Not So Marvelous

We’ve all been there. You’re going out to dinner, looking forward to the entrée. But you’re so hungry, you get an appetizer … and it’s just OK. I mean, it satiates, but it’s not impressive by any means. With many looking forward to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s main course—a little movie called Avengers: Endgame, debuting April 26—Captain Marvel is that mediocre appetizer.

It’s an origin story told in a convoluted way, with a bland performance by star Brie Larson. She’s first known as Vers, a Kree warrior who still has a lot to learn from her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). After a mission goes awry, she crash-lands on Earth—in a Blockbuster Video store, no less. It’s 1995, and she soon meets a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who still has two eyes, and a young Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), whose only discernable function is to allow people to say, “Hey, look, it’s Coulson!” The villainous Skrulls, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), follow her to Earth. Why? They need something only she can provide.

In between fighting off Skrulls, Vers’ backstory is clumsily unveiled. She once lived on Earth, was named Carol Danvers, and was a U.S. Air Force pilot. We see how she received the power to emit photon blasts from her hands, and learned how to harness her power to use against her foes. Through it all, however, she’s a bit of a bore. We never get a sense of what she’s like as a person. What motivates her. Makes her tick. What’s important to her, and what’s not. Worse, this is not a character with inherent personality (like Iron Man’s Tony Stark; I mean, Robert Downey Jr., c’mon), and Larson doesn’t do much to make her compelling. If Vers/Carol/Captain Marvel were more likeable, the movie would be more likeable as well.

The narrative structure doesn’t help, with the overdone jumping timeline. What’s more, it’s hard to pack surprises into an origin story, so it’s no surprise that co-writers and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have none. You see some of the “twists” coming long before they happen. And the ones you don’t anticipate? You’ll either 1) not care or 2) not go for them at all. Neither reaction should be acceptable to the filmmakers.

The visual effects are sufficient, not particularly impressive. The most notable effects work is de-aging Gregg and Jackson to look 20 years younger. We’ve seen the energy blasts, explosions and space battles plenty of times. That said, it’s exciting to watch Captain Marvel fully embrace the extent of her power.

Mediocre appetizer or not, darned if I didn’t leave the theater looking forward to how the film’s hero will fit into Avengers: Endgame. So, finally, Captain Marvel earns a moderate recommendation, not because it stands well on its own but because it effectively serves its purpose in readying the palate for more Marvel.