Captain Marvel takes herself so seriously that if you tried calling her a superhero she’d slap you halfway across the galaxy. Her broodiness reminds me of Batman, although he at least enjoys dramatic entrances. She just shows up with a frown on her face and beats the hell out of bad guys before jetting off somewhere more important.
Somewhat understandably. Carol Danvers (played by Brie Larson) experienced endless humiliations and failures as a young girl like falling off her bicycle or missing ropes in basic training much to the laughter of her schoolmates and manly air force buds. The chip she wears on her shoulder does more for her than the flame in her wrist.
As a grown woman endowed with special powers from a galactic energy accident, we meet her brainwashed on the alien planet Kree (you may recall from Guardians of the Galaxy), training with her attack squad mentor, Yon-Rogg played by Jude Law.
Rogg’s goal is to make her a fighting machine and “the best that she can be,” but without the nuisance of her unwieldy powers. From what I gather, her abilities provide fiery blasts that can shoot Rogg back with the simple clench of her fist should she get angry. Her biggest weakness? How she lets her emotions control these powers.
But this just isn’t true. Danvers has no emotions. She never laughs, never cries, hell — she doesn’t even get sleepy. If Thor is a demigod blessed with the human quality of narcissism, then Danvers is a demigod sucked dry of all human interest or empathy. She already is the best that she can be! The only thing stopping her is the completion of her backstory which is teased time and again with blips of a sand-struck Danvers continually falling down.
Her real powers are her determination and toughness, like an unstoppable asteroid rather than a mistreated human. The flames are just for show. Spinners in the hubcap of a sports car.
Larson is perfectly relaxed as Danvers and has all the correct expressions to suggest peril and confusion, but she doesn’t sell it. As a human, she’s infallible to the point of perfection, and as a demigod she exudes the excitement of a shooting star: brief, and far, far away.
Luckily, the supporting cast provides wonderful entertainment. Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as 1995 Nick Fury thanks to de-aging computer effects. However, it is Ben Mendelsohn who actually steals the show for comedic timing and pure silliness. To see him lose his typecast villainy is refreshing. More comedies would do Ben good.
Also entertaining are the action sequences themselves. I can’t speak down to the film’s use of CGI which blends outer space light shows with earthly period detail. There’s a cleanliness to the film’s effects that didn’t exist in Black Panther or Ant-Man and the Wasp. I enjoyed the action, although the carnivorous kitty was a bit much.
The true test now will be whether or not enjoyable action sequences compensate for the most boring hero in the MCU. I don’t know that they can. It’ll be fun to see Captain Marvel fly alongside the Avengers, but what else I could possibly learn about her from potential sequels is unclear.
Questions like where are her parents? Did she always want to be a pilot? What are her disappointments? fall to the wayside when considering she wants almost nothing to do with the home planet from where she came. She can do anything; do we care for someone who is unstoppable?
Even Superman had noslalgic reasons to visit Krypton. Nothing tethers Captain Marvel back to Earth but a friendship with Nick Fury. Is that enough?