Every time some egghead in, for example, The New Yorker reviews a comic book movie, I feel like they’re missing the point.
Watching film with a critical eye is important. But it’s also important to remember that superhero flicks aren’t made for critics. They’re made for mass consumption, designed so that even the casual moviegoer can enjoy the experience. Likewise, any political message they have is willfully streamlined so that the kids watching them can absorb it. (And make no mistake, these movies are meant for kids.) Captain Marvel is no different.
Set in the mid-1990s, Oscar winner Brie Larson plays Vers (real name: Carol Danvers), an elite warrior and member of an alien special forces unit who appears to be unstuck in time. She’s haunted by disjointed memories of a past and planet she can’t recognize. But after a sneak attack on the shapeshifting Skrulls goes awry, Vers finds herself on the planet in her dreams: Earth. With the help of Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (a de-aged Samuel L. Jackson), she discovers her real identity and purpose as one of the galaxy’s true noble warrior heroes.Because the real world is trash, Captain Marvel was already playing with the deck stacked against it. Trolls — mostly pathetic, misogynistic grown-ass men — attempted to sabotage the movie through negative reviews, many of which were posted weeks before the film was even released. God forbid these chuds have to watch a boom-boom movie in which the female character does something other than agree with a dude!
This is why Larson’s casting as the title character was such an inspired choice. If you saw her awards-magnet performance in Room, you already know Brie Larson is one of her generation’s most naturally gifted performers. But beyond that, she’s an outspoken feminist and champion for women all over, so having her front a film meant to empower a new generation of women is one of Captain Marvel’s great successes. Plus, her easy chemistry with Jackson (with whom she also starred in Kong: Skull Island) is one of the real highlights of the film.
And visually, it’s pretty fun to watch. Captain Marvel is a freewheeling, psychedelic adventure through space. And it’s got some of the best cinematic flying scenes since Top Gun. (It nearly matches that ’80s cheesefest in cocksure swagger; Larson has a Cruisian ability to make even blankness look expressive.)This is not to say, however, that Captain Marvel is a movie without faults. With the exception of its female lead, the film doesn’t cover any ground that hasn’t been done before by Marvel Studios. The effects are good, but it’s no Doctor Strange. It’s funny, but not like Thor: Ragnarok. And the world it builds isn’t quite as compelling as Black Panther. But that just may be a problem with origin stories in general: There’s so much exposition to fit in that everything else takes a backseat.
Plus, it handles its 1990s period setting somewhat clumsily. Look, it’s Blockbuster Video! The computer is loading so slowly! Period pieces work best when they aren’t constantly winking at you. There’s a feeling throughout that filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck tried to make the ’90s as much of a character as Carol or Fury. And this, at times, can detract from the story, though I did enjoy hearing Madison heroes Garbage on the soundtrack.
The bottom line is that I liked Captain Marvel. I didn’t love it and there are things I would do differently, but that’s kind of the point. This isn’t a movie for me. This is a movie for young women the world over in need of a powerful hero; the psychotic pre-backlash to the film goes to show that there’s still a long way to go in that regard. Captain Marvel’s message isn’t nuanced for a reason. Who gives a shit what some dude from The New Yorker says? If it inspires even one girl seeing it to fly higher, farther and faster, it succeeded.