The brilliant premieres of Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther now seem like a lifetime ago, as Marvel Studios has seemingly fallen back into the slump that ruined “Phase 2” of their highly successful franchise. Marvel really should’ve made a female-led superhero movie years ago, yet they made the mistake of trying to make up for it by treating Captain Marvel like one of their mediocre superhero movies from the beginning of the decade.
While Captain Marvel certainly had some great qualities, they weren’t quite enough to redeem the movie as a whole. The movie began with a lackluster first act that was filled with bland exposition. The second act, on the other hand, was certainly the strongest act in the movie, completely changing tones to be more of an X-Files-esque mystery. The mistake that the movie made was answering this “mystery” way too early, a good 20 minutes before the third act of the movie even started. Because of this, the third act lacked any emotional stakes and felt completely predictable, in addition to being way too long.
Though the movie ended up being a somewhat decent superhero origin story, we’ve unfortunately seen the structure used in the movie in nearly every other Marvel origin movie over the past 11 years. While movies like Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy were innovative with their origin stories, Captain Marvel felt like yet another rehash of Iron Man, with the twists and turns being identical almost beat for beat throughout the entire movie.
One of the most appealing (and oddly controversial) aspects of Captain Marvel was its inclusion, finally giving the MCU an in-depth female lead, and for the most part, the movie lived up to this hype. Brie Larson portrayed a strong female character who had an important character flaw and in-depth motivation. In the first two acts, Captain Marvel handled the female lead aspect of the movie even better than Wonder Woman. Whereas Wonder Woman regularly had characters making jabs about Diana being a woman, Captain Marvel only included this in a few moments of the movie, mostly in flashbacks of Carol’s time before becoming a superhero. However, much of this progress was practically undone in the third act of the movie, which featured a fight scene with Captain Marvel to the tune of “Just a Girl” by No Doubt. While the song technically fit the 90s tone of the movie, it still felt incredibly out of place and forced, seemingly only being used to bring attention to the fact that Captain Marvel is a woman rather than adding to the fight scene or her actual character.
While it was still certainly a step-up storywise from Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel is still quite below the Marvel Studio “par” from the last couple years. Though the movie is definitely good, it’s not entirely great either, with many of the beats of the film (especially in the third act) feeling predictable and lazy, simply because we’ve seen almost all of it in Marvel’s last 20 movies. Captain Marvel is supposed to set the precedent for the Marvel Cinematic Universe going into Phase 4, but if the next batch of Marvel movies end up being like this one, then it may be difficult for the MCU to survive going forward.