Captain Marvel needs to step up its stakes and heart

Photo courtesy of Jessica Cicchetto, Wikipedia

Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie, “Captain Marvel,” has finally dropped. Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers/Vers is full of one-liners and backtalk, but she brings a quiet determination and strength to the character along with her motivations.

The first 45 minutes are very exposition heavy, which is pretty standard for an origin story that’s leading into a bigger franchise. The movie is visually stunning, but on the flip side, a little busy and relies on that instead of character development. Some of the secondary characters could be more fleshed out and it would serve the action well, so there’s more of an emotional build up to the chance of losing someone important.

During the movie, you might even think back to some of the earlier “Guardians of the Galaxy” films with all the space travel and hopping around from planet to planet, and there’s definitely a scene that’s a callback to “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.”

The movie is a move in the right direction for superhero films that are led by women – to date there’s only been “Wonder Woman.”

It shows in the box office, too. “Black Panther” on its Thursday midnight showing made $14.3 million, whereas Captain Marvel made $25 million. As of Monday, March 11, it’s made over $455 million its opening weekend domestically and overseas with the clear message that female representation matters in the media.

At times, the film felt sluggish, with Carol Danvers muddling her way through trying to figure out who she really is. Each origin story is different, and each presents a core issue that the hero must grapple with, but the fact that Danvers had to sort through her memories to truly figure out her origins wasn’t all that enjoyable.

If that was taken out, the movie wouldn’t be the same at all, because it’s heavily reliant on Danvers overcoming these obstacles in order to prove to herself and others that she is capable.

Throughout the film, it doesn’t really feel like Danvers is ever going to lose, even at her weakest when she’s being taunted by mentor/enemy Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and unable to access her powers. There’s no real stakes, maybe because Captain Marvel is the most powerful superhero the audience has seen to date or the fact that the film exists within a franchise that basically ensures the survival of her and her powers, and it detracts from the film.

It’s easy to miss the stakes of standalone films when nothing is guaranteed, even the protagonists’ success.

“Avengers: Endgame” will mark the beginning of Phase Four with Marvel films, and even though it’s ensured that they’ll be box-office hits, there needs to be more heart and more stakes in the film.

Without that, it’s just the same ingredients for a superhero film thrown into a different storyline. Still, “Captain Marvel” brings a great deal of potential into a universe that’s ripe for change.

3 stars