As Marvel Studios’ first female-led superhero movie, ‘Captain Marvel’ both performs above average and underwhelms.
It trades on the style and look of ‘90s films but can’t recapture their thrills due to an over-reliance on computer generated imagery. Its production values and technical expertise is impressive, but the visuals lack imagination.
Its lead performance authentically captures an individual lacking a sense of identity, but this sadly means it is harder to make a connection with the audience. Yet beneath the ‘90s nostalgia and flashy space effects is a story about orphans and wanting to belong. Appropriately then, it is when Captain Marvel finds her home that her movie takes flight.
It is hard to discuss too much of the plot without giving things away, albeit much can been discerned by keen trailer watchers or is already known by comic book readers.
Brie Larson stars as our lead hero, part of an intergalactic military force who crash lands on earth in pursuit of her sworn enemies the Skrulls. Yet as she seeks out her foe, memories from her past threaten to turn her world upside down. Larson, so effective with her gut-wrenching performance in ‘Room’ and charming in lesser parts, is neither here. She portrays her character well, someone not quite sure of who they are or how to correctly behave yet with their personality coming forth instinctively. As a result though, it takes a while to get to know Captain Marvel and therefore care about her.
Perhaps anticipating this, the writers have surrounded our hero with several side characters and a villain who gets all the best lines. Reprising his role as a younger Nick Fury, Samuel L. Jackson proves game, constantly undermining his tough guy image for laughs and showing Fury already streetwise and experienced but needing to get use to these supernatural occurrences.
Ben Mendelsohn delights using his own Aussie accent as baddie Skrull Talos and an American accent when he shape-shifts into human form. Lashana Lynch and Akira Akbar as Maria Rambeau and Monica Rambeau respectively give the film some grounding and heart.
Annette Bening and Jude Law aren’t doing anything terribly new here but seem to enjoy being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the cast is strong, a certain cat named Goose steals all their thunder.
The mystery of Captain Marvel’s origins plays out better the less you know and certain gags have already been spoilt by the marketing. Yet the film remains funny, entertaining and engaging if a little generic. Somewhere in the middle the pace languishes with not much being revealed, just before Talos and the Rambeaus enter in a big way. Some of the action scenes give homage to hits from the ‘90s but lack the physicality of the filmmaking of that era.
A particular car and train chase early on makes you pine for the stunt work of old rather than revel in the action happening on screen.
Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck show a great knack for creating cool shots. If their action sequences seldom prove innovative they frame their heroes and villains well; and some moments genuinely resonate, especially when centred on female empowerment and sisterhood.
‘Captain Marvel’ proves an enjoyable two hours at the movies and finishes stronger than how it started. It is only because the bar has been set so high by the work of the studio that you come away wishing for a bit more.