Brie Larson becomes the latest in a long line of actors and actresses to win the Hollywood lottery by landing their own Marvel Universe franchise.
Her movie, “Captain Marvel,” — a ‘90s period piece about alien invasion — marks Marvel’s first major film starring a woman. Despite the fact that the film is fun, fast-paced and action-packed, Larson’s turn can’t seem to satisfy the ever-growing wave of online commenters.
On the one hand, the toxic trolls who haunt sites like Reddit and have poisoned the well at popular review aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic, seem to determined to hate the film for its uplifting girl power message. Unfortunately for Marvel Studios, they’ve angered another vocal group of agitators by not making their movie progressive enough — complaining that an LGBTQ subplot was hinted at but never fulfilled.
Personally, I think people see what they want to see. I love the girl power message, but the film isn’t overwhelmed by politics. Larson’s Carol Danvers is simply a strong, capable character who grows stronger and more capable throughout the film. And as far as whether she’s gay or not — I didn’t see it — but if I were to read tomorrow that that was definitely what was intended, it wouldn’t change my reading of the film. I wasn’t looking for any romantic designation. If you were, I’m sure you could find it. I went in to the film looking for an exciting superhero movie — one that would introduce a new character and create a bridge between last year’s “Infinity War” and next month’s “Endgame.” And that’s exactly what I got.
Brie Larson is Vers, an elite Kree warrior — part of a strike force that is the tip of the spear in a long-running and costly war with the Skrull empire. At the end of that sentence you should know if this is a movie for you or not, but if you’re still on the fence, I’ll also mention that the Skrulls are green, reptilian shape-shifters and Vers can shoot power blasts from her glowing fists. There. If you’re in, you’re in all the way. If not, you’re going to have a lonely summer — there are a lot of these movies coming down the pike.
Vers is kind of an unknown quantity, even to her teammates. She arrived on their home planet six years before with no memory of either who she is or where her powers came from. Her mentor, played by Jude Law, is cagey with details, but Vers has to make due with flashes of memory and little else. When a rescue op goes wrong, Vers is captured by the Skrulls who abscond with her in their ship, jump away through a wormhole, and probe her mind, rattling loose all manner of secrets.
Vers isn’t amused by this treatment and escapes, beating the snot out of all Skrulls in the vicinity before escaping in a small landing craft. The ship crashes, however, into the planet below — which just so happens to be Earth, circa 1990-something.
Vers, nearly indestructible in the way all superheros seem to be, hurtles through the roof of a Blockbuster. The Skrulls land too, and now Vers must track them down and stop whatever nefarious plan they are trying to enact. It might not be as simple as that, however, as Vers begins to find her surroundings disturbingly familiar.
Marvel Studios has long since quit trying to catch everyone up on their long, convoluted connected history, so if you weren’t already bought in, the timeline in the movie might be a little confusing. They never throw a date up on the screen, they just assume you already know. A digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson is a big clue that we’re in the past, though there are others. Ronan, from “Guardians of the Galaxy” is here and looks less haggard, as is Djimon Honsou’s Korath. Even Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson is back, also looking remarkably young.
The de-aging technology is almost flawless, which is a little disturbing when you think about it. How long before they make the leap to just making movies without actually having to use actors at all? The movie has a lot of fun with 25-year-old references and, like “Guardians,” has a pretty pointed soundtrack.
For as much as I liked this movie, it is a little shaggy in places. I don’t know anything about the directing pair of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, but the film does feel like it’s early in their respective careers. The pacing is a little off, and the script is a little clunky in places. Certainly not the worst I’ve ever seen, but it could have used a little tightening.
That said, the actors are clearly having a great time. Jackson gets to play against type a little, and Brie Larson is great in her role. Jude Law is as good as ever, and it’s nice to get to see him in a successful movie for once. Annette Bening shows up briefly, but my favorite character is Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos, leader of the Skrulls. Some have complained that the veteran character actor seems to be acting in a different movie, but I didn’t have that problem at all. He’s menacing and funny and steals every scene he’s in, rubber prosthetics and all.
“Captain Marvel” is making plenty of money and is a real crowd-pleaser — there were at least five moments in my screening where the audience burst into applause — a fact that probably bugs the angry troll base to no end.
The movie was subjected to a negative “review bombing” on Rotten Tomatoes — an act designed to lower a movie’s aggregate score before it’s ever released. It’s an offensive act because it’s done when an aggrieved few try to kill a movie by creating buzz before anyone’s ever even seen it.
Similar attempts were made on the latest “Ghostbusters” movie, as well as “Solo” and “The Last Jedi.” This time around, Rotten Tomatoes actually changed their policies to no longer allow people to comment in the way they had been.
I personally was very pleased with this film because it’s simply a fun, well-made action flick. It’s very typical Marvel 4-quadrant entertainment, designed to be unchallenging and escapist. I didn’t need it to shatter the glass ceiling, but was more than happy to see more inclusive character building.
These movies no longer need to top each other. There have been enough Marvel films now that it’s no longer a revelation that they are as good as they are. They don’t have to be spectacular, they just have to be entertaining, and that’s something Marvel Studios has down pat. Grade: A-
“Captain Marvel” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and mild language.
• By Chris Jenness, Now Playing