Out of all the superheroes ever created, Superman happens to be one of my least favourites. Between super strength, laser eyes, frost breath and flight, there’s something distinctly detached about a superhero with seemingly unstoppable strength and a poor weakness. While I appreciate Superman has his kryptonite, when it comes to Captain Marvel however, her visible lack of weaknesses makes her a very difficult hero to care about.
One of the most crucial components of a film comes from a compelling antagonist and a real challenge for our characters to face. While many superhero films follow the same plot beats as this traditional hero VS villain arc, Captain Marvel attempts something different and in doing so, fails to achieve anything but a lacklustre prologue to Avengers: Endgame.
The story itself begins in the alien, futuristic city of Hala before bouncing between time periods during a fast-paced, dizzying array of action set pieces and jumps to the past. At the core of the tale lies Carol Danvers, a woman whose discovered by the Kree and trained as a member of the elite Starforce Military under the command of her mentor Yon-Rogg. Inevitably, things go awry as they fly out on a mission together, eventually seeing the story zip forward in time six years where Carol is living on Earth in the midst of an alien attack from the Skrulls.
Amnesia-stricken and unaware the extent to her powers, Carol sets out with Nick Fury on a journey to discover just who she is and the truth behind the invasion itself. All of this leads into an underwhelming climax that wraps everything up nicely in preparation for the other films in the franchise. Given the hype around Captain Marvel going into this, the film itself fails to live up to that, playing out much closer to a prologue than a genuine title that can stand on its own.
To be fair, a lot of this is thanks to Captain Marvel herself. Brie Larson’s shockingly poor portrayal, complete with faraway looks, stiff mannerisms and a genuine apathy to the situations she finds herself in, is certainly a big culprit to this. However, the script itself does her no favours, with no overarching antagonist for much of the film’s run-time until the third act begins. There’s never a time during the film’s 2 hour run that Carol is ever in peril or danger either, thanks in part to the extent of her powers, and this makes much of the title play out in an unintentionally passive manner.
Most of the humour takes cues from the usual trademark Marvel wit and although some of the jokes are quite good, a lot of them never quite hit their mark thanks to the mundane script and clunky feminist themes that never feel organic to the situation. It’s just hard to care about a hero with such a distinct lack of personality, back story and weakness, making her one of the least memorable and detached heroes in this extended universe.
Visually, Captain Marvel ticks all the usual boxes you’d expect from a juggernaut like Disney, with plenty of lavish special effects, visual design and slick action to polish up the otherwise questionable script and plotting. There are some obvious nods toward the 90’s too although most of the time the film beats you over the head with it rather than organically allowing it to flow in the script. From a soldier showing a NERF gun up to the camera through to 90’s songs playing a little too loudly in cars, all of these feel deliberately designed to churn up nostalgia and take some of the attention off the script.
Still, it’s not all bad and there are some nice plot beats and action set pieces here worth checking out. Early on when Carol is just discovering her powers, these moments do work incredibly well and a memorable segment on-board a train is matched only by some of the effects in the final fight. Ultimately though, Captain Marvel fails to inspire and conjure up anything other than a mundane, lacklustre prologue to Avengers: Endgame. While it’s not quite as bad as Thor: The Dark World, it is a close second when it comes to drawing up a list for the worst Marvel films to date.