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Courtesy of Marvel Studios

March 12, 2019

Captain Marvel Is Good But Leaves Questions Unanswered

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Captain Marvel, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 20th film (whoa) and its first featuring a true female lead (whoa), is a relatively entertaining Total Recall-esque superhero origin story and a decent second tentpole between Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Assistant arts editor Jeremy Markus and senior staff writer Nick Smith teamed up to share their thoughts on the film. Enjoy . . . or don’t . . . whatever.

 

Why should you watch this movie:

Jeremy: If you’re a hardcore Marvel fanatic (I am not), you will probably have already seen the movie by the time this review gets published. For the rest of you, Captain Marvel is a fun superhero film that is plenty capable of alleviating pre- (or post-) prelim stress. Brie Larson’s performance as the title character complements Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury perfectly, and there are a plethora of humorous moments that help to break up the relatively heavy tone of the film. There are fight scenes, plane crashes and blood, and the last Blockbuster in America gets destroyed. Everything you need for a family-friendly feature.

Nick: Captain Marvel’s a good time, Marvel fan or no (though I’m only speculating on behalf of those who’d answer “no”). It’s got an above-average plotline, and good CGI, showcases a strong female lead (Brie Lawson, I love you. Please call me.) in a way we haven’t seen outside DC’s Wonderwoman and, like Ragnarok, was surprisingly funny!

 

Why you shouldn’t watch this movie:

Jeremy: In my opinion, I feel that superhero films have effectively run their course. Hero faces problem; all hope seems lost; oh boy, they won because they are a hero. Refraining from heavy spoilers, it’s easy to peg the villains from early on in Captain Marvel because the “Shamalayan-like twist” trope is so prevalent in the genre. The acting isn’t anything to write home about, and while I was entertained, the film felt almost inconsequential once the final credits had finished rolling. Also, Samuel L. Jackson’s reverse-aging CGI is eerily unsettling.

Nick: If you’ve had it up to here with the MCU and its reckless gallivanting through American pop-culture, this movie’s not for you. And, even though you need not have seen the majority of the MCU’s other entries to keep up just fine, certain references, and especially its mid-credits scene, will serve as big-time Infinity War spoilers for the uninitiated.

 

Best performance:

Jeremy: I’ll give a nod to Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, the Skrull commander. His character is probably the most complex in the film and Mendelsohn does an excellent job convincing the audience to emotionally connect with him. I’d imagine it is difficult to act wearing heavy prosthetics and layers of CGI, but he did incredibly well. Akira Akbar is also cute as Monica Rambeau, the daughter of Danvers’ best friend.

Nick: I’ve gotta agree here. I’ve loved Mendelsohn in just about everything he’s appeared in over the last couple years — and, yes, that includes Robin HoodCaptain Marvel is no departure from that trend. Like Jeremy said, the Aussie took a deeply complex role as a member of an alien race that no one but the most intense Marvel hardliners would have been familiar with and made it ultimately sympathetic to even the most out-of-it onlookers.

 

Most surprising/unexpected part:

Jeremy: There’s a cat who is not a cat. He does not wear a hat. I’ll leave it at that.

Nick: Again agreeing with Jeremy, Goose the “cat” and his interactions with Samuel L. Jackson were awesome. I’d go as far as to say he’s in the conversation for best fighter-pilot movie Goose of all time (no disrespect to Anthony Edwards).

 

How does Captain Marvel rank within the MCU:

Jeremy: Okay, I’ll be honest. I have not seen the majority of the films in the MCU. I don’t think this is the best one out of those I have viewed, but I’ll rewatch it given the opportunity (and a free ticket; I don’t want to get gouged by Regal again). Andy Dwyer and the Intergalactic Parks Department, Volume One still holds the top spot for me, and this did nothing to displace it. I would be stunned if it were nominated for Best Picture like Black Panther was, but among the right audience, this might contend for a top ranking.

Nick: Unlike Jeremy, I have seen every film in the MCU and can’t shake the notion that Captain Marvel felt like a Phase 1 movie, which is to say one akin to Iron Man, the first Captain America and Thor — all fine films, but nonetheless films that might not have seen the same levels of success if placed in the same position Captain Marvel was (i.e., being one of two smaller films between the two parts of Infinity War). The last Avengers raised the stakes to levels modern cinema had never seen — the Universe’s 18 other films had all, in one way or another, been building towards Thanos’ snap — and both Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel have suffered from coming to the table with fewer chips. If I sat down and ranked all 20, I imagine Captain Marvel would sit somewhere around eleventh. But, at this point, its average-ness left me wanting more.

 

Did Captain Marvel excite you for Endgame:

Jeremy: Again, I’m not incredibly invested in the MCU, so I am not foaming at the mouth for Avengers: How Will Our Heroes Defeat the Big Purple Meanie. But I guess this movie stoked the embers a little bit. Will I see Endgame? Yes, but probably just so I don’t get made fun of (even more) by my friends.

Nick: To an extent, yes. However, unlike many of the other origin stories we’ve seen in recent superhero cinema, MCU and otherwise, I felt Captain Marvel did a worse job clearly defining Carol Danvers’ powers. I’m sure she’ll play an integral part in the goodies finally taking down the “big purple meanie,” but because we only saw her operating among players to whom we’d also not been previously introduced, I’ve got no idea how her powers rank among those heroes we’ve already gotten to know. Though we can be confident they fall somewhere near the top, we don’t really have that much to go on. Do her combat skills match Captain America’s? Could one of Iron Man’s suits out-fly her? And, perhaps most importantly, will her hand blast thingies be enough to stop the big baddie? At this point, I’m just in — I’m seeing Endgame, probably on opening night and probably more than once, but this movie could’ve ignited the powder keg that’s been growing since last April had it gone in a more “tale-of-the-tape” direction to hype up the big finale.

 

Jeremy Markus is a freshman in The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He currently serves as an assistant arts editor on The Sun’s editorial board. He can be reached at arts@cornellsun.com. Nick Smith is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at nsmith@cornellsun.com.