Captain Marvel Review: Brie Larson smiles and that’s pretty much the entire movie

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Brie Larson in 'Captain Marvel' (Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios)

Tuesday night, me and my pal, Rich, went to the IMAX theater at Southpoint to watch a screening of Captain Marvel, the official Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of what seemingly is its most powerful hero. This is one people have been waiting for for a while, because for the first time, a movie from the MCU is headlined by a female superhero and she is being played by Brie Larson, who was fresh off an Oscar win when the project was pitched to her. If someone who was in a position to do WHATEVER she wanted wanted to do this project, it had to be good, right?

The good news is Captain Marvel is good. It is a 1990s nostalgia romp surrounded by a fun story and plenty of girl power to feel good about taking your tween daughter to the movies.

I don’t know that I would call this bad news, but if you are an MCU devotee, I guess the…let’s say “letdown” is that Captain Marvel is only good in the sense that it does everything it is supposed to. Storywise, it gets the MCU where it needs to be in time for the debut of Avengers: End Game. Tonally, it is the kind of bridge that really needed to exist between the somber “everything is the most important thing ever” attitude of the Avengers movies with the “what’s wrong with a good fart joke every now and then?” mentality of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. It isn’t exactly memorable. In fact, short of the first two Thor movies and Dr. Strange, which I flat out did not like, Captain Marvel is probably my least favorite entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Brie Larson plays Vers, a human who woke up on the Kree home world with extraordinary powers and no memory of how she got there or how she became more human than human (1990s reference!). She is trying to learn a lot. She has to balance trying to remember who she used to be with understanding how her powers work. On top of all of that, she is now part of the Kree…army I guess? Maybe air force since they have a space ship.

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What is fun about this backstory is the appearance of Dijmon Hounsou as Krorath and Lee Pace as Ronan, two characters we haven’t seen since the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. It’s Marvel’s “nothing is a coincidence” moment.

A mission to rescue one of her colleagues reveals that Brie Larson runs weird, like so weird you wonder if she has ever run before or if she was recovering from temporary paralysis when these scenes were being filmed. It also reveals that our bad guys, the Skrulls, are capable of taking any form and possess enough technology and fire power to make Vers’ life hell.

Vers does battle with the Skrulls. She escapes their ship and ends up on Earth in what I am guessing is either 1995 or 1996. In the span of like two minutes we see a pay phone, a Blockbuster Video, a Radio Shack and hear a Salt n’ Pepa song. If only someone had been complaining about not understanding how to use the new version of Windows, we could have had 95/96 Bingo!

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I was really hung up on the music in this movie. Obviously you want to set the tone and the scene with period-appropriate music, but it was a weird time for music. We were post-grunge but thankfully not yet to nu-metal. We were pre-boy band but sadly out of the days where Jon Secada reigned. The soundtrack is essentially Garbage and Republica’s “Ready to Go” played over and over again.

Vers meets Nick Fury. They run from the head Skrull played by Ben Mendelsohn, because at some point in 2017 a law was apparently passed that if you are making a sci-fi/fantasy movie and Ben Mendelsohn doesn’t play the bad guy you are sentenced to life in prison.

Overall, Captain Marvel is a fine movie. It just relies on the some note a little too often. Brie Larson is the definition of a cutie patootie. Her smile is adorable and the filmmakers lean on it as a kind of crutch. Every joke in this movie is Vers saying something insane very matter of factly, Nick Fury responding like he knows exactly what she is talking about and then Vers giving him her adorable “yeah right” face.

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Here’s an example.

VERS: Skrulls are shapeshifters. Anyone can be one. Maybe you’re one and you just don’t know it.

FURY: Oh, I’d know it because…uh…I have a feeling in my bones that I recognize from when my grandmother fed me turnips when I was 7.

VERS: Really? In your bones?

FURY: In my bones!

VERS: [smiles at Fury like he is a toddler telling her about the time he dunked on a 10 foot rim]

This happens more than a dozen times in the movie. It’s good for Disney that Brie Larson is so charming, otherwise people would be standing up and booing.

So the natural comparison is the other recent girl-power packed superhero movie Wonder Woman. I am sure you’re thinking “Demetri, just cut to the chase. Is Captain Marvel better than Wonder Woman?”.

The answer, fair reader, is I have no idea. All of these superhero movies largely run together to me. Aside from Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, I have not seen any movie in the MCU that I feel like I need to see a second time. I’m always entertained by them, but not enough to invest another 120 to 150 minutes of my life.

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The same is true of Wonder Woman. Look, I remember liking Wonder Woman. I remember that by comparison to the rest of the DC movies it was incredible, but compared to the rest of the DC movies, Earnest Scared Stupid is Citizen Kane. At this point, I couldn’t even really tell you what happened in Wonder Woman.

In time, I am positive the same will be true of Captain Marvel, but for now it is the superhero movie that I saw most recently, so let’s just say it is my favorite.

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