Time is flat circle, right? It seems that with “Captain Marvel”, superhero movies came all the way back to the point they are stupendously silly, flat and forgettable. Thanks Marvel!
It’s a somber night, when I left the screening for “Captain Marvel” the last Wednesday. Albeit the bar wasn’t set too high (I kinda suspected this to be a misfire), the size of this particular failure has taken me aback.
In the grander scheme of things, it seems that the superhero movies slowly reach the end of their magnificence as a whole (with examples proving otherwise from time to time). Despite some standalone evidence of bliss, the stories concerning superhumans saving the world are beginning to rapidly lose the pace and find it troubling to go down an unpaved road.
Even 2019 has proven to be a solemn year for superheroes so far. “Glass” by M.Night Shyamalan was a flash of disappointment, and now “Captain Marvel” joined the party.
What exactly went wrong and what caused “Captain Marvel” to be such a mess? Here’s the five main reasons.
1. Captain Marvel is a super-uninteresting character in the first place
A breadcrumb leading to “Captain Marvel” that was left in “Avengers: Civil War” – the after-credits, pager scene – was already a hint that the titular heroine is about to be a badass like we haven’t seen in the MCEU before.
Captain Marvel’s origin story uses an ordinary human turned into a superhuman by accident – just like, let’s say, Spiderman. Unlike Peter Parker though, all of her superpowers are already quite tamed by the heroine (by the time we learn her early struggles, she’s already established as a kind of altered, superior-to-everyone heroine). Captain Marvel channels energy beams from her hands, as well as flies and seems rather unbeatable to anyone, who steps into her way.
Within her power lies the issue from the character point of view. The script, written by a collaborative force of 8 people (including directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck), creates a vague image of Captain Marvel as a heroine looking to understand her place in the universe – her own self. At the same time, she’s never really confronted with anything – or anyone for that matter – truly challenging. Every villain appearing in the film is a buzzing fly that she could smash with a finger move.
I get the point though. Its the first Marvel’s heroine movie, a strongly feminist manifesto of breaking out of the shackles. Moreover, we’ve seen the overpowered heroes before – Superman, Dr. Manhattan from “Watchmen” to name two of their kind.
But what causes Captain Marvel to be so irrationally bland and ill-inspired is that she’s given no depth, no psychological background. She’s a typical Mary Sue, an impeccable hero that’s a perpetual winner and no villain is a match for her.
It’s a lifeless monument, that you can’t help but care less and less about over time.
2. Brie Larson’s acting screams the word “perfunctory”
I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about Wonder Woman, but Gal Gadot – despite the whining of DC fanboys – nailed the role in every goddamn detail. She was charming, she exhibited prowess and zeal, as well as genuineness in the overly climactic romance tropes.
As the first DC female superhero, Gal Gadot and “Wonder Woman” was a win. The story might have faltered at times, but the elan mixed with an extremely likeable lead were enough to keep the momentum going.
Marvel, on the other hand, treated the idea of a heroine-led feature as if Larson’s sole presence was enough to call it a masterpiece. Frankly, Larson’s either a gargantuan miscast or just an average actress (with a breakout role in “Room”).
Brie Larson filled me with enough numbness that I could barely stand up after the credits rolled.
Most of all, Larson’s Captain Marvel is limited to two reactions – either a squint with a cocky attitude and a 90s-movie-throwback third-league punchlines or a face that shows her lack of interest in the character whatsoever. It’s a sad miscast, where the actress had clearly no concept for the character. And given Brie Larson’s harsh comments that she doesn’t care about the opinions related to her role, I couldn’t care less about that effort either.
3. The plot is hastened and forces Captain Marvel to fit into the MCEU
One thing people always name as Marvel’s biggest achievement is their meticulous way of weaving the web of their universe, mapping it flawlessly by adjoining new characters, villains and storylines.
The bigger picture is, indeed, something – an insurmountable obstacle to overcome for other studios.
However, there’s a peril in that strategy, which has been already hinted in “Avengers: Civil War”, but became apparent in “Captain Marvel”.
You see, the film starring Brie Larson makes little sense as a standalone feature. While it serves the same purpose as every origin story, there is just so many insights (like the appearance of the true villain in the second half of the film) for Marvel fans, that – for a person, who isn’t so into it all – “Captain Marvel” is confusing to say the least.
There is hardly a film on its own here, with its own soul and a character to root for. As a matter of fact, there is an overwhelming dissonance between “Captain Marvel” and other recent successful superhero movies, in the way of how bleak and generic it is. Why make a film just to fit the gap between other movies? It might be a good idea – like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” which developed, at least, likeable characters and was actually needed in the bigger picture. But “Captain Marvel” should have been a half an hour back story introduced in a previous film – like “Guardians of the Galaxy”.
4. Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden – an indie duo that was given no voice
The idea of hiring indie directors to helm large studio projects is a 50/50 chance at succeeding.
Some filmmakers turned these superhero movies into their own wicked creations, using the substantial budgets to imbue the final results with auteur vibe written all over them. An obvious example is the Batman trilogy of Christopher Nolan, but there are more recent too – “Thor: Ragnarok” that incorporated Taika Waikiki’s sarcastic, over-the-top approach, or James Wan’s “Aquaman” that was partially influenced by the director’s multiple affairs with the horror genre.
But there are examples of directors, who seem too compelled and overwhelmed by the range of possibilities that come with money. Apparently, the duo that directed “Captain Marvel” didn’t handle that enormous budget well.
The problem is fairly simple. There is no feeling of ownership in “Captain Marvel”, as if the film was tossed between several players, but none of them was ever regarded to as the team’s leader. There is a vague notion of “let’s pile up the throwbacks to the 90s” (blockbuster store scene or the colorless soundtrack), or an ambition of making a statement about women role. But none of that is truly understood, thoughtful and painted into the film’s canvas.
As a consequence, “Captain Marvel” is atrociously generic, making little effort to build a particular background for Carol Denvers. Her world is a strange place, crafted to be crammed between “Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”.
And well, a heroine deprived of her natural habitat eventually becomes boring.
5. Wrong timing & Lack of a deeper meaning of the character
While it’s been obvious for quite some time that Marvel strives to become more inclusive, “Captain Marvel” pushes the wrong buttons.
The timing of the film’s premiere was cramped to fit between the double-barrelled “Avengers”, due to Captain Marvel’s appearance as the last resort for the superhero band. It somehow feels forced, as if Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck weren’t given enough time to think their film over. It’s a rushed approach toward an origin story – one that needs to paint a huge canvas for the leading wolf in the pack in “Avengers: Endgame”.
The wrong timing is tightly correlated with Captain Marvel’s puzzling placement in the bigger picture too. She’s a feminist, cocky character, which beats every single Avenger from miles away. At the same time, “Captain Marvel” isn’t exactly blissful in explaining her role. She’s the ultimate badass, yeah, but why? Her place in the scheme is somehow artificial, as if Marvel hit the wall in terms of concluding their long-term universe storyline.
All in all, “Captain Marvel” was a disappointment
There are other things that could have been listed here. The appearance of Kree tribe that’s a straight rip-off from Klingons in “Star Trek”, the underused talents of Ben Mendelsohn, Samuel L. Jackson and Jude Law and plenty of details that didn’t make much sense.
Was “Captain Marvel” a satisfying watch to you? Or do you agree that it’s a mess? Speak out in the comments.