Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest outing Captain Marvel is finally out in theaters and the last leg of anticipation before Avengers: Endgame is officially on. Captain Marvel has received polarising responses from critics around the world but for me, the film was a mediocre attempt at something that Marvel has earlier excelled in.
Captain Marvel felt like a dated film that released much later than it should have. I am all for women being at the forefront of superhero films but the foremost criteria still remains, ‘Is the film good enough?’ and in this case, the answer is ‘No’.
The simplest way to put it is, “It’s no Black Panther” as described by The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy. Black Panther was the first MCU film to have an African-American superhero with a cast that largely comprised of coloured actors. Not only did it the eliminate the popular belief that films with black people don’t have a global audience, it made the makers believe that no matter what the race of the people might be, a good film is a good film.
Captain Marvel had the opportunity to do the same for female superheroes, even though the same had been achieved by DC’s Wonder Woman. It was Marvel’s time to shine.
There were quite a few factors as to why Captain Marvel did not work as a film.
Who is Carol Danvers?
Much of the film’s run-time is spent in Carol trying to piece together her memories. She does not remember who she was during her time on Earth and the information we receive towards the second act of the film is also second hand. There is a time in the film where Carol even says that she doesn’t know who she is but guess what, neither does the audience.
In simple terms, Captain America stands for righteousness and Tony Stark is the arrogant smug guy who excels at what he does, what does Carol stand for?
Who is Captain Marvel?
In a strange bid, the film does not have the heroic scene where she gets recognised as ‘Captain Marvel’. She gets her ‘hero’ moment but it’s too little too late. Even though Kevin Feige has said that she is the most powerful Avenger, you find it hard to believe and this is even after establishing that she can fly.
Lack of a strong villain
The film establishes a villain in the beginning but it changes towards the end. Captain Marvel tries to explore the arc that the bad guy is whosoever is on the other side of the fence but not much time is spent on the same.
Before Killmonger and Thanos, most of Marvel’s films battled the lack of a strong villain and it’s strange to see MCU struggling with the same in their 21st film.
Captain Marvel feels dated
The film is set in the 90s but in many scenes, it feels like the film was made in the 90s. The VFX isn’t at par with other Marvel films. The digital de-ageing that works oh-so-wonderfully with Jackson goes horribly wrong when it comes to Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson.
Even the humour, which has become a strong part of Marvel films post the Guardians-era, feels forced. There are a few scenes of relief and those are only saved by Samuel L Jackson’s impeccable timing. It would have been completely alright had they not given forced one-liners to Captain Marvel but that half-baked attempt is bothersome.
The last few Marvel outings, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, gave MCU a facelift so it just feels like Marvel went into a rewind mode while evaluating this one.
Lack of depth in supporting characters
Captain Marvel’s so-called emotional core is Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau but the few scenes she gets are just not enough to get us invested in Carol’s life. Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg is the metaphorical shapeshifter but you never trust him enough and thus the surprise twists also don’t have much of an impact.
Annette Bening gets a few good scenes as both Mar-Vell/Dr Lawson and the Supreme Intelligence of Hala. You end up wanting to see more of Bening. Nick Fury’s buddy cop banter with Carol and his scenes with Goose are the strong parts of this film. Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos deserves a special mention here.
When plot points are divulged at the right time, the audience continues to stay invested. When we are well aware of the setup but the director still takes us by surprise, it gives us joy. In Captain Marvel, that feeling of surprise comes soon after the big action set piece where Carol is fighting on the top of a train. But this technique of surprising the audience while simultaneously taking the plot forward goes missing soon after. In the beginning of the third act, when the film actually starts going somewhere, the plot is advanced quite conveniently. The de-cloaking device/mechanism leaves you the biggest ‘What just happened?’
Why Captain Marvel’s fate won’t affect MCU’s fate
The timing of this film is quite opportune. With Avengers: Endgame releasing in less than two months, the good or bad of Captain Marvel will all be forgiven and forgotten.
The film was largely promoted for being the first female-led superhero film from MCU so the ‘woke’ audience will have a tough time being honest about it. We can only hope that Captain Marvel’s character will be redeemed by Russo brothers in Endgame.