Captain Marvel: With great powers comes responsibility of better storytelling

“Captain Marvel”
PG-13 –
Sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language.
Playing at – Alamo Drafthouse, Premiere Cinemas, Tinseltown 17 and Stars & Stripes Drive-In.
Credits – Co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.  Screenplay by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet; from a story by Nicole Perlman & Meg LeFauve and Boden & Fleck & Robertson-Dworet. Cinematography by Ben Davis. Original music by Pinar Toprak. Edited by Debbie Berman and Elliot Graham. Production design by Andy Nicholson. Art direction by Elena Albanese, Andrew Nax Cahn, Jason T. Clark, Kasra Farahani and Lauren E. Polizzi. Costume design by Sania Milkovic Hays.
Cast – Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Lashana Lynch, Clark Gregg, Rune Temte, Gemma Chan, Angenis Perez Soto and Djimon Hounsou.
Critics’ ratings – With five stars being highest rating. Bill Kerns: Three stars. The Boy (Gage Gregory): Two and one-half stars.

Bill’s rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to the deadly Thanos finger-snap, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) could not even complete his familiar profanity before being reduced to dust, along with half of the planet’s population, in last year’s “Avengers, Infinity War.”

He did, though, manage to send out a summons for help to another superhero.

Before Captain Marvel can join surviving superheroes on April 26 in “Avengers: Endgame,” however, producers felt a need to award this character an origin film of her own a month beforehand.

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) obviously could not have been more excited about “Captain Marvel.”

Advance ticket sales soared through the roof and set records, with MCU producers envisioning its new character as the film (and financial) equivalent of rival DC Comics superstar “Wonder Woman,” in which Diana Prince was played by Gal Gadot and introduced so well by director Patty Jenkins.

Portrayed by dynamic Oscar winner Brie Larson, Captain Marvel becomes the first woman asked to carry an entire film in the MCU. Half of the directing team – Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck – also is female.

Making her appearance on 1995 Earth (aka, scruffy planet C-53) by crashing through the roof of a Blockbuster Video store, Larson’s character stumbles outside, reveals a bit of alien blue blood and proceeds to build a communicator from parts swiped at the nearby Radio Shack.

She remains unable to pin down her identity and past and her amnesia is only part of the writers’ problem.

Larson is introduced as a Kree soldier named Vers (rhymes with fears). The Krees have been engaged in a lengthy war against a shape-shifting race, called Skrulls. She is being personally trained by Kree officer Jude Law, called Yon Rogg, who (nothing new here) tells her she must learn to control her emotions during battle.

The cast also includes such stalwarts as Annette Bening, introduced as a “Supreme Intelligence” for no discernable reason — and naturally Jackson, whose Fury at this point has hair and the use of both eyes (no eyepatch yet) thanks to the directors’ use of a digital de-aging process.

Fury also tends to believe Larson’s story only after encountering a shapeshifter.

Also appearing: Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch and Clark Gregg, the latter a much younger Agent Coulson with S.H.I.E.L.D.

Yet while several action sequences command attention – Larson’s training in hand-to-hand combat is evident – the overall storytelling does not.

Building blocks of information, slowly released, are neither gripping nor continually interesting.

Keep in mind audiences know nothing about the Kree-Skrulls conflict. They learn only gradually about Vers’ powers, although, if she is from Earth, how she could have obtained them?

Captain Marvel’s brief visions include her mirror image as American pilot Carol Danvers, headed for a jet on the tarmac alongside Air Force buddy Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), in a scene reminiscent of “Top Gun.”

Their being reunited, even for a short time, cannot be predicted.

For that matter, visions also emphasize her competitive nature even as a much younger go-kart racer and confirm the ’90s setting as an older Danvers has fun singing on a bar, wearing time-specific rock ’n’ roll t-shirts to a karaoke session. The directors continually stress the character’s toughness from an early age.

Yet even after being probed, the leading character takes far too long to pin down her identity.

Even a twist near the end becomes predictable.

Larson does as much as she possibly can with the script and Jackson stands out even when working opposite a scene-stealing cat.

That does not change the fact Captain Marvel’s back story is lacking; moviegoers are not even given any information about the construction of her suit. Nor do any writers attempt to explore the Kree culture on home planet Hala.

Larson has no shortage of cool swagger and delivers most of the film’s best lines. Nevertheless, Captain Marvel/Vers/Carol Danvers (the title character) is the worst character to wind up underdeveloped.

She reveals empathy upon experiencing Mendelsohn’s pathos-driven Skrull savior. But the film, as a whole, does not come close to matching the incredible storytelling and characters found in “Black Panther.”

It is, after all, first and foremost an origin story. The movie is meant to introduce Captain Marvel’s temperament, personality and powers and no doubt explain what Nick Fury, in an instant, recalled about her before calling for help. There’s also every indication Larson could be even better in “Avengers: Endgame.”

But this superhero has to start somewhere.

Gage’s rating: 2 1/2 of 5 stars

“Captain Marvel” is one of the most powerful superheroes debuted by the MCU in recent memory.

However, as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben always said, “With great power comes great responsibility” – and the responsibility of the newest MCU movie to be a big box office hit is surely evident. Debuting little more than a month before “Avengers: Endgame,” producers felt the need to give Captain Marvel a worthy back story and showcase the role she can play not only in “Avengers: Endgame,” but in the future of the MCU.

But “Captain Marvel” comes across as a lesser version of “Wonder Woman.”

“Wonder Woman” was successful because the story was thought out and Gal Gadot gave one of the best performances of any superhero in a movie. “Captain Marvel” never quite reached that point. By trying to repeat what Wonder Woman did, she was doomed to fail.

 

Brie Larson plays the titular role of Captain Marvel and gives a solid performance overall. She definitely looks the part. However, I left the theater thinking there could have been more. Perhaps this was from the lack of a better script; I’m not sure.

Samuel L Jackson reprises his role as a younger Nick Fury. The manner in which his character is portrayed feels like a wooden stand-in from the character  he developed as a man with many secrets, ever since he debuted the eyepatch in “Iron Man” back in 2008. Jackson provides some comic relief, but it feels forced and grows old very fast in this two-hour movie.

Captain Marvel suffers from either lack of exposition  – or rather, exposition being shoved down our throats so fast we cannot fathom, or keep up with, what is happening.

I left the theater with less understanding of the character than I arrived with. How do her powers work? What has she been doing for the past six years? How does any of the space travel work in this movie?

Before the questions can even be asked, we are off and running on top of a train, fighting bad guys.

Definite bright sides are the special visual effects and makeup for the Skrull.

I was awed by the transformation of a character from Skrull to human and the makeup for the Skrull actually was well done.

Another aspect I liked about this movie was the action sequences, both at the beginning and toward the final battle. While some of it was difficult to watch because of all the CGI, a lot of hand-to-hand combat was fun to watch. I enjoyed that part.

However, my biggest disappointment was the lack of character development for Captain Marvel. She never changes. She was already a wise-cracking bad ass and the movie just expands on how she is already a wise-cracking bad ass.

Other than her secret finally being revealed, she doesn’t change much. It still feels as if those making the movie don’t want to change the character until after “Avengers: Endgame.”

“Captain Marvel” is a movie with evident problems, yet it still has some good to make up for the bad.

Yes, it may be a disappointment for Marvel. But the future of the MCU remains bright, especially since we recall the upgrade in “Thor: Ragnorak” over the previous Thor films. If that franchise can master a similar upgrade, I have no doubt the future of “Captain Marvel” will be bright.