In honor of the release of “Captain Marvel,” today I’m going to try a new style of critique. It’s short, personal and only vaguely spoiler–free, so let’s jump right into it.
The first problem with “Captain Marvel” is that its protagonist has this extremely inconsistent characterization to the point that it’s hard to discern just what kind of hero she is. One moment, she’s a battle-hardened soldier, the next, a total goofball who fights villains by throwing witty quips at them. And the one-liners were well-written, sure, but they felt wrong coming out of her mouth because of who I’d previously been led to believe she was. It was awkward. I got whiplash. If the movie had been longer, it possibly could have characterized her a little better. Amnesiac protagonists in particular tend to need outstanding personalities to make the trope work. Where we usually have backstory to build up the character, in the case of someone who doesn’t remember their past, and doesn’t really have a clear personality, we have nothing to help us discover who she is as a person.
But before I make you think that I didn’t enjoy the movie, let me tell you, I did. I liked it as least as much as I liked “Doctor Strange,” and “Doctor Strange” didn’t have a lot of fun 90s paraphernalia to play with throughout the film. Or a young Samuel L. Jackson so flawlessly CGI’d in that my mother didn’t even notice him. Also, I personally thought the twist was pretty great, although I know I probably would have been less shocked by the reveal if I’d remembered who the bad guys from “The Avengers” were back in 2012. The whole story actually melded quite nicely into the existing ‘Avengers’ narrative. I think it’ll be interesting to see the role Carol Danvers plays in the upcoming ‘Endgame.’ And although it was kind of mean for Marvel to tease a non-fully–computer-generated climax with that excellent confrontation scene towards the end, I’ll give them points for not leveling entire Earth cities this time.
But back to my complaints. I don’t think you’ll hear anyone say that it isn’t absolutely egregious that in 11 years, “Captain Marvel” is the very first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have a woman in the title role. That’s a fact, they can’t change it, and I honestly couldn’t tell if it made the film better or worse. Not the fact that it had a woman in the title role; that was great. But the fact that it was the very first, and it showed. The movie was filled with this kinda heavy-handed, safe–for–work feminism that just didn’t do anything but remind me that apparently in 2019, it’s still an enormous deal for a woman to be the main player in a superhero film. It’s a good thing, sure, but it should already be happening. In the end, if there’s anything I want people to take away from this review, and from the film in general, it’s that you should make friends with all cats so they don’t eat you alive, don’t judge a book by its scary green alien cover, and women can be heroes without their gender being the forefront of their character. Thank you.