More noise than signal

Captain Marvel

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

My tolerance for Marvel films ebbs ever lower, so I suppose you’ll have to bear that in mind as a framing device as we delve into the twenty first of them, which by this point have all blended to a fine, interchangeable purée.

To shortcut some framing devices, this is the story of Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel nee Carol Danvers, introduced to us as an amnesiac elite soldier of some bunch of aliens, in the middle of a war with another bunch of aliens, stranded on Earth in the 1990s after a mission goes awry.

After some initial disbelief, she teams up with Sam Jackson’s young Nick Fury to fight the shape shifting Skrulls who have followed her to Earth on the trail of some light speed engine or other, and along the way they will uncover the secrets of her past, the origin of her powers, and the truth about who she’s fighting for and against.

On multiples occasion I’ve tried and failed to get more involved with running our Twitter account, and Captain Marvel is a pretty good example of why that never sticks. I have no interest whatsoever in recapping any of it, but a few things that stick in my craw need to be addressed. First, if you are enough of a baby to hate a film sight unseen based on the activism of the lead actor, you do you, but your opinion is of no interest to me. Second, if you’re loudly proclaiming your wokeness by saying any criticism of this film is rooted in misogyny, you do you, but your opinion is of no interest to me. If we can’t somehow discuss a silly comic book film without immediately polarising to the extremes, why bother discussing anything on social media?

I say this because I have criticism to share, dear listeners. Now, to be clear, Captain Marvel is not a bad film. It shares the base level of Marvel competence that their well-trod formula churns out. It passed the time, just about adequately. Unfortunately, like Black Panther, I can’t be much more positive about it than that, and I admit that will give short shrift to those who can find some degree of representation in this in a genre that’s a bit of a pale sausage fest. But Wonder Woman was actually fun, and this, well…

It’s not the best script Marvel has give us by a long chalk. Look, I don’t really care about plot holes in comic book movies, because they are comic book movies, and to a degree it’s part of the plot that there’s no clear description or limit to Cap’s powers. That doesn’t explain why in one scene she’s blasting through steel doors or spacecraft like they’re papier-mâché and in other scenes struggling to fight goons. I’d have appreciated a handwave, at least.

More critically, and apologies to those that liked her, but here Larson is to me most akin to a wet blanket, or at least an over-dampened pillow. There’s a bit of a tell not show issue here, as the film stops dead at least twice, and a little more organically a couple more times, to tell us that Danvers is smart, strong, powerful, delightful and funny, and it really ought to be more concerned with showing us why she is these things. Particularly funny, and while of course that’s very personal, I didn’t chuckle once over the course of this film. She’s doing everything else acceptably enough, though, and overall she’s fine – but given the hype train around the film, and the character, I’m not so sure fine cuts it.

Support is solid, with Jackson, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening and Lashana Lynch all providing more flavour than the bland main course. It’s just a shame that no matter how much mystery the script tries to build around Captain Marvel, she’s not interesting enough to care about. The greater conflict between the Kree and the Skrulls is rather more engaging, but necessarily takes a back seat to the lead character – which would be fine if there was development on that axis, but the Larson that gets dropped from orbit at the start of the film is much the same as the one that’s dropped from orbit at the end of the film, and a side note, if you want us to believe there’s even a fractional risk that the Cap’n won’t fail, maybe don’t have her treat FALLING FROM ORBIT AND SMASHING TO THE GROUND as though it’s a mild inconvenience?

The rest of the film, well, as I say, has the usual Marvel competence in terms of effects work. Well, mostly. I’m not 100% sold on the de-aging effects used here, and while most of the time it’s okay enough to keep Jackson out of the uncanny valley, poor Clark Gregg looks like he was attacked with Vaseline and cling film. In common with seemingly every film these days, it’s about half an hour too long, which in general speaks to a script that could have done with a few more review cycles.

Look, it’s fine. It’s okay. It’s a standard issue Marvel film, and for Lord knows what reason the bottom does not appear to be falling out of that market any time soon. This will slot comfortably into the lower middle of that pack, which isn’t really all that distinct a peloton anyway. But when Marvel studio bods are saying Larson and Captain Marvel will be the one leading the MCU post Infinity Imbroglio? I’m not convinced, but as it happens, I also don’t care, so that works out swimmingly for me.

Marvel film/5.