Friday, March 8, 2019


What is there to say? Captain Marvel is the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At this point you know if you like this sort of thing — eighty minutes or so of quips and exposition followed by thirty to forty minutes of CG crashbangboom and a tease for future entries. Me? I like the formula well enough, always less than the rabid fans, but sometimes more than the consistent detractors. This one stars Brie Larson as an amnesiac pilot who woke up as an alien super-warrior. Much like the MCU itself, Larson is sometimes charming as all get out, and other times a total vacant dud on screen. For her role here, she chooses a pleasantly dull middle ground that almost suggests interior life. Her super-strong jet-hands-wielding self crashes down to Earth in 1995, making this a prequel and allowing oft-creepy digital de-aging to find she and we are face-to-face(ish) with waxy younger Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg. On our planet, she’s searching for the typical glowing gewgaws that’ll save or destroy the shape-shifting whatevers. It’s an excuse to do the usual Marvel thing: bright colors, smiling suspense, and glowing hero poses. It held my attention, and even entertained me from time to time. It wears its period detail fairly lightly, a few Blockbusters and CD-ROMs aside, and finds some likable spark in its lead’s scrambled memories. Co-writer and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, whose subtle, empathetic touch in small character studies like Half Nelson, Sugar, and It’s Kind of a Funny Story goes almost totally missing here, scrounge up some flashes of character that are not mere plot device. (Flashes of evocative moments in gloopy montage aside, character still mostly is plot, though.) Otherwise, Boden and Fleck mange the departments just fine, roping in the usual semi-coherent action and streamlined sci-fi designs and bringing on a nicely underplayed ensemble cast once again representative of the MCU’s usual tendency for finding overqualified bit players. (Jude Law! Annette Bening! Ben Mendelsohn!) The particulars of the experience are already vanishing from my mind like Thanos dust while I'm mere minutes from the theater as I type. But it was diverting enough while it lasted, if never as silly or involving as its best franchise siblings can be. You’ll probably read the typical corporate cultist fans overselling the picture and the predictable complainers overstating the case against it. From my perspective, it’s such a big, bland, easy shrug, I can’t imagine getting worked up about it either way.

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