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Review: Captain Marvel (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck)

Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel

The anti-stylistic excesses of the Marvel Cinematic Universe give way to chill banality in Captain Marvel, a middle-of-the-road movie made monumental by the weight of history. How apt that the franchise's strongest superhero should carry said weight with ease, and how refreshing that the strain of the MCU's ever-increasing grandiosity should subside beneath the easy charms of this relatively casual little origin story. Yet what it loses in jettisoning all that Marvel bulk, this movie doesn't replace with the kind of purposeful artistic statements of similar movies in this franchise's lineup. It seems almost laughable to remark upon titles like Iron Man and Thor as hallmarks of stylistic expression, yet compared to Captain Marvel they rather appear that way. This may represent a necessary cleansing for the brand, and undoubtedly represents a necessary growth, though that this belated growth comes with an apparent lack of ambition and artistic intent seems to confirm what the fact that it took this studio 21 movies to finally deliver a sole female lead had already established: ladies, these people don't care about you!

Captain Marvel wears its would-be feminist qualities with the same nonchalance with which it approaches most of its other qualities - alas, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have never been known for narrative drive or aesthetic innovation, though most forms of innovation typically wither away at Marvel anyway. As per, it's only a matter of time before studio and franchise concerns take over, and this movie becomes just another derivation of the same old superhero action sequences, though while Boden and Fleck have the opportunity to peddle in their characteristic laidback Americana, they make the most of it. The sci-fi angle to Captain Marvel produces demands that contradict such pursuits, and the two elements never blend to any satisfactory extent; these genre elements are handled with apathy by Boden and Fleck. Yet, for all that this movie may too frequently fail to hit the heights it ought to, it resolutely fails to hit any significant lows either, and is never less than pleasantly watchable.

Perhaps this is the kind of solid, respectable start that such an important figure in contemporary Western culture requires, even if it falls short of what she deserves. These days, it takes a certain boldness to eschew boldness in big-budget filmmaking, to refrain from overstating the event movie status of your event movie, and Captain Marvel's modesty as a feature is, then, a most appealing attribute, even if it precludes the potential for greatness. Indeed, true, unequivocal greatness has yet to come to any MCU title, and I don't believe it ever shall. Diegetic greatness may be the closest the franchise may ever reach, and that Ms. Marvel has in droves. History will remember her, even if it soon forgets her movie.

Image Credit: MovieStillsDB

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