Captain Marvel (2019)
The final stop on the road to Avengers: Endgame, which is supposed to complete the journey that Marvel Studios embarked on just over a decade ago by bringing majority of those stories & character arcs to full circle and thus marking the end of an era, Captain Marvel welcomes another superhero into the ever-expanding Marvel family yet it happens to be their very first female-led entry. Following the same working formula that Marvel has relied on to churn out their episodic products to the masses with few tweaks every now n then, it’s a shame that their latest never truly realises its full potential and is a weaker entry when compared to other Phase 3 films.
The 21st instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the penultimate film of their Phase 3 plan, the story of Captain Marvel takes place during the mid-90s and follows Carol Danvers who has extraordinary powers at her disposal but no recollection of who she is or where she comes from, her only link being recurring nightmares. But when she crash-lands on Earth after a battle with shape-shifting aliens, she starts to put together the pieces of her memories by tracing her step backwards in order to unravel the truth and finally learns about her true origins. Assisted by a low-level bureaucrat working for an espionage agency, her journey to self-discovery eventually leads her to a secret that unlocks her true potential.
Written & directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, the first act of Captain Marvel is a total mess that presents the filmmakers trying to acquaint the viewers with the fundamentals of the Kree civilisation but instead of articulating the details in a coherent manner, they simply hurry through this part, thus leaving the audience to make sense of it all on their own. The film begins to take some shape once the plot moves to Earth but other than the back-n-forth banter between its primary characters, there isn’t really anything that’s appealing or refreshing. The action segments are seldom impressive, storytelling is very basic, predictable & bereft of surprises, and some key moments are executed in a rather lacklustre fashion.
That montage of snippets from Carol Danvers’ formative years in which she is consistently told by men that she can’t do anything, she is no good, she is weak, she doesn’t belong & she will never make it will reverberate with many, and it is by all means a strong & welcome element. However, instead of digging deeper into this aspect, the filmmakers opt for a rather simplistic approach and narrate the entire story with half-hearted zealousness. Also, whether it’s the scene when Danvers discovers her origins or when her powers are unleashed to full extent, these are key developmental sequences in her story & character arc yet they lack the emotional wallop that’s responsible for amplifying the effectiveness of such scenes and turning them into memorable movie moments.
The 1990s setting does allow room for plenty of throwbacks to the pop culture of the bygone era and production design team does well to remove all the modern gadgets from the equation. As for the set pieces that make up the Kree universe, they just fail to stimulate the senses and are poorly rendered by the VFX crew. The digital de-aging aspect is noteworthy though, for Samuel L. Jackson is quite convincing as young Nick Fury. Editing however isn’t one of this film’s strength, for it paces the plot inconsistently, fails to provide a rigid structure to it & splices together action scenes so monotonously that they are missing the required sense of wonder, excitement & extravagance more often than not. The score is fine but few incorporated songs in the final print only end up doing the opposite of what was intended.
Coming to the acting department, Captain Marvel features a talented cast in Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, Annette Bening & Jude Law. Larson embraces the eponymous role and has a fine understanding of what her character stands for but it’s her fine rapport with Jackson that stands out more than her individual input. Jackson returns as Nick Fury de-aged by 25 years but his rendition is far less cynical than the one we’ve grown accustomed to. Mendelsohn actually impresses the most of them all, delivering a compelling performance that only gets better as plot progresses. Law is passable in the role of Carol’s mentor. Lynch also chips in with strong support, plus her chemistry with Larson just clicks. As for Bening, she is good when playing Dr. Lawson but really hams it up when portraying the Supreme Intelligence.
On an overall scale, Captain Marvel may not be the live-action feature film that the most powerful superhero in Marvel faction deserves but it nonetheless paves the path for her appearance in the upcoming Avengers film. And considering her cosmic powers, it will be very interesting to find out what role she will play in the grand schemes of Marvel Cinematic Universe. It isn’t that her origin story is devoid of any fun or has no entertainment value whatsoever. It is enjoyable to a certain extent, packs sufficiently witty moments, and features a truly marvellous superheroine. Just like Carol Danvers, this film had limitless potential. However, unlike her, the filmmakers failed to tap into that element and it looks as if for the most part, they weren’t even aware of what was up for grabs here. Because what they ultimately settle for is one generic & mundane action-adventure that brings nothing new to the table. Visually engaging & emotionally involving but only in bits n pieces, Captain Marvel isn’t even close to being as satisfying & rewarding a cinematic experience as the finest entries in this mega-franchise but it somehow barely manages to pass the threshold to avoid being a disaster.