As anticipation for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) grows, a new hero, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), has been introduced to the universe in the latest movie of the same name. Expected to play a big role in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame movie, Captain Marvel is introduced as a prominent figure also holds significance for the representation of women in leading roles and therefore for women worldwide rather than just for the MCU fanbase. While the social significance may be major, the plot and storytelling of the movie are rather subpar. Set in the 90s, the movie tells a story that occurs long before the arisal of the well-known group of heroes that faced their demise in Avengers: Infinity War.
The movie starts with Vers, our protagonist before she adopted the Captain Marvel name, on the planet Hala. She is introduced to be a Kree, an alien race of warriors. At this point in the movie, she is unaware of her past, as an accident left her with only snippets of her memory and the ability to shoot “photon blasts” from her hands. She wakes from a disturbing dream and proceeds to visit her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). This is where a recurring theme is presented: “nothing is more dangerous than emotion”. However, the described outbursts of emotions, mainly anger and frustration, are poorly represented by photon blasts and the clenching of her fists. The severity of said emotion also seems questionable, as she shrugs off any emotion she had after accidentally using the blasts on Yon-Rogg during training and jokingly smiles instead. Here is another major issue with the movie: any serious scene is quickly reduced to a punchline by the forced humor. Later, a mission gone south results in Vers crash landing on C-53, also known as Earth. She learns that the plan of the Skrulls, the enemy alien race, takes place on Earth. Here, she meets a younger Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as he helps her stop the Skrulls. During this time on Earth, a “major” plot-twist — although quite generic — is revealed.
In the final battle, now going by her Earth name Carol Danvers, the protagonist awakens her true power; it is bolstered by her emotions instead of being weakened by them, symbolizing the importance of feelings as well as unshackling her from those who tried to control her. While her development and awakening are indeed a sight to behold, accompanied by the extravagant visuals, the actual emotions of the scene are still relatively poorly conveyed, as Carol’s facial expressions can’t be seen when her face is covered by a CGI mask and the glowing effects during the climactic final battle.
While Carol does regain her memories towards the end, her spending most of the movie without them makes her a one-dimensional character: a strong warrior who has a knack for being rebellious. At times, even the attempts to convey the strengths of women (the obvious social message of the movie) seemed to be very poorly executed. For example, in a scene where Carol is convincing a friend to join her in a major space mission, the friend’s daughter tells her mother to set a good example by taking part in the mission. However, the issue here is that the space mission could potentially leave the daughter orphaned. Furthermore, it seems quite unnatural for an 11-year-old to be the one saying such a line.
As a regular in the MCU, Nick Fury and his humor seems appropriate and natural, while Captain Marvel’s humor at times seems to be out of place or simply cringey. The stiff and boring performance of Brie Larson does not help. In general, it seemed as if the charm of the MCU characters that comes through naturally by the other actors and actresses doesn’t quite exist for Brie Larson. However, it must be noted that in scenes with both Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, the friendly banter and humor were indeed entertaining.
The latest addition to the MCU follows the well-known format. It is a generic origin story of another super hero with a generic plot-twist. While it was a box-office success and did attract many fans and newcomers alike, its attempt at cringey humor and the sometimes forced social messages make the movie a subpar film that’s simply a necessary hurdle to endure in order to fully appreciate or even understand the upcoming movies featuring Captain Marvel, starting with Avengers: Endgame.