Film Review: Captain Marvel (Spoiler Free)

I got to see the latest Marvel flick, Captain Marvel, this weekend. I missed opening weekend because of Garycon. I saw it in an almost-filled theater with Dolby, which is my go-to choice because of the reserved seating, but the sound and contrast are better than standard film, too.

Gotta say, this movie was a lot better than I was expecting. Based on the trailers, I was expecting a very formulaic origin story on a par with Doctor Strange, and, frankly, I was expecting to get hit over the head with over-the-top feminist nonsense. Aside from a very few clunky bits (like a fight scene with Just a Girl by No Doubt playing in the background), that all seems to have been almost completely confined to the marketing. The scenes in which the good guys (er, girls) fight against a female villain, that marketing is jarringly undermined.

So, that stuff out of the way, the film is mercifully short (just a hair over 2 hours), and the pacing is wonderful, so you don’t even realize you’re coming up on the end until it’s upon you. There is a wonderful twist mid-film, and frankly I was expecting a third twist near the end which never arrived.

The attention to detail of the 1990’s, in which the film is set, is good, but there are some anomalies in terms of music and movie references that are a couple of years out of place. Those are minor quibbles, however, and the de-aging effects used on Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg are so perfect as to be completely unnoticeable.

Ben Mendelsohn as the Skrull leader is probably the stand-out of this film. By turns menacing, charming, and outright funny, he easily dominates any scene he’s in. I was hoping for more of Djimon Hounsou’s Korath and Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser (both of whom were in Guardians of the Galaxy), but it’s not as if the film actively suffers from their minor presence. It just would have been nice to flesh out their characters a bit more.

Brie Larson is, unexpectedly (to me) quite good in the role. The trailers really don’t do her justice. But… the primary problem isn’t with the actress, but the character. Captain Marvel is, essentially, Superman; indestructible, flying, shoots beams of energy at enemies, etc. And when you have a character with that power level, it makes it very difficult to maintain any sort of dramatic tension in the story. It’ll be interesting to see how the MCU uses her in the future.

One thing about the film did bug me a lot; the constant references to things that had come before in the MCU. There are macguffins, characters, previously-referenced incidents, and on and on and on. It’s almost like they felt insecure about the film’s place in the MCU, and felt the need to throw every sort of connective tissue they could to make the link. They didn’t need to; the film would have worked fine without half of the cross-references they threw in.

The score was largely forgettable, but the period 90’s pieces were well-selected (with the aforementioned exception of the hamfisted message-sending No Doubt song). The effects were, oddly in a space-based film, somewhat under-stated. There’s only one character whose CGI looks like CGI, and I think that’s something of an intentional choice on the part of the director. You’ll know it when you see it.

On the whole, this was a fine, middle-of-the-road MCU entry. It doesn’t soar to the heights of character or story that Black Panther does, doesn’t bring the who’s-my-friend-who’s-my-enemy paranoia of Winter Soldier (a completely missed opportunity, honestly; they could have played up the Skrull menace a lot more), and none of the earnest charm of Iron Man or the Avengers. But it certainly doesn’t suck like Hulk or Thor the Dark World.

It’s… fine.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

4 thoughts on “Film Review: Captain Marvel (Spoiler Free)

  1. I agree it’s just a paint-by-numbers mediocrity MCU movie, outside of introducing Captain Marvel (and maybe a few threads that may or may not be pulled on).

    However, the lamest part is Nick Fury losing his eye to a cat (or Flerken, whatever… it’s a cat) scratch. Everyone to a person expected Fury to lose his eye in a narrowly missed killshot in a shootout or by sniper. I get Marvel is trying to subvert expectations in different ways. Sometimes expectations shouldn’t be subverted.

    1. Personally, I was expecting him to lose it by trusting a Skrull he thought was someone else (like Coulson).

      I hope they quickly establish that this group of “live and let live” Skrulls is an exception, and put them back as major villains in the universe.

      1. Yeah, basically people thought Fury would lose his eye as a consequence of heroic action or treachery inflicted, not infection by alien feline.

        If they wanted it a little humorous they should have had an homage to Kill Bill where eyes were plucked out.

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