Captain Marvel (2019) Review

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Marvel Studios are the victims of their own success. They have constantly delivered movies of such high quality that the bar has been set to an almost impossible standard. Avengers: Infinity War was the best of the best, topping off a 10 year franchise and almost creating an insurmountable task for any movie following it.

Which is why Ant-Man and The Wasp was perfect because it was the place-holder movie it needed to be. It offered little new but filled the cinema and satisfied appetites until the conclusion of Infinity War. This is fine when it is a sequel for much-loved characters with a tongue firmly in cheek and a foot firmly in the comedic door. The issue comes when you are trying to introduce a new superhero and need to impress with their origin movie.

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The film follows the standard origin movie structure

Which is why Captain Marvel was always going to struggle. Marvel have a very clear structure for their origin movies (hero gains powers, hero struggles with own personal demons, hero overcomes demons and controls power, finale) and even though there are attempts to deviate off this well-worn path, Captain Marvel follows this structure fairly tightly.

Except for the finale aspect. Captain Marvel does have a finale, of course, but unlike other Marvel origin movies, it doesn’t have a credible villain. In fact, there could be an argument for it not really having a villain at all! There are “bad guys” and protagonists to vanquish but nothing of any threat. This isn’t a movie about a villain trying to destroy the world. Instead, and to it’s credit, it tries to be something else entirely.


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There are new and interesting sides to the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced here

Captain Marvel is a film about an ages old war being brought and fought on Earth. In a quick-paced, fairly unforgiving opening act, the audience are introduced to the Kree, the shape-shifting and nefarious Skrulls and a band of heroes led by mentor-by-numbers Jude Law and including “capable but cocky” Vers who will become Captain Marvel and is brought to life by Brie Larson. To it’s credit, the film offers something new to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe and opens up even more story avenues. We are in space again, with aliens and new species, showing how confident Marvel studios is to leave the relative safety of Earth (even if the film finds itself crash-landing there later).

When Earth does come into the picture we get yet another new idea trying to displace the origin formula; setting the film in the past. Captain Marvel takes place in the 90s and this film does a great job of presenting that. From crashing through a Blockbuster video and shooting a True Lies cut-out through to the “developed communication tech” of a two-way pager, the film drips in nostalgia and manages to offer something slightly different to the usual origin movie shtick.

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We get to see what made Nick Fury the man he became

To help bring this to life, it took the de-aging of Marvel stalwart Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury. This is arguably Fury’s biggest role and we get a proper look at the character and what made him become the gruff man who brought together The Avengers. Jackson is also relishing the role and brings charm to the witty one-liners which have made him such a loved character and actor. The actual CGI to de-age the character is also impressive and not once do the “cracks” show.

The chemistry Jackson has with Larson works well. This is, for the most part, a double-act. The film is a mystery to be solved and Larson and Jackson spark together as the film plays through. The character of Captain Marvel is muddled at first and it is clear that Larson isn’t confident with the subtle balance between arrogance and earnest ability. As the film progresses and the character begins to form fully, Larson feels like she grows into the role and any awkwardness at the beginning is removed to offer a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and of course Avengers: Endgame.

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The character lacks a credible villain

This isn’t enough to stop Captain Marvel feeling slightly underwhelming though. As a stand-alone story it offers little that we haven’t seen before. The attempts to cover the standard origin movie template are notable and work in places but not enough to make this truly original or special. It leaves the best elements to be the attempts to tie together the loose ends of the Marvel Universe so far, with some great little nuggets and Easter Eggs hidden in plain-sight to bring a smile to the loyal fan of the whole franchise.

Overall, Captain Marvel has some great ideas and delivers a superhero worthy of the Avengers: Endgame team but the film itself lacks enough spark to make it stand-out. It follows a tired formula and lacks any credible threat to make us care enough about Captain Marvel. Let’s hope Thanos can be that threat after-all.

Rating – 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

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An exciting addition to The Avengers

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