Captain Marvel (2019)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 3/31/19
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Lashana Lynch, Clark Gregg, Gemma Chan

Carol Danvers, also known as Captain Marvel (although she's never called this), is one of the most powerful beings in the universe, but there's a hole in her memory and she's plagued by disturbing dreams. Working as a Kree agent, she's captured by a Skrull ambush and subjected to an advanced mind reading device. The Skrulls are looking for information regarding a scientist on Earth named Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening), and the process triggers some of Carol's repressed memories. She manages to escape captivity and crash lands on Earth with several Skrull soldiers during the mid 1990's. SHIELD agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) attempts to detain her, but gets distracted when the Skrulls attack. The rest of the film revolves around Carol trying to get to Lawson before the Skrulls do in order to protect an experimental light speed engine, but things aren't as they seem and it becomes unclear who the enemies really are. Carol ultimately defies her Kree superiors in favor of following her own directive, and fully unleashes her seemingly unlimited powers to protect Earth from annihilation.

Sadly, the film is a disappointing misfire in style, execution, and tone, and not the game changer that Marvel Studios was hoping for. It tries too hard to mimic the "Guardians Of The Galaxy" (2014) formula, which is inappropriate for the material and not worth emulating in the first place. As a result, the film is needlessly abrasive and annoying, and the attempts at humor are misplaced and ineffective. The soundtrack is surprisingly bad, and many of the most intense and important scenes are ruined by inappropriate 90's pop songs. It's jarring and unsettling, and completely destroys any emotional engagement you might have had with the film.

Brie Larson does a fine job with the material, but her character is dull and simply not likable, which makes it hard for her to carry the film. While her cocky and arrogant attitude isn't unjustified, it also happens to be really irritating. And before anyone decides to play the gender card against me, I'll just say that if the character had been male, I would have disliked him just as much, or even more. I don't suffer assholes, and the Marvel Universe has enough of them already. Captain Marvel also suffers from a Superman complex in that she's so powerful that she becomes completely uninteresting as a character. Samuel L. Jackson plays a young Nick Fury with a lighthearted touch and seems to be having a great time, but he also gives the impression that he's not taking the role seriously. Jude Law, on the other hand, seems to be overcompensating by taking himself too seriously. Annette Bening and Lashana Lynch make excellent supporting characters, and Gemma Chan makes a stunning Kree sniper. Unfortunately, the colored contacts that Bening and Law wear are super distracting and don't allow for natural pupil dilation, which makes their eyes look overly fake. It seems like CGI technology would be able to change eye color much more effectively these days. Stan Lee's final cameo before he died is also very bizarre and unsettling, as they just have him repeating "trust me true believer" from the "Mallrats" script over and over. It's awkward and makes no sense. It would have been much better to not have any audio at all.

It's a competently made film with attractive visual effects, but the story is disjointed, the dialog is awkward, the action is uninspired and surprisingly dull, and the drama is emotionally flat. It's not the worst Marvel movie by a long shot, but it falls solidly in the lower tier. As a female action film, it delivers a few satisfying moments, which are ultimately sabotaged by Carol's obnoxious attitude and the disruptive soundtrack. Hopefully future installments will treat her with more respect.