Captain Marvel shines with original storytelling, despite its offbeat direction

The film triumphs as the first female-led Marvel superhero movie

Image curtesy of The Verge

Written by: Jonathan Pabico, Peak Associate

Filmmaker duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s long-awaited Captain Marvel finally hits theatres. The film excels featuring diverse characters and an unconventional style with offbeat tones.

Brie Larson brings a strong and empowering performance as Captain Marvel. Larson perfectly portrays the first female Marvel superhero on the big screen. With an edgy demeanour and an unbreakable resolve, Larson is compelling as the fearless protagonist. Furthermore, Larson uses Marvel’s alienated experiences with the film’s 1990s culture to evoke her character’s uncertainties with her past. Backed by close-ups and vivid natural lighting from the story’s settings, Larson’s portrayal humanizes Captain Marvel as she rediscovers her personal identity.

Unlike most superhero movies, the story is surprisingly more comedic than an action-oriented extravaganza. Larson’s wickedly hilarious scenes with Samuel L. Jackson as a younger Nick Fury provide a grounded social dynamic that supplies most of the film’s humour. With a sharp script, their witty dialogue makes the movie the most light-hearted superhero tale since Thor: Ragnarok.

In addition to Larson and Jackson’s scenes, the story is incredibly offbeat as it undercuts the superhero narrative formula. While the movie has energetic action sequences, the narrative relies more on outlandish antics and anticlimactic moments to deliver an entertaining story. This approach benefits the film’s originality, but it is excessive in some scenes that become more awkward than genuinely unorthodox. The plot’s zany direction will satisfy some viewers, but may catch any moviegoer off-guard who would expect more action spectacles. On a more sentimental note, the film even included a touching tribute that honours the late Stan Lee.

Despite everything, the film still suffers from a few things, namely, weak chemistry between Larson and Jude Law. Larson and Law’s scenes together are bland due to a weak relationship between their characters. As a result of this shortcoming, they are not as vibrant as Larson’s more fun dynamic with Jackson.  In addition to Larson and Law’s incompatibility, the story has unrealistic secondary characters through their shallow reactions to the film’s events. Consequently, the narrative is disjointed and sometimes loses its believability.

Aside from Larson’s portrayal, the film’s most exciting feature is the first live action debut of the shapeshifting alien species the Skrulls. The movie uses the Skrulls as fascinating metaphors for duplicity and deception that not only foreshadow the story’s future dangers, but also foreground the plot’s spy world atmosphere. These characters, however, could have been further developed for deeper philosophical questions about the ambiguities behind identity.

Overall, Captain Marvel subverts expectations to deliver a story different from its predecessors. With new and familiar characters, the narrative offers an offbeat tone that boldly takes its lead hero’s story to new directions. While its unconventional style is hit-or-miss for some moviegoers, the film excels with highly original storytelling and Brie Larson’s captivating performance as Marvel’s first leading super-heroine.