‘Captain Marvel’ Blu-Ray Review: A Solid, Uninspired Entry In The Marvel Catalogue
It has become increasingly difficult to review Marvel movies. In the glory days of 2008, one could watch Iron Man and judge it on its merits as a film alone. Over a decade later, however, the story has gotten a bit more complicated. The Marvel Cinematic Universe now includes 23 movies (and counting), and taking any one of them on solely its own terms is now virtually impossible.
With this in mind, Captain Marvel has done very little to differentiate itself from the pack. When it was released in early 2019, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck‘s entry into the MCU served as something of a palette cleanser for the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, an opportunity to get introduced to Brie Larson‘s Carol Danvers — the missing ingredient in the Avengers’ quest to defeat Thanos once and for all.
Captain Marvel, however, lacks such ambitions of grandeur. It functions as a watchable, amusing, sometimes inspiring but rarely novel origin story for Danvers, one that uses the well-worn Marvel cocktail of A-list actors, simple-minded humor, copious amounts of fan service, and barely-memorable setpieces in an attempt to keep viewers happy. Its risks are few and so are its payoffs.
The film’s plot is absurdly fast-paced and generally convoluted, moving along at just the right pace to keep the viewer’s brow from furrowing over some of its details. Captain Marvel follows Danvers as she attempts to live up to expectations of her mentor Yon-Rogg (played by Jude Law) and stop her planet’s ongoing war with the Skrull, a shapeshifting race familiar to any Marvel fans.
What is intended to be a routine mission for Yon-Rogg, Danvers, and company spirals out of control and lands Danvers on Earth, where she is suddenly tasked with both recovering a light-speed engine and collecting elements of her fragmented memory. If that all sounds like a bit much, that’s because it is.
Thankfully, the film’s plotting is populated with a host of (over)qualified actors. Samuel L. Jackson reprises his MCU role as Nick Fury, only this time with a significant amount of digital de-aging. While the animation is not perfect, it does avoid many of the Polar Express—esque lows found in another prominent 2019 feature, The Irishman. Also joining the crew is the perennially under-appreciated Ben Mendelsohn as a Skrull agent and Annette Bening as multiple figures, both of them too complicated and spoiler-y to explain here.
One refreshing change-up to the Marvel formula is the quality of the fight scenes in Captain Marvel. Whereas many of its peers feature super-powered characters battling waves of faceless drones, this movie keeps its violence relatively tight and well-choreographed. The finale, while a tad bit overlong, ensures that all confrontations have at least some level of meaning and are generally accompanied with a satisfying send-off.
The overall engine of the film, as is the case with so many Marvel movies, still leaves much to be desired. Nearly all of the humor is either built around eyeroll-inducing references to the 1990s or with gags simple enough for the movie’s youngest audiences. The moral choices being asked of Danvers are depressingly simple, and the sparse moments of female-focused empowerment the movie includes feel more like bones being thrown to fans than meaningful instances of triumph. If you’ve seen an MCU movie before, very little in Captain Marvel will surprise you.
All of this leads me back to the beginning: Marvel movies are almost impossible to score. One the one hand, they are generally well-plotted, competently-acted, visually engaging, and without any major flaws — in a word, entertaining. On the other hand, they’re wholly unoriginal, uninteresting, and often border on the meaningless. Captain Marvel, along with many of its peers, is more like a top-tier amusement park ride than it is a real movie. Fun? Absolutely, but very little else.
The Blu-ray special features will be of special note to any MCU fan. In addition to deleted scenes and outtakes, short features on Danvers’s “Big Hero Moment,” the origin of Nick Fury, and the design of the Kree and Skrull races are on offer here. Nothing groundbreaking, but interesting tidbits for those invested in the film’s construction.