Captain Marvel is the 654th film in the Marvel franchise — the figure is something like that, I think — and as the first one to be female-led it was mercilessly trolled before its release by the fan boys. ‘This movie is gonna bomb like no other and they only have themselves to blame,’ was one typical remark. The nastiness escalated further when the film’s star, Brie Larson, said she was sick of being interviewed by ‘white dudes’ while doing promotion and asked why so many film critics are white and male. (78 percent are, according to the latest research.)
I don’t know why I’m telling you all this except to say that I’m one of the 22 percent and this is the first of these films that hasn’t entirely bored the pants off me. It bored me a bit, but not entirely. So I’m delighted, and they can all go hang.
This Marvel film (it may even be the 978th; I lose track) is not one of those ensemble Avengers ones where you have to watch Black Widow get sidelined or Pepper Potts fawn all over Iron Man, which is a mercy. However, it doesn’t take any risks either, settling instead for one those origins stories (deep sigh.) Larson plays the title character who, before acquiring her powers as a superheroine (a word unrecognized by my spell check, by the way, unlike ‘superhero’) was an air-force pilot named Carol Danvers. The plot is supremely overcomplicated, as per, but from what I could gather when we first meet her she thinks she is Kree, part of a noble race of warriors from another galaxy, and has virtually no memory of her time as a human. The Kree, meanwhile, are at war with the Skrulls, who are green-skinned and reptilian and can shapeshift, taking on the appearance of anyone they choose, which has to be a worry. Her powers, which include super-strength and ‘energy projection’ and being able to throw her superior (an unlikely Jude Law) across the landscape, were obtained by accident, also as per. There is a lot of ‘as per’ going on, which has to be a shame.
There are big battle set-pieces, as per. There are friends who turn out to be foes and foes who turn out to be friends, as per. The main character bish-bash-boshes her way out of trouble, as per. (Could we have some evidence of intelligence for once?) But when a passing fella tells her to ‘lighten up and smile’ she does steal his motorbike, which was excellent.
The best scenes, by far, occur when we return to earth and she hooks up with the Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, digitally pre-aged as it’s 1995) who will become NICK FURY, director of S.H.I.E.L.D, and there are a few jokes, mostly to do with the slowness of the internet at that time, which aren’t actually that lame, amazingly. What else to tell you? Annette Bening plays her mentor, Lashana Lynch plays her best friend, and our superheroine (spellcheck, stop with the red wiggly line; it’s proper annoying) never flirts with the men or hankers after a boyfriend or makes tea for Thor or anything, which is also a mercy.
Look, while this is less inventive than you hoped (and prayed), it is an improvement, with Larson proving she can more than carry a film of this type. (When not bish-bash-boshing, she is able to register true emotion.) As for the 22 percent, we are on the march. Whether you like it or not.
This article was originally published in The Spectator magazine.