DCL Movie Review: "Captain Marvel" is a Fun, Weird, and Bulky Mess

10 Mar 2019 Jerry Roberts
DCL Movie Review: "Captain Marvel" is a Fun, Weird, and Bulky Mess IMDB

If there is any one element that has kept the Marvel Cinematic Universe constantly inventive and entertaining over the past 10 years, it’s that the films, for the most part, have been relatively simple. Not simple-minded, just unburdened – the plots are thin enough that they get out of the character’s way. This has been my defense of this series all along. Unfortunately, this is a credit that I cannot give to Captain Marvel. Here is a relatively entertaining movie burdened by an unwieldy plot that writers Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, and Geneva Robertson-Dwore are never quite able to get under control.

I am almost completely unfamiliar with the background of this character, which I am led to understand is the single most powerful in Marvel’s super-canon. The power cosmic is difficult to wrap a story around, because it requires a solid foundation and a firm explanation for the uninitiated. Part of the issue with Captain Marvel is that it has so much to unpack: so many characters, factions, backstories, and powers to explain that the movie’s first hour drags.

As with Thor, the writers never seem quite certain who this character is, or how to approach her story. The movie must get her from plucky pilot to fiery goddess wielding the power cosmic, and it has to introduce and establish the bad blood of an entire universe in order to get her there.

First is the intergalactic war with the shape-shifting Skrulls on one side and the human-looking Kree on the other. The Kree are under the command of something called The Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening) which I think is a biological collective consciousness that takes the form of the person that you admire the most – this had to be explained to me later. Anyway, Supe rounds up a squad of specialists – each has a particular set of skills. Vers (Oscar winner Brie Larson) is the muscle. Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan) is the sniper. The brain is Yonn-Rogg (Jude Law). And Korath (Djimon Hounsou) is also muscle and a character that we met in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Their assignment (I think) was to save a planet of ruins, but then they are forced to take a detour to a planet called C-53 – described as “a real s---hole.” That, of course, is Earth, where Vers finds herself crash landing into the middle of Blockbuster Video – it’s circa 1995, you see. So now, Captain Marvel is an origin story. Vers hooks up with a young Nick Fury (pre-eye patch and pre-chrome dome) whose newly-formed private agency hasn’t quite found its purpose yet.

Much of the story I can’t really describe because then this review would become a short novel. It’s a weird double-flip reverse origin story of how S.H.I.E.L.D. was invented and how Vers came to be known as Captain Marvel. It’s not a bad movie, but simplicity might have helped. The movie is fun in parts, but then you have to deal with the other parts which have to tell a story. It’s a cumbersome confection with a solid ending. If that doesn’t sound like a middling review, I don’t know what does.

★★1/2 (of four)

Jerry Roberts is a movie critic and movie fan who believes in Birth-Movies-Death. He is the historian for armchaircinema.com and armchairoscars.com, and he has a blog at overthinkingoscar.wordpress.com.

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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