I don’t know a ton about the Marvel Cinematic Universe other that what I see in the theater and what I read about online. I honestly don’t know if Captain Marvel was part of the greater plan to bring the Avengers to a final head in Avengers: End Game. But here’s what I know. Captain Marvel could have been so much better than it was.
I’ll admit that I went into Captain Marvel with low (ish) expectations. I was initially thinking that Marvel was trying to create their answer to the uber-popular DC lady superhero flick, Wonder Woman. And I welcomed that. Then I found out that Brie Larson was cast as the lead.
I’ve seen Brie Larson in plenty of films and I think she’s a fine actress. I just don’t see her as a badass actress, which is what I envisioned for the Captain Marvel role.
In case you don’t know, Captain Marvel is the origin story of the American galactic superhero formerly known as Carol Danvers. She’s a air force fighter pilot who’s worked her way up through the ranks to become a top secret test pilot. Because back in the 90s, women were disqualified from becoming fighter pilots.
And if you forget that this origin story takes place in the 90s, Marvel is sure to remind you every 10 minutes or so. You’ll hear lots of 90s music and be reminded of grunge clothes, slow internet, clunky computers, and really ugly cars. It’s fun in many spots but after a while it feels like a schtick. But we’ll let that go.
Let’s talk story.
When the movie starts, Carol, now known as Vers (pronounced Veers), is fighting in some space battles. She’s living on a planet as a Kree and preparing to go to battle against the Skrulls, but not before she has a consultation with the Supreme Intelligence who, for some reason, looks a lot like Annette Bening.
Confused? Me too. That’s why, for this movie, I recommend doing a little background reading so you know who Carol Danvers is, what her origin story is, and who the heck the Kree and Skrulls are. In fact, just reading the Captain Marvel Wikipedia page before heading into the movie was a huge help.
If you’re already pretty deep into the Marvel Universe, you’ll feel more comfortable. You might know Captain Marvel from the comic books. And you’ll probably catch quite a few relevant references to The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, among others. But you’ll also find quite a few issues with the movie.
This movie is meant to be the origin story of Captain Marvel (who is never actually referenced by this name in the movie) but it’s also meant to give you just enough to link her to what will be Avengers: Endgame, due out in April. We know from the end of Avengers: Infinity War that Nick Fury, just as he’s vanishing, sends an emergency signal to Captain Marvel. Even you didn’t understand that reference at the end of the movie, you probably had a gaggle of nerds explaining it to you.
This ending would have been cool if we had any idea who Captain Marvel was and how she fit into the universe. So instead, Marvel had to create a standalone movie to introduce her and tie her in just in time to, presumably, save the universe from Thanos in Endgame.
I wish that Captain Marvel had come along sooner. I wish we had gotten the origin story. And then I wish we had seen how her relationship with Nick Fury developed over the years. And then I wished we could see her join the Avengers for the final battle. Because without that history, it’s hard to understand how Nick Fury felt she could save the fate of the universe. And it’s hard to see how she’s going to pop into the Avengers and say, “Hi, I’m Carol.”
And now that I’ve gotten all of that off my chest and I’m trying to decide if I can truly call myself a Marvel nerd if I don’t actually read the comics, let’s talk about Captain Marvel as a good, old-fashioned, action superhero movie.
I couldn’t help but feel like this movie is Marvel’s answer to Wonder Woman. And Brie Larson is no Gal Gadot. Then again, Carol Danvers is not an Amazonian warrior princess. She’s an air force test pilot who ends up as a space warrior and we spend a lot of time figuring out how all of that works.
The first half of the movie shows her trying to prove that she can overcome her emotions to become a soldier. But we never really see any emotions from her in the first place. There are a few sarcastic comments but her personality falls pretty flat and we don’t get a sense of who she really is.
In the second half of the movie, she returns to Earth and starts to remember her humble beginnings in the USAF. We get a few more flashes of her personality but nothing that ever really gives us a strong sense of who she was and who she has become (by contrast, think of the personality driven superheroes like Tony Stark, Doctor Strange, and even Thor). At least in this second half, the action and storyline picks up with a furious pace and offers a few fun (if a little implausible) twists.
As an action movie, it started slow but picked up the pace to deliver a satisfying ending. As a Marvel movie, the script felt weak, the acting a bit stilted (save for Jude Law), and the story a bit underwhelming. But the real question is… does this movie better prepare us for Avengers: Endgame?
If you’re a fan of Marvel movies, you’ll want to see Captain Marvel. Otherwise, it’s like skipping one of the Harry Potter books. Even if you’re not a fan, you need that missing link. But if you’re not a diehard, you won’t miss much if you decide to skip it. If you do go, make sure you stay for BOTH stingers – the first is after the first set of credits and offers a nice lead-in to Avengers: Endgame. The second is at the very end and just silly but you have to stay anyway!