Female-led ‘Captain Marvel’ may have tried to do too much

Marvel Studios’ newest movie features Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, telling the story of how the heroine that is rumored to be the strongest Avenger came to be.

This article contains spoilers for the movie “Captain Marvel.”

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has always had strong female characters, such as Pepper Potts, Peggy Carter, Natasha Romanoff, Okoye and other kick-butt women. However, they have never really been in the limelight, their characters never the main focus or sole protagonists in any films. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” was the first film with a female lead in the title of the movie, but it still wasn’t as female-fronted as it could have been or as some fans hoped it would be. “Captain Marvel,” however, with Oscar-winning Brie Larson pushed to be front and center in the film, was definitely destined to change that.

As the lights dimmed and the iconic opening sequence began, the audience noticed something, and teary gasps, including my own, filled the theater. Marvel Studios had changed their usual opening to pay tribute to the late Stan Lee. Instead of Iron Man, Captain America or Thor, all the images were replaced with Lee. “Thank you, Stan,” appeared on the screen after the opening, sending shivers down my spine. Applause for Lee echoed throughout the theater hall at the sight of the homage. Lee also had a cameo in the movie, as he always does, and when our heroine and Lee exchanged a brief glance, she gives a knowing smile, gentle and warm.

“Captain Marvel” is basically an origin story that builds up to the much-anticipated “Avengers: Endgame” set to be released in April. However, I was a little bit underwhelmed by the movie in general. As much as I want to cherish both movies separately, I can’t help but compare “Captain Marvel” to “Wonder Woman” from the DC Universe. Both had strong, incredible and kind of extra-terrestrial female leads, but what “Wonder Woman” managed to achieve was that the audience felt enraptured by Wonder Woman.

Watching “Wonder Woman” instantly made me fall in love with Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince. There wasn’t a scene that instantly gave me goosebumps or charmed me with Carol Danvers’ personality and her ideals. I can see the movie tried to create an impactful image of her as a woman who had been denied access to things that men were constantly being offered. The movie showed many clips of sexist men who mocked and teased her, but the oppressed emotions didn’t quite translate through the screen. Overall, they were not able to push an image of Danvers’ strong heroic presence.

Marvel tried to cover so much ground that everything felt a little flat. I feel like they tried to incorporate too much plot, and non-Marvel fans might not even pick up on some of the references. The film introduced a whole new space world with new creatures and new wars that were a bit out of context. Danvers’ snarky character was fun at times but then it seemed to be put on the backburner. Her reunion with her supposed best friend was not as emotional as it could have been. Her arc as a hero never truly climaxed emotionally to me. Sure, she started glowing at one point, but there wasn’t a scene that made me realize her depth as a person.

However, there were still plenty of scenes from the movie that were appreciable. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), had a significant role in the movie, and his character had more depth than Larson’s Danvers. Jackson’s performance really makes viewers love this more fun and laid-back version of Fury and coo at his interactions with the cat-turned-Flerken (a deadly space alien cat) named Goose.

S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson’s appearances were neat and played into the relationship between him and Fury in other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. A moment towards the end of the movie, when Fury types out a Protector Initiative, was one of the epic moments as well, especially when he notices Carol Danvers’ call sign “Avenger” and switches up the Initiative to be our favorite superhero band – the Avengers Initiative.

One of the most important parts of the film that would tie to “Avengers: Endgame,” of course, is the mid-credits scene. The Captain Marvel pager that showed up in the mid-credits of “Avengers: Infinity War,” activated before Fury disappeared with Thanos’ snap, was reintroduced in this mid-credit scene. Black Widow seemed to be certain that Fury had put great faith into this pager. As she shares that, the camera suddenly changes to reveal Captain Marvel asking, “Where is Fury?” The screen then fades to black. “Captain Marvel will return in Avengers: Endgame,” the message declared, and the audience cheered in excitement. I loved the end-credits scene for this film. Of course, almost every mid-credit scene and post-credit scene from Marvel movies has been iconic and thrilling, but this one really makes me excited for “Avengers: Endgame” and Danvers’ role in it.

Personally, the film felt like the first episode of a TV show. It had enough elements in its plot and character to interest the audience, but Captain Marvel’s character was a bit stiff and not quite fully developed. However, that might just mean that Carol Danvers’ story is far from being over. Perhaps we will get to see more character depth and personality as Captain Marvel ushers in a new future for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, with her Tesseract-fueled superpowers, she seems like a mighty candidate to be put up against the all-powerful Thanos.

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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