I have to wonder if there’s enough room in the pop culture lexicon for one more superhero. The little flick that could, “Captain Marvel,” is out just weeks before the earth-shattering event that will be “Avengers: Endgame.” This film is vying for your attention, and it’s hard to say it has the right stuff to get it.
This is the origin story of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), a Kree warrior with a mysterious past. The Kree are an alien race of “noble warrior heroes,” and Danvers is on a Special Forces-type team set to take out the Skrulls, a shape-shifting species feared for their unpredictability.
Danvers has power, unlike the others, energy coursing through her, and the Kree have promised to help her control it. Oh, and she conveniently has amnesia.
You know the drill. We’re at movie number twenty-two at this point, so you’re probably pretty sick of origin stories (even the recent “Spider-Man: Homecoming” knew this well enough to skip the origin altogether.)
In some ways, “Captain Marvel” rewards those loyal Marvel fans. Once Danvers gets to the 1990’s Earth, it isn’t long before she meets S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), now with 100% more eyes. This Fury is brasher and more youthful than the one we met in 2008’s “Iron Man.”
His inclusion is welcome because Danvers would be unable to carry the film on her own.
Larson’s portrayal of Danvers is off-putting for many audience members. She isn’t played with many personalities, or at least not the kind Marvel fans are used to in their heroes. Danvers is both cautious and angry. She’s as smart as they come, but the warmth to her personality is buried with the memories of Danvers’ past that we pick up through the film.
Power is the main driver here, but not in the normal “superpowers” kind of way. In fact, the superpowers kind of take a back seat here. In this film, knowledge is the greatest power of all, not-so-subtly alluded to at the beginning on the Kree’s home planet of Hala. Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Danvers’s superior and trainer, almost looms over our hero during the beginning sequence, withholding information from Danvers and warning her of the danger of using her power.
Danvers only regains her true power when she learns the truth about not only her past but the true intentions of both the Kree and the Skrulls. It was revealed to be a race without a planet searching for a home.
The allusions to the refugee crises currently afflicting the real world are almost too subtle, as a greater point is never really made.
But a greater point has never really been the goal of Marvel movies. While many of them offer stories of strong individuals overcoming adversity, it’s hard not to see the edges of the puzzle pieces that make up the plot lines. They’re like soap opera entertainment or a Saturday morning cartoon designed just to set up the next one.
“Captain Marvel” was not a bad flick, though I found myself with the same sort of deja vu feeling Danvers had. Eventually, audiences will grow bored of the formula and tired of stakes that don’t actually alter the status quo.
Following the most boring Oscars season in years, “Captain Marvel” ultimately feels like a piece of disposable entertainment. Expect to see Danvers’s greatest power, deus ex machina, revealed next month in “Avengers: Endgame”