To mark the film’s DVD release, Redbrick Film critics weigh in on Captain Marvel, the first of Marvel Studios’ films to be headlined solely by a woman
Alex Green – Gaming Editor
For everything Captain Marvel does right, it never really pushes the boat out completely. Not to say the film is poor or anything; far from it. Captain Marvel succeeds via some strong performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Lashana Lynch and some great cinematography and visual effects with the de-aging tech and overall CGI being the most impressive. Add to this a surprisingly well paced second and third act, well-helmed bombastic action and some intriguing thematic ideas on the casualties of war, and Captain Marvel has that feeling of a better than average Marvel film, not falling into the trap of just being a leisurely romp. Credit should also be given to the film’s well-timed comedic beats and the addition of Goose the cat. Who doesn’t love their cats? It’s an enthusiastic superhero film and a ton of fun.
Unfortunately, the consistently good filmmaking means it feels like the film never really goes to the same lengths other Marvel films have gone to. The first act is misjudged and really struggles to give a good first impression for Captain Marvel herself, played amicably by Brie Larson. The musical score is poor, never really being given the room to stand out and feeling under-developed. The villain is fine but seems slightly too generic by the film’s end, and the thematic ideas around the film’s central war plot are sacrificed in favour of a typically overblown, albeit spectacular finale. With all this, Captain Marvel struggles to stand out and feels, disappointingly, too safe. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are good here, but don’t stand out like the Russo brothers in Avengers: Infinity War, Taika Waititi in Thor: Ragnarok or Ryan Coogler in Black Panther.
In spite of this, it does achieve its aim. It will definitely excite Marvel fans ahead of the release of Avengers: Endgame and provide a fun cinema experience. It’s just a shame it tries to be a bit too Marvel as opposed to being its own Captain Marvel.
Matt Taylor – Film Editor
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel represents the first female-led film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and boy, is it long overdue. It’s a wild and explicitly feminist ride from start to finish, with some great laughs and plenty of character work, but it is ultimately held back by a lack of a clear antagonist.
Brie Larson is perfectly suited to the titular role. She imbues an earnest humanity into Carol Danvers, and carries both the stunt-heavy action scenes and deeper character work with ease. Samuel L Jackson appears as a CGI-de-aged Nick Fury (and for once, this effect doesn’t look at all wonky or distracting), who is just finding his feet as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. As such, he’s less world-weary and more jokey – his interactions with Goose the cat are some of the film’s comedic highlights. Ben Mendelsohn manages to make us feel sympathy for the Skrulls (whoever thought that would happen?), and Jude Law plays stern teacher Yon-Rogg with considerably more energy that he brought to his previous franchise movie (Fantastic Snooze: The Crimes of Grindelbored).
Humour and action are characteristic of MCU movies, and Captain Marvel has both in spades. Thanks to surprisingly confident and assured direction from Boden and Fleck, everything is balanced well. While there’s admittedly more humour than we’ve come to expect from these movies, it never detracts from the more important stuff. The film’s action sequences are well-shot and exciting, and incorporate character development into them, even as we’re being shown just how powerful Carol is.
It seems a shame, then, that for all the excellent work it does, it is held back from true greatness by a lack of a clear antagonist. This is especially frustrating in the final act, when the conflict does come to a head – but ultimately this is of little consequence. Captain Marvel does so many things right, so many more than I can touch on here, that a missing villain doesn’t matter all that much. The rest of it works so well and is so important that we can’t help but yearn for both Carol and the film to keep on going – to go higher, further, faster. Thankfully, they do.
Sam Denyer – Film Critic
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a bad track record when it comes to leading women on-screen. Twenty-one films in and Captain Marvel is the first to be headlined solely by a woman. Such speaks, at least partly, to the dearth of big-name female superheroes across all media, a glass ceiling that now has an Amazonian-shaped hole in it. Captain Marvel is an admirable first attempt to play catch-up, even if Marvel are going to have to overhaul their formula in future efforts when they cannot rely on the novelty of this new, female hero.
Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck deliver one of Marvel’s better origin stories, but the beats often feel too familiar. They are most successful with the new: Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is a muted, arch heroine, a marked departure from the arrogant wit of Iron Man or the straight-as-an-arrow Captain America. This makes the humour feel fresh, helped by the return of Samuel L. Jackson as a younger and more naïve Nick Fury. Their odd-couple relationship is charming, but both have even more enjoyable relationships elsewhere: Fury takes a liking to a rather extraordinary cat, while Larson and Lashana Lynch are affecting in their depiction of a warm female friendship. Such a dynamic is all too rare within the Marvel oeuvre.
It would be too generous to call the film’s feminist message subtext, even if such is novel enough within the Marvel canon to be exciting despite only going skin-deep. Carol’s male mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) tells her that she must keep her emotions in check if she is going to succeed as a warrior, planting the seeds of a loose theme of empowerment which is genuinely thrilling in its era-stitching climax, but is too often lost amidst bland action and a messy first hour. It is a testament to Larson’s talent that she still leaves one hell of an impression.
Alex Cirant-Taljaard – Comment Editor
After a sizeable amount of controversy and some lacklustre first reviews, I was slightly concerned that Captain Marvel would be the first true flop in the MCU. Now that I’ve seen it (and seen the impressive box office numbers), I know that will not be the case. Captain Marvel is a solid entry into the MCU, even if there are a few caveats to it.
First though, the good things. As expected, the best parts of this film are the interactions between Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. Their chemistry helps to hold the occasionally uneven film together. Ben Mendelsohn too is very effective as the shapeshifting Talos, and surprisingly offers much of the film’s comic relief. The plot, while not particularly novel or inspired, is solid, and is punctuated with action set-pieces that do a great job of stirring up excitement for Captain Marvel’s inevitable showdown with Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. However, there is an odd disconnect within the film that means it is difficult to buy it as a whole package. The film has two central messages, with one being that Carol does not have to prove herself to her commander, played by Jude Law. This works effectively, and acts as a vehicle for the wider message that women do not have to define themselves based on the parameters set out by men.
However, the secondary theme, which is that war is unjust and questioning your previously held beliefs on warfare is good, is less convincing. The war between the Kree and the Skrulls does not go in the way we may expect it to, resulting in a surprising amount of sympathy for the unexpected side. However, in the film Danvers still holds the US Air Force in high esteem, changing the colours of her suit to match those of an Air Force t-shirt. The marketing for the film has similarly been military heavy, resulting in a weird disconnect between one of the films central themes and the actions of its characters. To see Captain Marvel reject organised military entirely would have been both bold and satisfying, but I recognise that is unlikely to happen in a film aiming for both critical praise and commercial success.
‘Captain Marvel’ is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from the 15th July.