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As a fair and impartial film critic, I need to state this: I don't care about the controversy surrounding Brie Larson or the agendas this movie is trying to push or not. I'm not part of any hate group or factions that hate those hate groups. I just want to watch a good superhero origin film, that introduces me to a new character that I'm supposed to care about and root for. Read my review, sure, but make up your own mind. Go see the movie and be honest. Since that's out of the way, let's keep going ...
It was always going to be a huge risk trying to introduce such an important and powerful character like Carol Danvers into the end of Phase Three. Not only she comes from nowhere (as far as I remember, she was barely mentioned in previous films or even not mentioned at all before Infinity War), but it's the last movie before the climactic, era-ending Avengers: Endgame. She is the one who is going to take our heroes to victory against Thanos, the bad guy who I dare say easily defeated on his own pretty much every superhero we knew until that moment. So, while I was not expecting an outstanding story packed with phenomenal action, I was also hoping for more than just a simple origin film like it came from Phase One.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what I got. Everything is fine. Just okay. There's no exceptional fight scene, but most of it is decent. There's no visual wonder, but it doesn't look bad. The characters' potential feels wasted, but they work for the plot. Everything is frustratingly balanced, which is something I would praise in a bunch of other movies, but this isn't 2008 anymore. Marvel isn't starting its cinematic universe, it is almost finishing a whole arc involving more than 20 installments! I'm going straight to the one character everyone wants to talk about: Goose ... Sorry, Captain Marvel! Jokes aside, this is one of the issues I was worried about going into the film theater. I escaped 99% of the marketing for this movie as I do with every other flick. I didn't watch a single clip/trailer, I know as much about the controversy surrounding this installment as my dog and I kept my expectations realistic having in mind what I truly know about the film and only the film itself. The one thing I was not able to hide from were the headlines giving tremendous praise to ... a cat.
Now, follow me on this: I'm going to watch a superhero origin movie. A whole new character is waiting for me at the big screen. I'm excited to know more about her, where does she come from, what her powers are and so much more. Some headlines show up on my social media feed, and I find that a CAT "steals the show," "deserves a spin-off," and I don't even know what more. Granted, the cat is indeed funny. It provides some chuckles here and there. That's it. I love cats, but I honestly can't figure out why everyone is so amazed by an animal doing animal things. Maybe it's because the rest of the film isn't that entertaining ... or perhaps just because people really, really love cats. Like the movie itself, I think it's a mixture of both options.
Back to what matters and to who everyone should be talking about: Brie Larson. Marvel rarely misses its casting choices, and being Larson an Academy-Award winner, her talent is undeniable. She has everything she needs to consistently deliver a strong performance, so I'm surprised that she couldn't stand out from the film's overall blandness. I repeat, the movie isn't bad, at all. However, I was expecting an actress of Brie Larson's caliber to elevate, at least, her own character, but she's like everyone else: just good enough. I don't know if her performance was limited by bad direction or by her own decisions, but the potential is there, and I'm sure the Russo brothers will give her a much more thrilling arc in Endgame.
The two best attributes of the entire film are, without a single doubt, the buddy-cop relationship that Carol and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) develop, and the groundbreaking de-aging CGI. Story-wise, the interactions between these two characters are so captivating and humorous that the pacing issues of the first act gradually start to disappear. Carol's past is often approached with quick flashes and a lot of cheap exposition, so it's a breath of fresh air to have SLJ and Larson play off of each other. Nevertheless, the de-aging technology used is absolutely astounding. My fellow readers, welcome to the future of filmmaking, where any actor/actress can portray a younger version of themselves and not be visually disturbing. I completely forgot SLJ is 70-years-old! The best visual effects/CGI are the ones you don't even know they're there and Captain Marvel succeeds in delivering mind-blowing, realistic, younger versions of well-known actors.
Character-wise, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck should have done way better. So much wasted potential in such a crucial moment in the MCU. Carol Danvers has a great backstory, but the way it was explored kind of diminishes its impact. Still, as Captain Marvel, she is indeed a badass woman! There are some cool action sequences, especially in the beginning, but as the movie slowly progresses on its story, the fight scenes got more sloppy, choppy and way too dark. Jude Law (Yon-Rogg) is amazing as he always is, and Ben Mendelsohn is brilliant as Talos. Both characters have interesting subplots that come together well, which is not something that can be said for the rest of the Marvel "villains."
Technically ... You guessed it, it's okay! Taking away the jaw-dropping de-aging CGI, the visuals seem to lack some sort of style. Looking back at Black Panther, Captain America or Guardians of the Galaxy, each movie has a visual aesthetic that belongs to their own stories. Captain Marvel doesn't really feel like it has its own style. I truly feel that with other directors, this film could have been way better. Boden and Fleck already proved that they are capable filmmakers, but maybe they were not ready to lead such a massive blockbuster. That said, the 90s score is awesome and quite adequate to the movie's period. There are a couple of moments where the VFX regarding Carol Danvers's powers are spectacular, but everything ultimately feels like this is a Phase One film, instead of the 21st MCU installment.
All in all, Captain Marvel achieves the minimum requirements: introduce the fans to a new superhero, who is going to be extremely important in the eventual defeat of Thanos. Carol Danvers is a fascinating character with an emotional backstory, but the screenplay isn't structured or explored in the most entertaining way possible. Brie Larson delivers a strong performance, pushing aside her haters, even if I feel that under other directors, she would have reached her character's full potential. Her scenes with Samuel L .Jackson are hilarious and the best part of the whole movie, as well as the groundbreaking de-aging CGI, which is absolutely mind-blowing. The action sequences needed better editing and some more choreography (this is MCU's Phase Three and 2019, so I want to be able to actually see what's happening), but the most prominent "issue" is how the story blindly obeys the superhero origin film's formula. This isn't exactly a flaw or a problem, it's just that I was expecting more. A lot more.
In the end, there's not a memorable fight scene, an emotionally overwhelming moment or even a genuinely bone-chilling, epic scene. It doesn't leave you salivating for Avengers: Endgame, but it also doesn't leave you less excited. Everything is just ... fine. And there's nothing wrong with that. But there's also nothing extraordinary.