If Captain Marvel was a completely independent comic book movie origin story, divorced from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I would rate it as an OK, if forgettable, popcorn adventure movie. It has the requisite action, humor, snark, and nostalgia. But I kinda felt like it failed to deliver on the contract for an origin story.
The payoff on an origin story is that there is an emotional turning point where the character goes through a transformative trauma that is both physical and emotional so that you truly understand the superhero and his/her motivation and mission. I can see where they were trying to do that in Captain Marvel, but somehow I didn’t feel it. Captain Marvel is literally transformed from an average mortal to a god-like being and it felt more like someone dealing with the personal baggage she grew up with.
Much of the script is extremely clumsy. You know who the actual villain is going to be within about the tenth line of the character’s dialogue. There are other scenes that were not choreographed well and it was very hard to follow what was going on. There are kumbaya moments at the end that I thought bordered on cringeworthy. As a result, I was more drawn to the origin story of some of the secondary characters more than the superhero. The 90’s nostalgia and the cute (if overused) cat were the highlights for me.
But my real problem with Captain Marvel is how she is being slotted into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We have been following the adventures of The Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Scarlett Witch, Hawkeye, Vision, Black Panther, etc., etc. for well over a decade now. Their fight to save the universe is deeply personal and deeply vested in their psyche. We have every reason to stand with them and be on their side and root for them in their battle to save the Universe from Thanos. And now, relatively out of nowhere, comes Captain Marvel inserted into the universe at the last second who, by all appearances in the movie, far out classes all of our beloved characters in terms of power and capabilities and she appears to be positioned to save our gang of superheroes in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. She literally has no weakness articulated in the movie. Not good. I want to see The Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Scarlett Witch, Hawkeye, Vision, Black Panther, and all the rest of the gang defeat Thanos. I don’t want to see them rescued from Thanos by Captain Marvel. Even if Captain Marvel’s role in Avengers: Endgame is relatively small, I don’t have a reason to root for her and celebrate her fighting Thanos because she hasn’t been part of the gang in the past movies. There’s no way we can be invested in her success. It looks to me like Captain Marvel runs the risk of being a Mary Sue insert into the culmination of the most well-rounded and believable comic book series ever. Time will tell.
I’m not willing to say Captain Marvel is a bad movie. There are certainly many worse superhero movies out there. I enjoyed my time sitting in the movie theater. But I don’t think it lives up to the standards we’ve come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.