Captain Marvel did what it was designed to do. The film had three major goals:
1. Introduce a new character and franchise.
2. Provide a prelude to Avengers: Endgame.
3. Give fans its first female-led superhero movie.
Without excelling in any one category, Captain Marvel succeeds in achieving these goals.
Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers very well as a pilot conditioned by her upbringing and by her aliens kidnappers to ignore her emotions and remain stoic. I have heard criticisms of her performance as being too wooden, but I honestly wonder if audiences even noticed how many times her mentors told her to stay in control of her emotions. As a fellow actor, I appreciated Larson’s use of micro expressions, especially in her interactions with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. A slight smirk or eye twitch is all that’s needed to for the action-oriented character. When she does get emotional, I definitely feel it. Ben Mendelsohn plays a great villain as Talos the Skrull leader. He reminded me of Hades from Disney’s Hercules; a confident showman annoyed by slight inconveniences. Talos really surprised me as one of the funniest parts of the film, besides Fury and Goose the cat. The other notable performance comes from Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau. There is a point in the second act of the movie where the protagonists visit Danvers’ old friend Maria. The two have a heart-to-heart that was absolutely necessary to ground the story. After an hour or so of CGI action, aliens, chase sequences and body snatcher paranoia, we are reminded that our main character was a human being whose absence had an effect on the lives of her closest friends. You can see the hurt and confusion in Lynch’s eyes as she sees a shadow of her best friend… with a new name, a new persona, no memory and a ridiculous outfit.
Unfortunately, Captain Marvel is plagued with continuity problems, and a case of “phase one syndrome”. By that, I mean it is reminiscent of early MCU outings that are now regarded to be mediocre lead-ups to a theoretical Avengers movie. I’m talking about The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. Pretty much every movie in Phase One except for Iron Man and The Avengers. Captain Marvel has a couple surprises, like the appearance of the Tesseract, but still falls back on a familiar formula of a protagonist who lost their memory. By contrast, Black Panther crafted a well-made story of a man learning how to be a leader. It is a plot that’s been done before, but not with the unique vision Ryan Coogler brought to it. Captain Marvel’s directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck were… fine. Nothing noticeably terrible, but nothing that made this movie stand out from the crowded superhero genre. Additionally, how exactly did Annette Bening’s Mar-Vell get her hands on the Tesseract, when we know from the timeline that SHIELD founder Howard Stark found it in the 1940s? Did she take it from Stark, or was she working alongside SHIELD? It’s poorly explained, that’s for sure.
The film is fine. It is nothing special, but it doesn’t deserve the criticism it gets from angry online trolls obsessed about some kind of anti-men agenda. They obviously ignored the awesome men in the movie (Fury, Coulson, and Talos). I would say it is worth seeing if you’d want some background on Danvers before she shows up in Avengers Endgame. If you are looking for a fun time with the family and nothing more, go see Captain Marvel.