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After 11 years and 18 entries in the Disney Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was puzzling that there hadnít been a single film dedicated to a female hero.  Sure, thereíve been mighty women on screen; THORís Sif and Valkyrie, THE AVENGERSí Scarlet Witch and Black Widow, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXYíS Gamora, Nebula, and Mantis, BLACK PANTHERís Okoye and Shuri, ANT-MANís Wasp, and, far-too briefly, one fabulous female villainess in the form of THOR: RAGNAROKís Hela.  Really, considering the handful listed here Ė most of whom are part of a larger group, or, perish the thought -- sidekicks -- compared to the dozens of male supes, many with multiple solo films, this is pretty lopsided.

Whether feeling the weight of this disparity before an increasingly side-eying audience, or perhaps noting rival DC Entertainmentís massive success with 2017ís WONDER WOMAN, the MCU has finally given a female hero the spotlight.  Carrying the very name of the entertainment empire on her back, we meet CAPTAIN MARVEL.

It was only a dream.  Those images of a little girl falling, those moments of pain and humiliation that seem to belong to someone else, wake Vers from sleep.  Working her issues out the best way she knows how, she is once again chided by her mentor, Yon-Rogg, for being unable to control her emotions, even during a sparring match.

Vers must keep a cool head as a member of the Starforce; the elite military corps of the Kree race.  Their never-ending mission is to keep their people and planet safe from their mortal enemy, the Skrulls.  Vers regains her focus as the team deploys on a mission to extract a kidnapped Kree from Skrull clutches.  The shape shifters pull a fast one, ambushing the Starforce, and separating Vers from her troops.  The Skrull make good use of the soldier, extracting unusual memories that seems to be leading to a coveted prize. 

You canít keep a good woman (upside-)down, and so Vers powers out of her bonds, and escapes, racing through the galaxy to be stopped only by a fall that crash lands the warrior on the quaint, but insignificant planet, C-53.  Her earthbound splashdown through a Blockbuster video store, doesnít go unnoticed by the locals.  Itís while Vers has commandeered some primitive electronics from the local Radio Shack that she meets a government agent who would like to know who she is, why Ė and how -- she barrelled through the roof of the Blockbuster?  Also, whatís the green and black scuba suit about?  S.H.I.E.L.D.ís Agent Nick Fury is not ready for the answers to those questions.

Versí revelations about shape shifting aliens, and her own claim to the cosmos are way too weird for the grounded Fury.  Still, between witnessing Versí superhuman feats of strength and agility, and after a green-skinned shape shifter expires in his own car, thereís not much room left for doubt.  Fury joins Vers in her evasion of the Skrulls, and her quest to find her whatever secret it is her memories hold that is so precious to the aliens.

CAPTAIN MARVEL might not be the worst chapter in MCU, but itís far from its best.  What was so disappointing is how very ďmehĒ the movie is.  Thereís no high point, thereís no stand up and cheer moment that doesnít feel forced, hollow, or clichť.  We have nothing new, and everything tired, or substandard.  The whole film feels rushed and sloppy; the mere means to an end to bring in this character, who needs to appear in AVENGERS: ENDGAME.

This movie features some of the worst visual effects since AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, and perhaps lowers that bar.  So much of what weíre looking at is unconvincing: I still donít exactly know whatís so great about Captain Marvelís powers.  Energy blasts?  Thatís it?  At various points in the movie, they donít seem all that powerful, as various targets are quite able to get up and attack again after being blasted.  Compared to other heroes in the Marvel movie pantheon, I couldnít see how -- as implied by AVENGERS: INFINTY WAR -- this character could be humanityís last hope?

Worse than that, much of the VFX actually look like animation.  All of the shots of Captain Marvel feeling her powers in space (and the famous ďSuper Saiyan GokuĒ moment), could easily have been a cartoon.  During those moments, I couldnít tell whether there was an actual person performing motion capture, or a completely computer-born image.  The visual disconnect is strong here, and as those space sequences set up a lot of the movieís action, that detachment makes it very difficult to immerse oneself in the world.  Then again, perhaps they should have gone with a fully-animated movie?

Then we have our Captain.  While I rooted for her to do well in the role, Brie Larson never becomes anyoneís idea of mighty, super, or heroic.  Whether itís the aggravatingly flat line delivery (in the tiny, monotone voice), the strange eyebrow quirks and smug lip twitches popping up any time she thinks sheís done something clever, that seem to wink at the audience, or her visible discomfort working against green screen; this was not the Captain Marvel Iíd hoped for.  I did not leave the theatre believing for one moment that this person, either by virtue of invincible super powers, or sheer force of will, was going to be enough to beat Thanos in the upcoming AVENGERS: ENDGAME.

This feeling was not mollified at all by Captain Marvelís hand-to-hand combat scenes.  Right from the opening spar with Yon-Rogg, Larson cannot be clearly seen doing even the smallest of stunts.  She may very well have done every single move, but my disbelief was only enforced by the aggressively terrible, choppy camerawork and blender-cut editing.

The script doesnít know what it wants to be.  Itís got some of the duddiest jokes Iíve heard in any film, with odd, stilted dialogue, which is tragic as itís clear the filmmakers were going for a humour and action mix, along the lines of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, or THOR: RAGNAROK.  Itís not clever or witty enough to play to comedy, and the actionís too dull to play to bombast. (Though unintended laughs can be found in the filmís emphatic reminders that This is the 90s, people! Between the insistent, generic ďBest of the 90sĒ soundtrack, Bush and Smashing Pumpkins concert posters on any available surface, and Versí/Carolís Nine Inch Nails logo t-shirt; the production resembled a 90s-themed homecoming party.)  

Our heroís main journey is, of course, to reclaim her memory and her identity.  Recalling all sheís been through to get from there to the incredible here.  However, even at the movieís climax, thereís never any emotional watershed moment of really becoming, which is so cathartic to not just Carolís character, but the audience.  We can see the buildup thatís been unsubtly hammered onscreen, of the girl growing into a woman, recalling falling down and rising, over and over, but itís so clichť, that the big moment feels rote and predictable.  It doesnít help that besides the lacking portrayal, the characterisation of who Carol Danvers was on earth is so shallow -- itís mentioned once how she didnít get along with her father, and thatís it for family background -- that it was hard to care if she regained her memories, or not.

Samuel L. Jackson does most of the heavy lifting in the charisma department (Until a certain four-legged superstar strolls in.), and the kinder, gentler, two-eyed Fury is a lot more fun than his older self.  Such is Jacksonís charm that he could make a block of wood seem fascinating, so his presence is mandatory, here.  As the youthful version of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Agent Coulson, Clark Gregg merely stands around sporting the creepiest CGI face since THE POLAR EXPRESS.  It doesnít look as if his features can actually move.  The main Skrull is played by Ben Mendelsohn, who has racked up a lot of roles lately, which is interesting because he always reminds me of other actors (His villain in READY PLAYER ONE had to be an homage to THE BREAKFAST CLUBís late, great Paul Gleason).  He stays true to form by doing what I assume is his best Tom Hardy imitation, under heavy prosthetics with visible glue lines as Talos.  Who knew the Skrulls originated from south London?

A breath of fresh air is Lashana Lynchís portrayal of Carol Danversí old pal, Maria Rambeau.  Once the pair is reunited -- Carol without any memories of her friend -- one truly senses the bond they had.  In the filmís only true emotional moments, we can feel how Maria mourned Carol, and her rage at not being able to receive closure, or even discuss how she died.  Akira Akbar is adorable and perfect as Mariaís daughter, Monica, who Marvel comics fans know will grow into her own story.  These small scenes of domestic bliss between Carol and the Rambeaus, particularly her interactions with Monica, were the highlight of Brie Larsonís performance.  Maria Rambeau gets to be a hero on her own in the film, and perhaps because she connects so well to the audience -- even in her short time on screen -- her scenes are so much more thrilling than anything we see from Carol Danvers.

Best use of (Non-CGI) hair goes to Annette Bening, as a mysterious figure that appears to Versí subconscious.  The short, layered Ďdo, sported by Bening since the 1980s, lends credence to one truly clever twist in an otherwise unsurprising flatline.

However, the true star of the film is Goose; the renamed Chewie of the Captain Marvel comic books (But doesnít Disney own Star Wars?)We first meet the feline (?!) in an unlikely place, and he just keeps turning up in odd settings for the rest of the film.  Goose is a fluffy red tabby that instantly mesmerises Agent Nick Fury, and strikes terror in the hearts of the Skrulls.  Why, one asks?  Ainít telling, but itís pretty much what every cat owner has always suspected about their own furry overlords.  The scenes with Goose are some of the only clever and inspired moments in the film, and allows us to see other sides to those characters I mentioned.  Showing more effortless charm and charisma (and convincing powers) than many others in the cast, I would have been (and still would be) perfectly happy with a Goose spinoff.  There is much I would give for Goose to have a crack at Thanos.

I had worried after seeing the trailers for CAPTAIN MARVEL: I had suspicions about the reuse of the same sequences over and over in each clip -- scenes that didnít exactly make me want to run to see this film in the first place.  My Spider-sense was sadly correct, and this is one occasion where all of the best (Non-Goose) moments are in the trailers.  For all the CGI bombast shown in those clips, the piece as a whole is flat and lifeless, and CAPTAIN MARVEL never really soars

While itís not the worst of the current MCU (That booby prize goes to GUARDIANS 2, and both IRON MAN sequels), CAPTAIN MARVEL is so much less than Iíd hoped for.  Whatís on screen is tired, amateurish, and just plain dull.  There is nothing new here other than the main draw of ĎOoh, look, a female superhero.í  Great, but itís not enough; WONDER WOMAN proved that to the positive.  Thereís no reason we shouldnít have had a perfectly cast, strong lead performance, a tight script with mind-blowing action and effects, and clever laughs.  Marvel has done it plenty of times before; but this film is an unfortunate exception.

Being necessary to the storyline of AVENGERS: ENDGAME, CAPTAIN MARVELís going to make a ton of money, no matter its flaws.  However, perhaps in that upcoming film -- in the experienced hands of the Russo brothers -- Captain Marvel will fare much better.  Still, I cannot help wishing there had simply been more care taken for this introduction to the hero Iíd waited for all this time.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

March 5th, 2019

 

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