Being fairly late to the party, most people have likely seen this movie and already formed their own opinions on it. To describe the build-up to the film as divisive (Among the "Geek Chic" sect) is an understatement. Marketing choosing to focus on Brie Larson’s aspirations to make the film “Socially relevant” left a sour taste in the mouths of many fans. I count myself among them. Toss in the fact that Marvel Comics have repeatedly tried to boot, reboot, re-issue, and alter modern comics so that Captain Marvel would be the poster child over the past few years, replacing "Spiderman" as the flagship character. My own feelings on the matter are that I look to these films and comics as escapist fun and really don’t enjoy being lectured. So I wasn’t the first person on line to see the film, yet see it I must!
So my kid and I decided to check out a Saturday matinee and kicked our luxury recliners back and munched some popcorn as the credits rolled. What was my reaction.
Wow! There was actually a pretty good movie underneath all that politicized marketing. We had an extremely complex backstory streamlined and carved down to it’s most basic components to give a character with well over thirty years of history a somewhat decent run at the ball. Samuel L Jackson’s “Nick Fury” is on a major solo adventure, made to look 20 years younger with the use of some CGI and practical affects. Lashana Lynch steals the show as Maria Rambeau, Carol Danver’s best friend and the mother to a prominent character in the history of Marvel Comics. And Ben Mendelsohn is at turns charming and menacing as a Skrull commander, Talos. Annette Benning, also, delivers solid as a mentor seen in Danver’s flashbacks with a nice twist to the familiar story of Captain Marvel.
As the film opens, we’re introduced to Vers; she is an elite soldier in the Kree Star Force- a legion of peacekeepers and noble warrior heroes pit in a deadly war with the shape-shifting Skrulls. Six years ago she woke up with no memory of who she truly was and access to the ability to fire photon blasts from her fists. When a Skrull ambush separates her from her unit (led by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law)), she awakens while trapped in a Skrull machine designed to probe her memories- and the Skrulls have opened a Pandora’s box of memories that simply do not fit with the story she’s been told. Crash landing on a planet the Skrulls saw her in her memories, Carol finds herself on the backwater planet of Earth where she quickly encounters Agents of Shield. The race is on to unlock the rest of her memories and discover the link she has to a mysterious scientist. The story is sparse and moves quickly- We know very early on that the Kree have lied to Vers, and it isn’t long until she finds out she was once an earth pilot by the name of Carol Danvers.
A major sticking point with this film is that it would have served itself better and stood up on it's own had fewer audiences seen the previous Marvel films. Audiences familiar with Guardians of the Galaxy already know that twenty years down the line the Kree are not seen as "heroes" or "protectors", but rather a militant force at odds with much of the universe. The film attempts to subvert the audience expectations of the previous movies, but at the cost of diminishing some of the mystique and tension within those films. Nick Fury, seen as a serious and dedicated head of Shield, is shown to be a much more jovial and less intense character than he's ever been shown to be in the films or television series. Jackson pulls it off believably enough and shows us a few peeks at the man he would become, but the nurturing approach he takes to Danvers is a far cry different than the callous and often confrontation approach with the rest of the Avengers; IE Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Bruce Banner.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, a film-making duo known for Mississippi Grind. They navigate the complex history of Danvers and create a story of personal growth and an exploration of what it means to make a choice. Carol’s story (In the film) is a good one- marred by two performances that threatened to drag the film down on several occasions. The first is the performance of Brie Larson, who we are repeatedly told is very “funny” and needs to “stop joking” around so much. Her humor was largely lost on me, though this may not actually be the fault of the film itself. Much of her delivery reminded me of my wife’s show “The Gilmore Girls” and the performance of the Rory character. My wife would crack up laughing at her comments, and I largely never understood the comedic elements that she saw. My son, who largely shares her sense of humor, was also laughing. So this just may be a case of my not “getting” the humor. In large part, Larson is an actress I've never been particularly impressed with. She's often that character I couldn't care less about in a movie.
The other performance was Jude Law’s “Yon Rogg”, a Kree soldier. Jude has never been more smarmy and forced than he was in this film. He was so forced and awful that every scene he is in is nearly a waste of time.He threatens to chew up the scenery at every turn, his hunger for melodrama and sudden bursts of anger a thing of such awkward energy that it defies both logic and reason.
Still, be it as it may the film is a largely middle of the road Marvel film. It doesn't drag like Thor: The Dark World or Iron Man 3, but it never reaches the heights of a Black Panther or Guardians of the Galaxy.
7 out of 10.