glenn criddle | cynical celluloid | april 2019
The next phase of the Marvel Universe is being pushed forward with Captain Marvel, an unknown quantity to me but that's not a first. Brie Larson was another blank slate for me, until that is, certain comments that question the validity of my demographic to comment upon her work. Ms. Larson's permission or approval notwithstanding, let's delve into the latest addition to the only extended universe worth commenting on at this point.
“Captain Marvel” is okay at best and that's if all you're after is a spectacle. I could end the review there but I have an article to fill so let's delve a bit deeper. “Captain Marvel” is not only the new wave of Marvel, it's rewriting history and I rather have a problem with that considering how invested in the world we've been encouraged to be. Sadly, it has a so-so story, it's yet another functional origins story that does nothing new; in that regard, it's too busy establishing a character's history (which feels like its being told through a diary) to really get into the characters head. And, when it comes to the character herself, the proof of the pudding will ultimately have to be in the next film — though given some of the rumors that Captain Marvel will be the one to save the day in “Avengers: End Game,” I can't help but think that this character is being elevated to lofty heights before she's even earned it. As it is, this film is pedestrian; there are great Marvel moments but they're stretched out and, as good as those moments are, they didn't feel anywhere near enough.
When it comes to the action scenes — the thing that much of the audience are here for — it has to be said that they didn't do that much for me. Sure, it's very familiar explosions and sweeping camera movements, but there was no emotion, there was no investment and most importantly, there felt like there were no stakes. The final conflict is basically an indestructible and hyper-powered missile of CG carnage destroying an enemy we barely care about and when we've been exposed to so many scenes just like this over the last 10 years, then the only thing that makes this kind of scene interesting has to come from our investment in the character and a sense that things could go very wrong for them. Here there is nothing. Compare and contrast with the scene that Scarlet Witch has with Vision in “Avengers: Infinity War.” Vision begs her to take his life to save the universe. It's a scene that has consequence for the characters involved. She's having to do something terrible to the one she loves for the good of everyone else and it's sold to a tee, only for Thanos to take away the good of his sacrifice to complete his mission. It's emotional, the characters suffer and there is weight to what happens.
Captain Marvel's battle just doesn't have that weight, it has no emotional punch, it's all very frivolous and without tension, because she's an indestructible, strong woman and that's it. As an aside, I really dislike Steven Segal movies. Why? Well, it's because he's famously become the character that no one can touch. Just watch most of his fight sequences and he barely gets a pinky finger landed on him. It's ridiculous, trite, egomaniacal and worse, it means you're denied any investment in the character's fate because you know they're not going to suffer in the slightest. This is the case with Captain Marvel, she's flawless, great at everything. She only struggles because the men keep her down and there is no one more powerful. She's everything wrong with the character of Superman with a persecution complex on top of it. Is this who's going to take the MCU forward? Personally, I'd like to see Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Spiderman carry it on. Those guys (Spiderman aside) haven't had much of a shot beyond being the supporting act but are nicely established with the fans and the universe. If Captain Marvel is going to sweep in at the last minute and take over the MCU then it betrays the last 10 years of movies and every character within those films. It also makes no sense, if she's now the first avenger then where the hell has she been all this time the world has been on the edge of destruction? She hasn't earned the throne yet; Black Widow and Scarlet Witch have.
Marvel has largely avoided the pop-social justice trend until now and it let its female characters speak for themselves with their actions and while a female lead MCU movie was long overdue, it's disappointing that Kevin Feige has chosen to go down the path of divisiveness rather than diversity. When Captain Marvel isn't disrespectfully rewriting MCU history to bolster the central characters standing it's slapping the audience around the face with vapid nods to feminism that pander to the shallowest levels of social politics. This is not a strong character, she's indestructible, these are very different things.
All this said, you may find the film moderately enjoyable at least, it certainly has some moments but even though I didn't have a terrible time, I was bored because there is no real risk or drama for the character, she's too sure and safe for that. If this is where the MCU is going then we may as well kiss it goodbye with the next movie, “Avengers: Endgame,” because it's going down the same path as Star Wars is; it's killing off the loved characters and replacing them with the worst of modern politics. I can't see myself watching this again and one wonders how a character that has been born “perfect” can grow from here. If it empowers you somehow then more power to you but there are far better films and far better strong and interesting female characters out there, even in the MCU itself, they just need a shot. As for Brie Larson? Not as bad in this as some have said, she's fine.
He's British so forgive the extra U's and the use of the letter S instead of Z. If there's one thing that typifies Glenn's writing it's the 'Video Nasties,' a long list of movies that offended all and sunder during the 1980s in the UK. It's those seemingly offensive fringes of cinema that informed his writing on cinema and the more political area of censorship with a more sympathetic approach to those films that push the limits of taste. But don't worry, he does talk about normal stuff too and isn't likely to go off on a horror movie fuelled rampage.