" I like the smell of my hair treatment; the pleasin’ odor’s half the point. "
— George Clooney, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

MRQE Top Critic

Midnight in Paris

Allen and Wilson dip their toes into the golden age —Marty Mapes (review...)

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Captain Marvel is a busy — but uninvolving — misfire.

Not Just a Girl

Carol Danvers is Captain Marvel
Carol Danvers is Captain Marvel

It’s not all bad news.

Brie Larson is well-cast as Carol Danvers and she holds her own with the likes of Samuel L. Jackson (her co-star in Kong: Skull Island), Annette Bening (Ruby Sparks) and Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows). As for Jackson, he’s a calmer, younger — and less abrasive — version of himself as the magic of CGI transports him back to 1995 (that’s the year after Pulp Fiction, which ultimately set Jackson barreling down the path of self-caricature).

The movie starts strong, with an interesting shake-up of the typical origin story. The action starts right in the thick of things, with a war raging between the Kree and the Skrull (uh... don’t worry about who’s who and what’s what). “Vers” (Larson) is in training with Yon-Rogg (Law) to master her unique powers. But there’s a mystery as to who Vers really is.

Vers has a connection to a dump of a planet called C-53 (Terrans like to call it Earth). Who is she? Where did she come from? How did she get here? Why is her blood blue?

Flashbacks tell a story of a determined girl growing up in a man’s world. She takes her lumps as she falls, collides, spins-out and crashes — whether at play or while trying to prove herself in the lower ranks of the U.S. Air Force. It’s a common refrain (one well-told in the Dark Knight trilogy): Why do we fall? So we can learn how to pick ourselves up again.

The Wrong Stuff

For all the good, though, there’s plenty of bad — or not-so-good — at least by recent Marvel standards. This is certainly a weaker entry in the canon and an opportunity for something greater missed by its tag-team directors (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) and gaggle of five story crafters.

The story feels forced as it tries to both introduce Captain Marvel and insert her into the action of the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. In the process, resonance and heart — hallmarks of most Marvel movies — are missing. And, really, it’s not nearly as much fun as it should be.

Most of the fun that is here relies on ’90s riffs: Blockbuster video stores, low-def technology, CDs, the original Game Boy, the Alta Vista search engine, AOL, two-way pagers — and music from Garbage, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana and No Doubt.

Yeah. That’s fine. But, c’mon. It’s pretty low-rent stuff for a major entry in one of the most popular film shingles in the history of cinema. What about generating some excitement? Some tension? What about having something meaningful — and personal — at stake? Why doesn’t Captain Marvel have something more to say as a movie with a built-in audience that’s craving more, more, more?

Empowerment

Captain Marvel wipes out while riding the wave started by Wonder Woman and Black Panther. There’s just enough 1990s misogyny here to indicate the writers may have bailed on bigger ideas. Maybe they simply got crushed under the weight of a bulky storyline that does more to promote the cause of the migrant worker than to set young girls alight with the inspiration to become the next Captain Marvel.

Indeed, Captain Marvel’s origin story is complicated enough. But it’s further complicated here through a non-linear narrative that adds to the intrigue while throwing a rug over the underlying weaknesses.

Ultimately, too much is thrown to the trite and the tame instead of leaning forward into the world of the bold and the brave.

Case in point: Yon-Rogg is a little lazy as he pulls out the ol’ (decidedly Terran) bumper sticker slogan of becoming the “best version of you” while training Vers while peddling Yoda-like mysticism about controlling her impulses and recognizing how her emotions are driven by her tangled past.

When the movie opens, there’s a really well-done tribute to the late, great Stan Lee as part of the Marvel Studios opening banner. It’s a shame, though, the rest of the movie doesn’t stand as a stronger tribute to his legacy.