Captain Marvel is good but less than marvelous.

I caught the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel, this weekend. It runs along the same quality as most of the origin stories: not terrible but not as great as Thor or Iron-man. What disappointed me most in the flick was that Brie Larson, who played Carol Danvers, failed to live up the feminist film hero. Since this movie was one of very few female superhero-based ideas, the story should have equated her with Wonder Woman in terms of icon status. It did not.Cap Marvel

The movie starts on a distant planet where the Kree rule. Carol Danvers, simply known as Vers at this time, wakes from an Earth-related dream and deals with it by training with her Kree mentor (Jude Law). He teaches her to fight and control (i.e. suppress) her abilities. Her power comes from energy jets that blast from her fists, but she is also mastering martial arts so she can fight without using her special ability. As the movie progresses, we learn that Vers, who considers herself an amnesiac Kree, is really an Earthling survivor of an incredible energy explosion. Hence the origin of her power.

The Plot

The story was engaging. We saw the amnesiac go through the emotional discovery of her past as the real Carol Danvers emerges. Several wicked plot twists have her questioning everything she knew. In the end, she learns her closest companions have lied to her for six years. She alone must learn the truth of who is the enemy and the victims. One of the best feminist scenes in the film was when her male enemy is yelling “come on! Let’s fight! No powers!” (not a direct quote). She pops a power blast into him that sends him spiraling across a field and into a rock. When she stands over him, she states, “I don’t have to prove anything to you.” Something most women should say to men who challenge their worth.

Part of the disconnect for me was in the setting. I thought I was going to see an Earth-hero movie. When the movie started and stayed for a while in the Guardians of the Galaxy setting, I then had expected some of the lighthearted banter that Guardians had perfected. Not in this film. The audience saw familiar faces and strong enough references to know this was set before the first Guardians film. Even though the director added some of the same pop-music feel, it didn’t come off successfully. This movie was simply a dark view of the galaxy.

The Characters

In addition, Brie Larson never took Vers’ or Captain Marvel’s emotions out of grim fuming mode. We saw fuming-but-unsure and fuming-but-confident but very little else. For example, when she was at the crisis point of the plot, fighting for her life, we saw no strain or focused emotional depth to show us that she was maturing from doubtful soldier to rebel powerhouse. I suspect this is a director’s decision and not the actress’s doing, yet it made the character less likeable. Although her best friend states that Carol Danvers is “funny”, the director never proved it to us. This is unfortunate since the plot had plenty of opportunities for small comic highlights for her.

In addition, she didn’t come off as heroesque and certainly not as a “defender of the Earth.” What I mean is that Larson doesn’t have the physical look that audiences (or at least that I) have come to associate with comic book movies. After all, Captain America, Wolverine (yes, I know he isn’t part of the MCU), Thor, Iron-Man in his suit, Superman, and even Wonder Woman all come off as visually larger than life. Even Black Widow, though average size, carries an aura of more-than-everyday-hero attitude. These heroic proportions are at the very heart of comic book art. True, Spider-Man and the Flash aren’t necessarily tall and brawny, but their characters and powers  dictate they be young and wiry, rather than beefy. Larson is shorter than many people in the movie and even in costume doesn’t look all that heroic without her glow.

Other Origin Stories

Captain Marvel is also a thin origin tale for Nick Fury, played by Samuel Jackson with a computer-enhanced young-looking face. We learn about his early days in S.H.I.E.L.D. and where the idea of the Avengers Initiative comes from. Jackson’s ability to deliver great lines and infuse humor is one of the best aspects of this movie. The one problem with young Nick Fury is that, although he looks in his early thirties, the body’s use in action scenes still screams a 71-year-old man. I love Sammy, but his ability to move swiftly and deal with fighting looked off.

Ladies, check it out.

Despite the negative review, I suggest fans of the Avenger comic movies go see Captain Marvel for completeness. She will figure prominently in Avengers: Endgame as indicated by the sneak preview at the end of the Captain Marvel movie. In fact, that is the only reason I think this movie was made. The resolution of the Thanos problem should not look like a cheap magician’s hat trick. Plus, I want ladies to see it to encourage more use of women in top hero roles. The days of the damsel in distress are over. They flocked to Wonder Woman for that reason. Captain Marvel, even flawed, should inspire the same rallying cry.

One final note. The producers or director had fun putting in light references to other great movies. Just for fun, see how many other films and comic books shout-outs you can catch. The producers created a wonderful homage to Stan Lee in the opening credits, and they dropped in some other nods to great movies as well. Here are some hints: References to previous versions of the captain, Men in Black, Independence Day, and Top Gun.

Avengers: Infinity War, Epic Fights, Space Battles and…

Although I’ve seen most of the comic book movies over the last 15 years, the genre is not one of my film favorites. However, this third Avengers movie promised to be, well, super because of the all-star cast from so many other good movies coming together. It should have stirred the heart strings and made my pulse race with tension. Instead, it left me with an overwhelming sense of “meh.”

Spoiler Alerts

Avengers: Infinity War had all the major players with the notable exception of Antman. Screen time is dominated by Ironman, Thor, and Peter Quill, although  Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Gamora, and Black Widow play major roles as well. Everyone else in the Marvel movie world shows up in smaller, sometimes bit parts. That’s okay too because having the audience follow too many superheroes in their multiple storylines would be too confusing. The plot bordered on that already with a lot of jumping between Earth attacks and Thanos progressing his way through his stone collection on other worlds. I never felt bored with the movie, but I never engaged with it either.A Infinity Wars

What Went Wrong?

In the roughly 2.5 hours I sat in the theater, I never felt emotionally involved with the film. By trying to force so much story in a short time, the creators didn’t slow down long enough for the audience to develop any attachment to the scenes. Tears should have flowed when Gamora begs for death or when many of the heroes meet their death. Some audience members did cry. Unfortunately, I simply walked away with a feeling that it wasn’t real.

Instead of focusing on the relationships, my mind filled with all the mistakes they made. First if Gamora is so important to Thanos’ scheme, why didn’t she disappear to unknown parts? Surely the galaxy is big enough to hide in. I also felt that Dr. Strange’s character was downgraded dramatically from his stand-alone film. Here is a guy that held another interdimensional god at bay with time manipulations. Why wasn’t this an option again? He also freaked out and befuddled two other gods, Loki and Thor. Granted neither of those have high intelligence skills but Dr. Strange even trapped Loki into an ever-falling dimension. Why could this not happen to Thanos’ minions? I will say (Spoiler!) that Dr. Strange gave the biggest hint of all about the end of the war, (not the same as the end of the movie) in two separate lines.

The end of the movie proved to be worse. During the final fight in Wakanda, the forces of good go up against the forces of alien in an epic battle that reminded me of scenes of Braveheart. It shouldn’t have. Braveheart was set back in the pre-technology days where swords and spears made sense. We’ve got guns people! Bombs! And Wakanda is supposed to own advanced technology. They used it but in limited ways. So why are we fighting hand to hand here? Why not wait to bomb the raging critters after they’ve come through the shield? Why run full speed into battle, exhausting yourself before the first blow and dispersing your troops? Looks good on film but dumb in battle.

Finally, I didn’t go into the theater expecting to see the first in a two-movie story. This always irritates me because I expect a film to wrap up the plot unless it is otherwise advertised. Avengers: Infinity War ends with half or more of the heroes dead. Thanos won. Heck, half of the galaxy is instantly erased from existence. Why do I know it is a two-movie plot? Because no studio would ever kill successful cash cows such as the Black Panther, Spiderman, and Thor without a plan to bring them back. Since the wielder of the infinity stones controls time, reality, and space, death becomes an easy fix.

By the end, I didn’t feel like I wasted money but I would not see it again. Nor am I sure I will buy the Blu-ray when it comes out. Considering I’ve collected many of the comic book movies, that says a lot.

So should you see it? If you’ve followed the comic book movies, then yes, see this film. No doubt the plot will be a major factor in the future MCU films. If you are not a Marvel fan, then don’t bother. For all of its fast pace, great CGI and pageantry, Avengers: Infinity War fails to stand on its own.