Friday, 8 March 2019

Review: Captain Marvel (first-pass)

Captain Marvel (first-pass / 2D / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 12A / 124 mins / Dir. Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck / Trailer

Okay, so you know the score. It's late (or early), I'm buzzing and I'm emptying my head after a first-pass viewing of Captain Marvel. There are no spoilers in here, but for best effect don't read this until you've watched the film. These are brief first reactions, they'll probably change as I get to know the movie better, and I've probably interpreted some of the moments incorrectly anyway. Right.

The film follows a mid-1990s Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she struggles to piece together fragments of memory and make sense of who she was, who she is, and who she's supposed to be. A human fighter-pilot from Earth? A Kree Starforce warrior from Hala? Both? Neither? The last thing she needs is to be thrown head-first into a Skrull invasion of Earth, although in that respect at least she's got good company in the shape of a particularly lithe Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)…


Building on the foundations of pan-galactic politics laid by Guardians Of The Galaxy and strengthened by Thor: Ragnarok, the movie jumps straight into an alien civilisation with relatively little exposition. Marvel are expecting you to be on-board for this already, although given it's the 21st movie in a series, that's perhaps not an unreasonable assumption. The Kree/Skrull dynamic takes an interesting path, considering what we've already learned of politics of the former. But this is is treated more of a supporting aspect, rather than the main focus.

This is mainly because Carol arrives on our screens fully-formed and ready to beat the shit out of alien invaders first, then ask questions later. Her backstory and subsequent character development comes in the form of flashbacks, reveals and the gentle unravelling of the knot that is Danvers' memory. Online rumblings that the film is 'slow' have been greatly exaggerated, although it tells its own story in its own time, teasing out just the right amount of details to keep things ticking over, but not holding enough back to seem smug or self-indulgent. While the twists in the tale aren't quite telegraphed, they follow the familiar structural beats of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


They key thing is that (despite the pre-emptive crying from the usual corners of the internet), Captain Marvel isn't trying to be an MCU movie for girls, just a great MCU movie. The fact that it largely succeeds at this should draw precisely the right reactions from both sides of the fence. Much like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, this isn't an attempt to re-invent the wheel - more to create a new cog which is integral to the existing machine*1.

Larson is an absolute natural at this of course, an outstanding actress who's more than willing to commit to a role that's fun, energetic and sometimes outright silly - but still taking it no less seriously for all that. Both the performer and the character blend seamlessly into the MCU, thanks in no small part to the assistance of Jackson as the audience's long-time touchstone. Ben Mendelsohn puts in a solid turn which will be initially underrated by most, and Lashana Lynch's character of Maria is crying out for more screen-time. Annette Benning is under-used in the Marvel tradition of getting Robert Redford / Glenn Close / Michelle Pfeiffer to rock up and bring a bit of gravitas to the proceedings. Jude Law is also in this film.


It's not all plain-sailing, of course. The 1990s soundtrack is a little on-the-nose, and in playing some of the more iconic Grunge™ tracks, it's arguably used some of the era's least interesting music. That said, this is a major studio picture and not a hipster's mixtape, so that's understandable. I'd just be very surprised if this movie shifted albums in the way which Guardians did, because that's clearly the intention of such recognisable tracks.

Another problem could be that who Carol Danvers was seems far more interesting than who Captain Marvel is, and the film's climactic showdown has little to reveal as a result. There are plenty of big-stupid-grins to be enjoyed throughout, but the real goosebump moments come earlier rather than later. Captain Marvel is a very solid entry in the saga, but doesn't feel like anything more than that on a first-pass. And as Ant-Man & The Wasp was an unabashed palate-cleanser after the heavyweight Infinity War, the feeling remains that this should have a bit more clout as we hurtle toward the Endgame

The business-end not spoilers, but highlight-to-read anyway):

• Is there a Wilhelm Scream? I think there is, a second-pass should clear this up.
• Is there a Stan Lee cameo? There is, and it's quietly magnificent. Awarding the film an extra point for this.
• Is there a mid-credits scene? There is
• Is there a post-credits scene? There is*2

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
It's very much on-par with the MCU standalone films.
Which is by no means a bad thing, but perhaps not a surprising one either

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It is.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Not really, but everyone involved is on reliably solid form.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Possibly. Discussions will be lengthy, at any rate.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Ask me again when I've watched it again.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Mace Windu's in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 And using those two examples particularly, Captain Marvel succeeds in being its own thing. As I've probably mentioned before, Ant-Man is a structural retooling of The First Avenger, while Doctor Strange is beat-for-beat Iron Man. Meanwhile, Carol Danvers is bringing her own booze to this particular party, and it's a more varied ride as a result. [ BACK ]

*2 Although a disturbing number of people stood up and left after the mid-credits scene. Who the hell loves Marvel enough to come to the midnight-screening of an MCU movie, but can't wait an extra six minutes once the names begin to roll at 2:20 in the morning? What the hell else are they going to use that time for? Amateurs. Anyway, the end-credits scene is fun as adding one more piece to a puzzle we thought had been previously completed... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

No comments:

Post a Comment