Captain Marvel has the distinguishing feature of being the first leading female superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The character has blonde hair, a sassy edge and the ability kick butt. But what makes the character special, remains to be seen.
The plot primary revolves around Carol Danvers trying to uncover the meaning of her recurring dreams, where she encounters an unknown woman. Currently a member of an elite group of fighters, she’s blindly following the directives of a alien Supreme Intelligence AI that governs the Kree alien species. Her party soon gets ambushed by the opposing Skrulls and she is abducted for the extraction of the dreams that she’s been having. Fortunately, she manages to escape the ship and crash land on Earth, set in the 1990s. She soon deduces that the place in her dreams is a secret aircraft facility, also located on Earth. She teams up with a two eyed Nick Fury and they proceed to infiltrate the records section in order to uncover the meaning of her dreams. After looking at some documents, she finds out that she is a human and has received her abilities when destroying a powerful light-speed engine. She also goes on to discover that she has been misled into fighting for the evil guys and that she must help the Skrull escape slaughter at the hands of her previous team.
Thematically, one could say that the movie revolves around the idea of understanding yourself better in order to truly harness your potential. In that respect, the plot demonstrates that Captain Marvel’s abilities have been severely restricted by the small chip implanted in her neck and the emotionally restrictive training imparted by her teacher. Portraying Danvers’s inner conflict in trying to follow her training, while suppressing her true source of power is the purported aim of the film.
In reality, we see that Danvers’s is already quite proficient even with her restricted capabilities. She escapes the aliens who abduct her, chases down an alien on a random subway train and also infiltrates a high security military base all without breaking a sweat. There are intermittent flashbacks of the various men in her life talking shit and being misogynists in general. But all of that only fuels her own emotional behaviour from the get-go i.e. we never see her being “not” emotional and follow her training. We never get to see why thinking solely from her head and not her heart is a bad thing for her. When she does realize her true power and breaks out of the Supreme Intelligence’s stronghold, it feels like a superficial improvement in her abilities i.e. she hasn’t really become a better person.
The fundamental problem with the plot is that there no observable change in Danvers’s behaviour or attitude. Over the course of the movie, there isn’t even the slightest contrast to show the problems or struggles that Danvers’s might be going through as a result of not realising her true potential. The plot makes no real case for us to believe in Danvers’s cause, other than simply telling us via the interspersed POV flashbacks. Even the climactic action set-pieces fall completely flat. There is no tension as we’re so used to seeing an all powerful Captain Marvel beat the shit out of everything on screen. All of the above, make the movie a forgettable non-experience.
Captain Marvel was intended as a celebration of womanhood and their marvelous capabilities. That much is obvious from the film. But the good celebrations are those that are remembered for years and decades to come. Those that have a lasting emotional impact and involvement from the participants. Instead of letting the audiences participate in its revelry and festivities, we’re instead treated to a bland show of generic fireworks. The fireworks do their part well.