THE first Marvel film with a female protagonist is here at last! She has emerged on to the cinema screens, ablaze with flashing lights, ready for the world of today where #MeToo is still a relevant concept that is very much a part of a new wave of feminism that continues to unroll across the world.
Yet, all of the importance that this particular superhero and her film might have had in the hands of other capable writers and directors do not seem entirely reflected in this movie, which offers a mundane adaptation, with only occasionally stirring moments. In short, it is okay, but for the first female-led superhero film coming out of Marvel, at this particular juncture in time, more than okay is expected from a film such as this one.
I suppose Brie Larson makes a fine Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. She does everything that is expected of her as an actress in this particular role; handling the humour, the fight scenes, and the emotional bits altogether to create a realistic superhero who eventually becomes aware of the might of the power that she possesses, but there is also a lingering feeling that remains after watching the film – a sense of something indicating that there was more that could have been mined from Larson’s abilities as an actress.
She is, after all, an Oscar winner who has turned in very strong work in films like “Room” and “Short Term 12.” Therefore, while it might be too harsh to suggest that the talents of the lead actress were underused, with Larson being good when she could have been great, it might be fair to suggest that the greatness of any performance is not linked solely to that performer but to a myriad of other aspects and roles in filmmaking over which Larson may not have had any creative control.
Pretty much all of the other characters are underdeveloped, which is rather unfortunate considering that Jude Law, Annette Benning, Ben Mendelsohn, Lee Pace and Gemma Chan are all really good actors. The exception to this string of underdeveloped supporting characters is Nick Fury, played by a de-aged Samuel L. Jackson. The younger Fury is hilarious, expressing a kind of wide-eyed excitement and shock at the idea of aliens and superheroes, as the film offers to us a pre-eyepatch Fury, before he became the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., as he is more popularly portrayed in other Marvel films.
Jackson’s performance complements Larson’s and the duo have great chemistry with each other, with their segments coming across as something out of an intergalactic buddy-movie as the humanness of Fury crosses with Captain Marvel’s otherworldly powers and persona to create a neat relationship that also helps to add some depth to the Fury character in the Marvel universe.
Considering that this film is a comic book adaptation, however, there is one cardinal mistake that was committed by the filmmakers which rendered the whole thing as a lesser version of what it could have been. This flaw undoubtedly has to be the manner in which exciting moments were treated, and relayed to us, in the most unexciting of ways. Yes, there are fight scenes and explosions and alien lore, and yet, plot points and moments with the potential for much excitement come across as banal, mundane, and uninspired. What could have been a blazing, terrific tour-de-force of a film is reduced to a sort of mechanical movie where interesting and emotional things happen, but without much appropriate flair, passion, or pizzazz.
This is not to say that flashing lights and CGI are necessary for a successful production. In fact, one of the most brilliant moments in “Captain Marvel” is a flashback reel of various moments in the life of young Carol Danvers, where we see her constantly being put down by men, only to continuously rise up and surpass them. It is a touchingly pure, relevant, and well-executed bit of filmmaking that does not fall into any of the conventional expectations of a superhero film.
However, such moments of poignancy are rare in the film, meaning that the filmmakers do not even rely on some sort of anti-typical-superhero matrix with which to tell the story of their film in a new fashion. Instead, they end up with a strange half-good film, where the mundane, expected superhero elements are only utilised to impart some of the true potentials of the film, and at the same time, the dramatic and more intimate elements of the life of Carol Danvers are not also developed in order to fashion a new and compelling perspective within the superhero narrative.
To use a metaphor to describe the film, I would say that “Captain Marvel” is a hearty meal, filling, and managing to do the job of feeding someone – perhaps it is tomato soup and bread – when it could have been something that is hearty, but also unique and delicious and worthy of being shared with the world – perhaps like cook-up rice. If the food imagery does not convey my thoughts on “Captain Marvel,” it will simply have to be sufficient to say that Marvel’s first female-led film deserved better, even though the film is certainly not bad.