CAPTAIN MARVEL review: MEH-vellous!

Origin stories are special. It is indeed marvelous to watch the journey of a superhero from a time they were a total ‘zero’. The discovery of one’s true potential, the battle of their personal demons, all this and more are all tropes that are now, frankly, done to death. And yet every time a new hero makes it to the big screen, they find a way to rise above the expectations and breathe a new life not just into the character but to the superhero genre itself.

So there was ample reason for one to be excited about a Captain Marvel project. Firstly, it was the first of a female lead offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something that took them like twenty movies or so to achieve.  And making it more complicated is the fact that it is one of the most powerful character of the Marvel Universe and had to rope in in order to be the ‘key’ element in the battle of Avengers against the might of Thanos. So Cap Marvel needed the curtain raiser before the main event.

But with greater the powers, greater the challenge of hitting it out of the park. And unfortunately, that is where even the mighty Captain Marvel stumble upon.

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Our hero (Brie Larson) is introduced to us as a Kree soldier Vers. She is an elite member of the Kree force, who has to be constantly reminder her team leader Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) on how necessary it is to keep her powers under check and in control.

However what is also keeping her up are the haunted images of a past that she quite cannot remember.

The answers do come to her in due time when on one of their recent missions, ambushed by the rival Skrull beings, she has to crash land onto Earth. It is here on the hunt for these shape-shifting Skrulls that she encounters the SHIELD agents Nic Fury and Coulson and with their help, she tries to solve the puzzle of her past.

On home planet, which she discovers Earth was to her, she also discovers forgotten relationships, fears and most importantly, forgotten powers!

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Though many directors have successfully made the smooth transition from modest budgeted productions to the big tent-pole dazzles of a Marvel production, this jump is rather awkwardly handled by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

The creativity in the action scenes were obviously lacking. The plot really only finds its footing once things jump to planet earth, from whereon things ease down to a more familiar 90s buddy comedy setting with all the nostalgia factors thrown in from Blockbuster Video, Radioshack to dial up modems to hit 90’s tunes. By the time the makers get a groove of it all, we are already way into the third act.

It is a rather ordinary retelling of the origin story, that is narrated and assembled in a manner that leaves one emotionally disconnected.  Blame it on the way the character is written or on the one-note performance from Brie Larson, where all the bright colours of the suit cannot hide from all the obvious “effort” that she is putting into carrying this role.

It could have been the tale where we get to know how an earthling Carol Danvers goes onto become the Star Lord , Guardians of the Galaxy , Miss Marvel  …er  Captain Marvel.  (Yes, there is a whole lot controversy on that name and the history of  DC Captain Marvel aka SHAZAM that is enough fodder for another article.)

And for whatever this origin story is about, the screenplay does not reveal much of the human that Carol Danvers was. We get a slight glimpse into her past, in bits and pieces – in flashes where she is reminded that she is just a weakling and cannot exactly compete with the boys. In fact, the best moment of the film was the inter-cut scene where they capture Danver in various ages of her life, stand up after the fall. As much as it was a powerful moment, the narrative exactly does not earn it. Written as a role model for women empowerment, the makers certainly spare no opportunity to drive the point home.

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It is also important to note that Captain Marvel does not purely serve as the origin story for the Kree soldier alone. It also serves us the origin story for the whole ‘Avengers’ initiative as we see Nicholas Fury’s first tryst with unexplained superpowers from a space and time beyond. Of course, little did he know back then that he was only ‘scratching’ the surface.

Much of the joy from this film comes from the supporting actors. Be it Fury (a digitalized younger looking Samuel Jackson) or by the Skrull leader Talos (Medelsohn) , or Danver’s best buddy Maria (Lynch) or the young daughter of hers. And then there is Goose, the feline show stealer. It is the big names like Annette Benning and Jude Law who failed to dazzle in their respective roles.

As far as female superhero goes, it is hardly the entertainer that Wonder Woman was. It hardly has the kind of arc that the Amazon princess had in that DC trailblazer.The silver lining is that we still get a character that makes one excited for the forthcoming Avengers: End Game as we already can see how much of a powerhouse that Captain Marvel can become in deciding the final outcome.

Captain Marvel does announce the power-shift in a big way and probably lays platform for more diverse voices when the decisions are made out. And cheer we will. Just wish it wasn’t this bland a character when all the recent origin stories like Black Panther, WonderWoman and Aquaman has managed to make a solid splash into the over crowded comic hero lineup. In comparison, this Cap story turns out to be rather ‘meh’ affair.

For a hero with a motto of ‘Higher, Further, Faster’ , this one falls considerably short on all counts.

Rating :  2.5    / 5

 

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Lee Pace, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Chan and Clark Gregg

directed by Anna Roden – Ryan Fleck

Studio :  Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Pictures

 

 

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