It took them a total of 21 films, but the MCU finally managed to release a female-led superhero film.
Marvel’s Captain Marvel is the studio’s first superhero film with a woman in the lead role since 2005’s Elektra with Jennifer Garner. And we all know how that turned out. (tsk tsk) Despite having a number of strong leading ladies in the small screen like Jessica Jones and Quake, Marvel has never really quite hit the mark when it comes to superheroines on the big screen.
Captain Marvel follows Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) or Vers, as she’s known for the first half of the film. As Vers, Danvers is a member of Starforce, an elite military unit under the service of the Kree Empire who are tasked with hunting down the supposedly evil Skrulls. Little did Danvers know that she’s actually a human fighter pilot who got into an accident involving the Tesseract (the glowly space cube from the first Avengers), which sadly gave her amnesia but also altered her DNA and gave her powers akin to the hypothetical lovechild of Superman and Green Lantern.
Joining Larson in the film is Jude Law as Danvers’ commanding officer during her time in Starforce, franchise regular Samuel L. Jackson as a yet to be fully formed Nick Fury, Lashana Lynch as Danvers’ best friend Maria Rambeau, and Clark Gregg as the long-missed Agent Phil Coulson.
The film religiously follows the MCU formula, a formula that has worked for the franchise since the very beginning. It brings together an unlikely cast of characters led by the main character to stop the generic baddie from getting to the undeveloped, overtly powerful MacGuffin-type thingy. The baddie is always some sort of dark reflection of the protagonist. And they always seem to be able to throw in some light, family-friendly humor and some heartfelt drama into the mix as well.
Now, I’m not saying that the MCU formula is a bad thing. Quite the opposite, in fact. With movies like the first Iron Man, the first Guardians of the Galaxy, the first Avengers, and most of the films in the MCU following this formula, it’s proven itself as a reliable framework to base their movies on. And you know what they say, “If it ain’t broken, don’t try to fix it with a Time Stone.”
But after the glorious spectacle that was Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel just feels like it fell short on what we expected it to bring to the table. Infinity War, like those that came before it, still followed the MCU formula, but it also brought it new heights. It upped-the-ante. It raised-the-stakes. And it even had the audacity to end just when our hearts were pumping the hardest. To follow that up with what was essentially a prologue, broke the tension that was built up in Infinity War and should’ve been paid off in Endgame. And because of this, the character of Captain Marvel felt like she was introduced as nothing more than the penicillin to the infection that is Thanos.
Don’t get me wrong. In no way am I saying that Captain Marvel is a bad movie. It’s not. It’s certainly no Thor: The Dark World. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck did what they sought out to do; introduce this new character to the franchise, a strong female lead that could potentially be Endgame’s deus ex machina. And more importantly, they did it in a fun and exciting way that only a Marvel movie could.
The movie had great visuals, a number of stellar performances from the cast (especially from Jackson and Larson), and memorable, relatable characters in the form of Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and Goose the cat. I even liked the goofy portrayal of the Skrulls, which was both unexpected and surprisingly welcomed.
Captain Marvel is a good movie. Let me just say that.
But at the end of the day, despite being another epic addition to the long line of great Marvel movies, Captain Marvel just drowns itself in the plethora of movies that came before it. Its mistimed placement in the MCU release timeline and its commitment to MCU formula ultimately proved to be its downfall, making it feel unnecessary and unimportant.