Film review: ‘CAPTAIN MARVEL’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Arriving fairly late in the all-consuming Marvel movie franchise is Captain Marvel an origin story not only for the title character but for a couple of Marvel Comics Universe characters and in some ways a prequel to a few of the Marvel films. While this movie provides occasional amusement, moments of impressive spectacle and excitement and finally a female lead, it’s mostly a clunky and derivative space fantasy.

The woman who will become Captain Marvel is introduced as an alien commando Vers (Brie Larson) a member of the technologically advanced but war-like Kree people who were referenced in the Guardians of the Galaxy. While on a mission she’s abducted by the Kree’s enemies the green, pointy-eared shape shifters the Skrull who are led by Aussie-accented Talos (Ben Mendelssohn). During a good old-fashioned alien mind probe Vers has flashes of another life in which she appears to be a human Air Force pilot and a protégé of Annette Benning. When she escapes the Skrull and crash lands on earth in 1995, she sets about uncovering her identity. Teaming up with SHIELD’s Nick Fury (a CGI-rejuvenated Samuel L. Jackson) she battles various nemeses while realising the extent of her mysterious powers which include phenomenal fighting skills and the ability to shoot flames out of her hands.

Often recalling the ‘alien super-being goofs around on Earth’ plot of the first Thor film, Captain Marvel flip-flops between extremely noisy, confusing although occasionally thrilling scenes of destruction and mostly forgettable attempts at character development and comedy relief. Set in 1995 the film predictably makes a few gags about primitive 90’s computer tech and pop culture of the time and in the process makes anyone who was an adult then feel extremely ancient.

Brie Larson is appropriately feisty and physical for the role of the superhuman Captain Marvel but looks slightly bemused throughout the film as if she’s restraining laughter at being paid to walk around spouting silly dialogue and wearing what one character describes as a laser-tag uniform. Samuel L. Jackson is exactly the same as he is in every other film (which is a good thing) and his pairing with deadly white female with a forgotten past recalls The Long Kiss Goodnight. As wrinkly alien Talos, go-to guy for creepy villains, Ben Mendelssohn is amusingly ridiculous and appears to be mostly taking the piss throughout the film. Jude Law also appears as Vers’ gung-ho commander and brings his usual pretty boy with a dark side quality to the role. Other recognisable cast members like DJimon Hounshou who plays a kind of Kree samurai are largely wasted.

Beneath its eye ball-pummelling surface of space ships and explosions, the film makes a half-hearted attempt to address weightier issues such as the plight of refugees and female empowerment but it doesn’t deal with these subjects in a particularly complex, insightful or compelling way.

For what is largely an effects film, the CGI is a mixed bag with some fluid space opera battle sequences and yet some surprisingly unconvincing depictions of alien worlds, the scenes of the Blade Runner-esque Kree city strangely lack depth and clarity.

Being set in the 1990s there are of course some familiar and very welcome tunes on the soundtrack including tracks from Nirvana, Garbage and Elastica although these aren’t used to enhance scenes the way Guardians of the Galaxy did so effectively with it’s 70’s rock classics.

As a piece of pure ‘park your brain at the door’ entertainment Captain Marvel probably deserves an extra half a star but Marvel movie fatigue is now weighing heavily on the franchise (at least for this reviewer) and this film doesn’t leave us salivating for the next instalment of the Captain’s antics.

Nick’s rating: **1/2

Genre: Superhero/ action.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Anna Boden / Ryan Fleck.

Release date: 7th Mar 2019.

Running time: 124 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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