“Captain Marvel” (Rated T)
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn
Genre: Fantasy/Science fiction
Dwight’s rating: 2.5 Stars (out of four)
“You Go Girl!”
That could have been the title here, or at least the sub-title. As in, “Captain Marvel: You go girl!”
At times, “Captain Marvel” feels like a supercharged women’s empowerment video. It’s almost as if it could have been commissioned by UN Women — the United Nations’ Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
Now, that’s in no way meant as a disparagement. It’s just that within only a few minutes, you’ll realize it was probably no coincidence that it premiered worldwide on March 8 – International Women’s Day.
A “can-do” and “overcoming all odds and obstacles” spirit flows continuously throughout the film, with messages of encouragement at every turn.
But while it approaches these themes in perhaps a more heavy-handed manner than did “Wonder Woman”, it’s never really overpowering. And it is possible (although highly unlikely) for someone to watch and not even notice that’s what’s happening.
In the film, we see Captain Marvel is an extraterrestrial Kree warrior who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. Living on Earth in 1995, she keeps having recurring memories of another life as U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. With help from Nick Fury, Captain Marvel tries to uncover the secrets of her past while harnessing her special superpowers to end the war with the evil Skrulls.
As Marvel origin stories go, there’s some pretty lengthy background and foundational work being laid here, with lots of stuff that I’m sure isn’t really necessary, and that arguably doesn’t add much to the story. But perhaps it does help to define the characters — perhaps!
What’s most interesting though, is that, besides a very long DC-like opening scene on another planet, this film is rather low on actual action. There’s lots of talk: loads of banter and a heck of a lot of flashbacks! Tons and tons of flashbacks!
Thankfully, the banter is, for the most part, enjoyable. And with this – and for the whole film – the real star is Samuel L. Jackson, who steals the show with his wit and charm as Nick Fury.
I think we take for granted the effortlessness with which Jackson is always able to seamlessly blend comedy with dramatic action. He and Robert Downey Jr. seem to be tailor-made for this genre.
Also, the folks in the graphics department deserve raises and awards for working their computer-generated magic to make Jackson (along with Clark Gregg as future S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson) look a quarter-century younger.
But some other aspects of the CGI work are much less successfully resolved. As the first comic-book based super hero flick released since the beautiful but ridiculous “Aqua Man”, “Captain Marvel” is clearly from a slightly less developed planet, and not in the same league visually. But I don’t recall rolling my eyes more than once, compared to the eye therapy that was required after watching that fish tale back in December.
Larson is interesting in the title role. The Oscar-winning actress (star of 2015’s still unforgettable and must-see “Room”) handles the more action-oriented scenes reasonably well. But a few of her scenes seem a little off, particularly those with the excellent Jackson or Ben Mendelsohn – the Australian actor playing Talos, the sarcastic leader of the Skrull people, who, after Jackson, had some of the movie’s best lines.
Part of this could be due to a slightly uneven tone for the whole production. We go from weighty, ‘our-whole-species-depends-on-this’ action to light-hearted and playful insignificance in the “Ant-Man” vein, and then to somewhere in between. It’s not a problem, per se; it’s just that one gets a sense that a real effort is being made to provide something for everyone.
Naturally, many will want to compare this film to “Wonder Woman”. That may not be that easy or fair, as the latter was also far more romantic and more ambitious, and in some ways a tad better at balancing its comedic elements.
Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like “Captain Marvel” is trying to be Marvel’s version of “Wonder Woman”. While its raison d’être (purpose) may indeed be because the latter showed there is a large audience for such films, “Captain Marvel” does not seem to be afraid to blaze its own path. Nor is it aiming to be something like last year’s “Black Panther”; it’s not trying to be that important. And if you’re looking for real action, next month’s “Avengers: Endgame” will likely have far too much. So, rest up for that one.
Instead, “Captain Marvel” is fun, relatively light and entertaining. And yes, there are some positive and encouraging messages – for everyone.
In traditional Marvel style, there are additional scenes during the credits – one you’ll definitely want to wait around for, and then one after the very last credit rolls (it feels like forever) that may elicit a chuckle.
In less than a week, “Captain Marvel” has worldwide already made more than three times its estimated $152 million budget. Its U.S. total alone was more than the budget as well. It is already the sixth-biggest film of all time, and the biggest movie with a female lead in the entire history of filmmaking. Again, it’s only been one week.
This is truly giving new meaning to the term “girl power”!
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.