Captain Marvel is an enjoyable movie, but not one that stands on its own. In effect, it serves as an origin movie for both the character Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) and Nick Fury.
Starting on the Kree planet Hala, Vers is struggling with dreams and memories that don’t match her current world view. Struggling against authority, training, and the AI leader of the Kree, the Supreme Intelligence, leads to a mission against the Skrull, alien shapeshifters. The mission starts to unravel her understanding of the universe, her place in it, and her history as she eventually lands on Earth in the 1990s.
Crash landing in a strip mall in the Blockbuster store and given directions to a Radio Shack (all defunct brands) she reaches out to her Kree team as Nick Fury and SHIELD enters the fray and the connections to earth and the mystery deepens. Captain Marvel comes into her own, regains her memories, and understands her past and establishes a place in the universe as an unmitigated badass.
The acting was great with the highlights being Samuel Jackson, Annette Bening, and Ben Mendelsohn. Brie Larson acted well, but honestly, the writing did not give her enough of a character arc to really stretch, fall low, and rise above.
The issues with the movie are structural. This movie fits as a prequel filling in the gaps of the 20+ movie cinematic universe that marvel has established. Scenes with Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson and his interactions with Nick Fury are great if you already know about the characters, but without that knowledge they don’t have any kind of impact. You care about how Nick Fury loses his eye because it has been such a mystery for decades outside of this movie.
Vers, the protagonist starts the movie implied to still be in training after 6 years and is apparently getting her first mission which happens to lead to whole scenario. This movie could have benefited from a short montage of her working with the Kree team on various mission and then finally the plot critical mission that targeted her comes up. Possibly this is an misunderstanding on my part, but if so it was so weakly implied it reinforces my complaint.
The movie also suffered from self imposed drama with the release on international women’s day and the internet imposed drama of women empowerment and reaction against this as seen on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie itself was not overtly sending a message and with a character backstory of a female pilot fighting to fly and to do combat missions the personality and reactions felt honest without being preachy. The music on the other hand just felt out of place because it leaned too hard into the 90’s vibe and didn’t fit well. Playing “Just a girl” by No Doubt during a key fight scene felt jarring.
For comparison sake, I watched Wonder Woman again and thought it was just a better female empowerment movie that stands on its own. You do not need to know about Justice League or Batman vs Superman to learn everything you need in Wonder Woman. The movie stands on its own and it establishes through excellent use of music a Wonder Woman lyrical theme and fight accompaniment.
Using dated 90’s music misses the opportunity used by Marvel so many times in the past to establish identifiable character themes and use them again in the future when that character has their moment in the ensemble movies of the future, Avengers: Endgame.
In closing, I am glad to have seen Captain Marvel filling in the missing pieces and prepare for Avengers: Endgame, but I recognize some of the deficiencies in the quality and expectations set up by Marvel the company. Simply put it was a good movie, but it wasn’ Black Panther the Marvel movie that took this spot in the schedule last year.