Captain Marvel

Marvel Studios have delivered some great movies in the past 10 years. But after twenty films, certain superhero elements get old and tired and it becomes harder and harder to tell a fresh and interesting story without resorting to universe-scale threats of destruction. Somehow, Black Panther succeeded, but is there any chance of Marvel-lightning striking twice with Captain Marvel?

Captain Marvel tells the story of a cosmic being called Vers (pronounced Veers) that looks like Brie Larson and assumes the role of cocky-but-disciplined warrior hero in a space SWAT team called Starforce. She is plagued by nightmarish flashes of a past she can’t remember. Yes, the first couple of minutes of the movie is filled with technobabble and weird alien names and it might be a little hard to keep up. But in typical Marvel style, if you just go with the flow you’ll catch up what you missed and enjoy the ride – even if you end up saying “green lizard guys” instead of “Skrulls”.

Of course Vers ends up on earth, and crosses paths with Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury – this time without an eyepatch. But despite this film taking place on earth in the 1990s [thus before the New York alien invasion from The Avengers, or even Iron Man’s existance], there are plenty of shapeshifting aliens, and cosmic space-weapons to be seen. But ultimately, Captain Marvel is a relatively small movie, relishing in the buddy action-comedy plot of Fury and Vers going on a trip together.

This plot element might have been inspired by the tremendous financial, critical, and popular success of Thor: Ragnarok, which managed to shake off the franchise fatigue and try some new things – most notably a Hulk/Thor comic pairing.

But similar to Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain Marvel feels tonally different to the other Avengers solo superhero films. Where The First Avenger seemed to pull an Indiana Jones and embrace the popular adventure films of its 1940s settings, making it a little broader, sillier, and exaggerated than Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, Captain Marvel does the same for 1990s action films.

From the music used in the soundtrack, to a digitally de-aged straight-out-of-Die-Hard Samuel L Jackson, to the setpieces and film pace, Captain Marvel will probably fit perfectly between The Fugitive and True Lies [not to mention a lot of parallels with The Matrix]. And although that’s a great achievement for the film’s production design department, it doesn’t do much for the film as a whole.

Captain Marvel is a perfectly fine sci-fi action movie, and a fun joyride with a confident, competent, and admirable lead character (luckily we’ll get to see more of her in Avengers: Endgame in April). But while it’s smaller scale and lack of real laughs or action sequence inventiveness leaves it as a lesser film than Ant-man, its ultimately the weight of the inevitable comparisons to other Marvel flicks that’ll bring it down. The “cinematic universe” has grown to a size that threatens Black Hole implosion at any moment, and that makes it hard for films like Captain Marvel to make a dent in the bigger picture. But at the same time, maybe this is exactly what brings the Avengers ‘franchise’ down to earth.

Captain Marvel is directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, and stars Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch and Jude Law. It’s in South African cinemas from 8 March 2019.