s look.  It starts as a fairly standard CG-heavy science fiction epic but then turns its visual look into a different palette, reminiscent of any number of Don Simpson action pictures from the late 20th century.   Visually, the 1990s scenes remind us of Crimson Tide, Beverly Hills Cop and especially Top Gun.  And it is fun to see the early days of Nick Fury and the agency that will one day help to defend the Earth.  Plus, and most especially, is the appearance of a mysterious feline named Goose who holds a surprise that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling.

Much of the story I can’t really describe because then this review would become a short novel.  It’s a weird double-flip reverse origin story of how S.H.I.E.L.D. was invented and how Vers came to be known as Captain Marvel.  I can say that there are large portions of the movie that I really enjoyed, however . . . I find myself in the position of being the outlaw.  While Captain Marvel is a movie steeped in fun girl-power, once again, it is a movie that struggles to get to the point.  I sat squirming for the first hour as the movie struggled to find its feet but I can say that I was dazzled by the third act.  If that doesn’t sound like a middling review, I don’t know what does.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2019) View IMDB Filed in: Action