Directed by: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Written by: Boden, Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet
I sit in a place of ignorance as to whom Marvel expects its average viewer to be: comic book nerds well-versed in details? “ordinary” film-goers? or some demographic in between: nerds whose nerd-dom was born with the company’s cinematic universe? I can’t say I identify with any of these demographics, but when it came to watching Captain Marvel perhaps that was a good thing. I knew nothing of the character going in and as such my first impression of the film was simply that it was very mysterious.
The film’s opening moments involve protagonists Vers (Brie Larson) engaged in some jedi-esque training with her commanding officer (Jude Law) to fight for the extra-terrestrial Kree people. As part of her training she also communicates with a personalized-semi-imagine-spirit-adviser (Annette Bening). This training leads her and her fellow Kree to a battle with shape-shifting Skrulls, a fight which in turn leads her to end up on earth.
I didn’t love these opening moments: there was a bit to must action for disinterested me. Still, I was intrigued. Given that superhero films tend to be origin stories, I was impressed that Captain Marvel seemed to be doing something different: throwing viewers in its established world and asking us to understand it.
Maybe I fell hook-line and sinker for that one. Captain Marvel doesn’t end up as some genre-transforming superhero movie. Still, it offers plenty to enjoy along its way. As Infinity War made plain, the typical Marvel hero is a cocky, and often slightly-funny man who has to overcome ego issues on the way to becoming a hero. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first (central) female hero, Vers breaks that trope as well. As a highly trained alien combatant sent to Earth, her persona resembles that of Arthur Weasley: she is politely fascinated by the “primitive” culture she arrives in and acts somewhat naively as a result. Vers’ naïve-power is nicely complimented by the (previously established Marvel) character who comes to be her sidekick: he too is funny, but in a more vulnerable way than that set by Marvel’s established model.
Captain Marvel has its flaws of course: its ending seemingly takes believe-in-yourself logic to an absurd extreme, and none of its lines or characters particularly resonated in my memory (maybe the cat, a little bit). Most interesting amongst its shortcomings are its politics. In my otherwise positive review of Mission Impossible VI, I noted that it was a work that both had and lacked ideological analysis, in what I could only assume was a move to appeal to several audience-types in one. While I can’t explain the contradiction in Captain Marvel without spoiling the movie, you’ll notice it in the bit in which Vers redesigns the colors of her suit. While Vers’ brand of heroism (powerfully demonstrated in her display of mercy near the film’s end), is all around an endearing one, I am nonetheless left with questions about whether the likeable character we see in the film squares up with what we are told about her previous career choice.
If you’re completely shut off to the idea of liking superhero films, Captain Marvel is probably not the work to change your mind. Otherwise however, I suspect many will find this canonically important edition to the Marvel story arc an enjoyable cinematic outing.