Marvel’s latest feature film, Captain Marvel, arrives in theaters nationwide today, appropriately coinciding with International Women’s Day, which is appropriate because this film marks the first female-led superhero film for Marvel Studios. Captain Marvel is a decent introduction for the character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, now entering its eleventh year and twenty-second movie, filled a great cast of characters and a mildly entertaining adventure, albeit being quite uneven in its pacing and direction.
I’ll preface by saying that Captain Marvel’s greatest strength is its story, which was written by a team of writers including Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy) Meg LeFauve (Inside Out, Finding Dory) and Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Tomb Raider), along with the director-duo of the film, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. The story of the film is impactful and meaningful and sets a great story in place for what the future of Captain Marvel could potentially hold. It also acts as an entertaining (if even quite unnecessary) prequel to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, bringing back fan-favorites like Nick Fury, and the earliest seeds that will eventually become the vast universe we will see conclude in Avengers: Endgame this April. Despite a story that works rather well, where Captain Marvel feels bogged down is in its pacing, screenplay, and character development (or lack thereof).
Many of the events that occur within Captain Marvel, even its most shocking revelations, happen without much fanfare or anticipation, often revealing key plot points in a dull fashion. Its pacing is uneven, causing a bumpy storytelling experience that is almost always all over the place, even if most of its action sequences are entertaining enough. It’s pacing, structure and dialogue make it feel like the most of a ‘superhero movie’ you’d expect from the early 2000-era, at a time when comic book movies have evolved to ambitious feats in storytelling.
Perhaps what makes Marvel films so memorable and beloved are its quirky well-rounded leads, who in their best form are only human, and faced with human issues that rock the emotional core of the film. Whether it be Peter Quill in his search for humility and family after the death of his mother and the abandonment of his father, Steve Rogers attempt to find purpose after the loss of Peggy Carter, or Scott Lang’s desire to succeed for his daughter’s well-being, the Marvel universe is filled with characters that are rounded, relatable, and with defined character traits, even if those character traits can sometimes be negative. After spending two hours with Carol Danvers in this film, it’s hard to pinpoint a single-character trait associated with her. Danvers is taught in her Kree training to ‘supress her emotions’, which she certainly does before her journey into character regression, but there isn’t much of a worthy conclusion in character redemption. Essentially, Captain Marvel sincerely fails at creating a humanistic, defined character, although there’s certainly much time for that in future films.
Elsewhere, the supporting cast is quite wonderful, which consists of Samuel L. Jackson back as Fury, digitally de-aged–similar to Ant-Man’s de-aged Michael Douglas, as well as the new cast of Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, and Jude Law, are all wonderful in their own respective roles. There’s also a slew of entertaining performances from characters both new and old, of which we’ll refrain from discussing so that their surprises aren’t diminished before viewing the film. These cast members do the best they good, even in scenes where some of the dialogue is a bit trite and the editing isn’t there to truly support some of the humor.
Despite its flaws, Captain Marvel will forever stand as an achievement in cinema, and a landmark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, introducing its most powerful hero, and potentially its most inspirational ones. Finally, young girls have their own figure of inspiration in the Marvel universe, and Carol’s perseverance and determination is an empowering statement regardless of the film’s uneven elements. Even if Captain Marvel is arguably far from Marvel’s best–mainly because that bar is already so high, it will still likely stand to be it’s most inspirational. The first female-led Marvel film may have deserved more, but we’re still glad that its inspirational message exists in the cinematic universe at all.