By Ariel Finkle
“Where’s your head at?”
“On my shoulders.”
“Thought we’d show these boys how we do it. You ready?”
“Higher, further, faster, baby.”
Before I start, let me just say that “higher further faster” is one of the coolest lines I’ve ever heard in a movie. The above exchange is from a flashback showing Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) and fellow Air Force pilot Maria Rambeau preparing for another day of flying. It’s slick, it’s snarky, and it’s one of the only scenes in the movie showing these pilots goofing off and having fun.
There should have been more like it.
To be fair, there’s a reason why the audience never learns very much about Carol Danvers’ backstory. The film begins with Carol (Brie Larson) stranded in outer space as a member of the Starforce of the Kree Empire. Since she doesn’t remember anything before she joined Starforce, though, she goes by Vers there and not Carol. “Vers” is overwhelmed with nightmares and brief flashes of her old life that she can’t make out. Commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) warns her not to let her worries get the best of her in battle. He turns out to be right – when Vers is captured by shapeshifting Skrulls, they probe her memories for military intel. (Their hijacking of Vers’ brain leads to a really cool, dream-like flashback sequence from Vers’ point of view.)
Sadly for the Skrulls, Vers escapes their ship and crash-lands in 1995 L.A. There, she meets up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Maria Rambeau, her daughter Monica, a rogue Skrull (Ben Mendelsohn), and an alien cat named Goose, and the team of them set off to uncover Carol’s life and also maybe save Earth along the way.
One thing this movie has going for is its humor. Unlike a lot of other MCU heroines (cough cough Black Widow) or movie heroines in general (cough cough Rey) Carol isn’t afraid to make a fool of herself. She’s funny and snarky. When talking to fellow Starforce member Korath about the time a Skrull shapeshifted into him, Vers replies, “Maybe if you were more attractive, it would be less disturbing.” There’s also a lot of fish-out-of-water humor when Carol crash-lands on Earth (aka “Planet C-53”) and has to make her way as a small-town alien in the big city.
The jokes don’t make up for the disjointed story, though. Even though this film is about Carol gaining her memories in bits and flashes, there are still pacing issues. Some plot points are skimmed over when more time should’ve been spent on them. Carol’s time in the Air Force with Maria was a crucial time in her life, yet only a few minutes in this two hour long movie are spent remembering all of this.
Also, Carol seems to be the only prominent female character in the movie. Her Air Force mentor Dr. Lawson (played by Annette Bening) is quickly killed off. Fellow Starforce member Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan) only gets a few minutes of screen time – although she does have one of the best lines in the film. Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) doesn’t have much to do for herself besides being Carol’s supportive best friend. Maria’s daughter Monica (Akira Akbar) is also shoved to the sidelines – even though in the comics, adult Monica had the title of Captain Marvel long before Carol did.
Captain Marvel is fun and funny, with good special effects, but not much beyond that. Its mishandling of the story and its characters gives off the effect that it was re-written a bunch of times – but even then, it still could’ve been a lot better.
I give this movie 6 pilot jackets out of 10.