We’ve all watched as the review scores for the movie have gone through the roller coaster. It’s hard to pinpoint where this film lies on the scale in terms of Marvel Cinematic films. Is it worse than Thor: The Dark World? Is it better than Black Panther? A lucky few had the privilege of seeing the film early and have thrown their two cents into the pile of opinions out there.
Despite the run of opinions from any side of whatever aisle, I saw the film and wanted to judge for myself. I encourage folks to do the same, as sometimes a film might be decried by critics but lauded by audiences, as was the case for Venom. Or vice versa as was the case for The Last Jedi.
So here’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.
The setting is essentially in two places, the Kree homeworld Hala and Earth. And all of it is during the 90’s. That means we are introduced to younger versions of some characters we might know from other films, while introducing some others we may not be familiar with.
As a tie-in with the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), we see Nick Fury as a younger version of himself, using the digital de-aging technology introduced in Captain America: Civil War. Star-force with the guy from Guardians of the Galaxy, Korath the Destroyer, and there are some scenes with Ronan the Accuser, the main villain from Guardians of the Galaxy.
But this is the story of Carol Danvers. Not so much her story from the beginning, but somewhere in the middle. She’s already powerful, and we get glimpses of her origins during flashbacks in the film. But the film is dealing with two battles. The first battle is Carol finding out about her past. The second is Carol fighting the baddies. There are times where the line between the two are blurred, and for good reason. However, at times it may throw you for a loop, and the structure of it might make it all the more confusing.
It’s a classic move in the story that a hero is taking on a noble cause. Her story hits on some of the same beats asIron Man, where the antagonist believes themselves to be on the right path, until they discover things are not what they seem.
The film plays with Carol’s past memories as a narrative explaining who she is and her toughness in the face of adversity. It does the job of showing rather than telling for the most part. There are some sections of the film that were harder to wrap my head around, and maybe upon second or third viewings I might get a better grasp. But I don’t think a movie should have to do that, so it loses me a bit there.
As for Brie Larson’s portrayal of the hardened soldier Carol Danvers, there’s a trouble in her performance that doesn’t sell it to me. I get that she is supposed to be snarky, witty, and somewhat of an ass to make her point to others. And it’s shown in various points throughout the film. It’s just that I don’t think she has the charisma to deliver that to the audience. It’s not a knock on her acting ability, but I think that mean-spirited ass hat was a role written for someone else the casting directors had in mind.
But I believe she really grabs my attention as an actor when she realizes she’s wrong. There is a point in the film, where everything is turned on itself, and Carol has that Tony Stark moment in Iron Man and the reality she’s been living changes drastically. It’s at this point, where Brie Larson reveals her culpability, her vulnerability, and ultimately her humanity, where I think the character shines the most.
A good runner-up to that would be her displays of anger. It’s good to see such raw emotion poured into a punch, or just blasting her way out of a crowd. She doesn’t do it all the time, but she has some moments where I buy that she’s a badass. I think Marvel writers would do well to take note of that and push the character more into that direction in other films.
The Skrulls are played off as perfect villains. There were some questions about the intentions of the alien race, and they are answered by the end of the second act. The misdirection plays a huge part in the film especially when it comes to the Skrulls.
In the comics, more specifically in their introduction in Fantastic Four, the Skrulls sought to invade the human race through mimicking the first super-powered family and using their the shape-shifting and advanced technology. The real heroes thwarted their plans and sent them packing back to their home world. Then we got the whole Secret Invasion storyline.
This is not that.
Yeah, the Skrulls have the same look and abilities from the comics, but their intentions are completely different to those in the comics.
More specifically, we have to talk about Talos, the Skrull superior in this film, who serves as the main antagonist. Ben Mendelsohn plays the head Skrull. His performance in the human guise is menacing, and quite convincing as someone trying to play someone else – but when he is in his “true” form as a Skrull, that’s when I find him even more believable.
The Star Force
There’s not much to talk about when it comes to the Star Force. They have a little quibble at the beginning of the film. We don’t get to know who they are, or what they are truly after. Ultimately, they serve no more than background players. In fact, the only one who has any more screen time than the rest is Korath the Pursuer, played by Djimon Hounsou. And he’s mostly there as a call-back to his appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy as part of the Kree alliance.
Let’s talk about Yon-Rogg played by Jude Law. He’s a bit of a controlling jerk during the first part of the film. This is pretty much the case for the rest of the movie. But there are layers of hidden intentions for his character that come to light as the film carries on. I actually enjoyed his performance, serving as sort of a harsh teacher to Brie Larson’s character. I’m hoping to see more of him in subsequent films.
The Kree warrior’s leader is none other than another callback to Guardians of the Galaxy, Ronan the Accuser played by Lee Pace. I would’ve loved to see Pace redeem the character for this movie where I thought his portrayal in GOTG was weak. His character is given precious little time on screen. He doesn’t chew up the time as much as Yon-Rogg or even Korath. Heck, even the individual Star Force members have more screen time than him.
The Earth Guys and Gals
The portrayal of Nick Fury in this film throws me for a loop. It’s not that much of a spoiler, as we can get a sense of what kind of person he is during just from the trailers. This is a kid, inexperienced, and immature with his actions as he is with his profession. This is not the hardened soldier who served all the time in warfare and espionage. Even though his character says it in the film. Most of all, it seems like there is a vast disconnect between this version of Nick Fury and the one we see show up at Tony Stark’s place at the end of Iron Man.
Although we see a younger Phil Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, it’s like he’s hardly in the film. I suppose it’s a call back to his first appearances in the MCU where he just showed up for one or two scenes.
Annette Bening was a surprising performer for me. I can’t go into too much detail about her portrayal of her character in the film, but I think this one knocked it out of the park for me. She sold her character, despite some weird plot details that just don’t add up for me regarding her involvement.
Maria Rambeau played by Lashana Lynch made more sense to me. Her friendship with Carol was solid, believable, and heartfelt. She sold it way more than what Brie could. I’m really hopeful that Marvel will use her in some other capacity in other films.
The cat… We have to talk about the cat. But I think this plays into more of another part I’d like to talk about.
Avengers: Infinity War had stakes in it, serious and pressing. But it still managed to dig in some timely humor into some well-delivered lines. Black Panther managed to get a few chuckles out of me. And this is even when there was a deep story about two boys taking different paths.
The feel of this movie was all serious, all the time. And the humor they tried to fit in just didn’t land right with me. It took me out of the film whenever they tried to do it. Brie Larson in particular didn’t serve as any comedic relief for any of her lines. Her comedy is better served with a hot can of whoop-ass rather than any witty lines. Captain Marvel smashing an old woman’s head into a metal pole got the whole theater audience laughing.
And then there’s the cat. The cat, is more than what it seems. When the reveal finally happens, it isn’t that amusing. In fact, the cat suddenly appears out of nowhere during a scene. And Nick Fury, just as suddenly, bonds with the cat.
And then we get to the third act of the film. There are some structure problems with the plot that really don’t mix well. I felt some of the same hesitations with the plot during the third act of another popular film with a female protagonist, Wonder Woman. Of course, it falls into some of the same traps that other Marvel films do. Big CGI fight between the protagonist and the villain. The winner sparing the villain so they can gain more power and fight in some future sequel.
There are some things to like about the film. It says something about rising up in the face of adversity. There’s a beat in there about the powerful bonds of friendship. We get visual spectacles of alien worlds and super-powered heroes dialed up to 11. However, we have questions about a few things and we really don’t get answers for them. We are buying into something when prior knowledge of that something says otherwise. And the main character has something to sell. But there’s so many other things going on. And I don’t think the film can truly make it about the main thing on sale.
- Visual effects for alien worlds are stunning
- Themes of friendship/perseverance strongly emphasized in film moments
- Strong performances from supporting cast members
- Larson doesn't quite find her footing in the role
- Humor seems forced at times, and doesn't deliver well
- Final act suffers from being too rushed and leaves viewers with more questions than answers