Of all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Captain Marvel is probably the most aggressively marketed movie. Not in terms of shear marketing amount, but rather by a sly old trick often used in comic books. Have an existing popular comic book continue in a more obscure or new comic so readers will have to pick up the other book in order to read the rest of the story. The whole MCU uses this trick over and over again, but not as blunt as they do with Captain Marvel.
Avengers: Infinity War is probably the biggest MCU movie to date and the cliffhanger ending forces people to have to wait a year to see the conclusion of the story and find out what happens to the characters they love. So what does Marvel do to fill the gap? They release an origin story about an obscure character who was teased during the end credits scene of Infinity War. They then put out press statements about how this character will be an integral part of the conclusion of the two part story and release the movie just two months before Avengers: Endgame is released. This way people will have to go to cinemas to get acquainted with this character, since the movie won’t be out on streaming platforms yet when Endgame is released. Everybody who paid to watch Infinity War in cinemas and is planning to do the same for Endgame will also do the same for Captain Marvel.
It’s a brilliant marketing strategy, and I did fall for it because I didn’t want to miss a thing. But ultimately it’s also part of what hurts the legacy of the movie the most. This will forever be the movie Marvel forced you to watch just because you wanted to see Endgame. Not because you actually wanted to see a Captain Marvel movie. The fact that Captain Marvel hardly plays a role in Endgame hurts this movie even more. People go to movies like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange because they want to see the origin stories of these new characters. People went to Captain Marvel just so they can see Endgame without have to wonder who that galaxy traveling spacewoman with the ability to shoot light-beams from her hands is.
It’s probably the main reason you don’t hear a lot of people calling for Captain Marvel part 2.
Judging Captain Marvel by its own merits I would describe it as a perfectly adequate movie. It’s a movie Marvel can make in their sleep by now. They’ve perfected the formula for these smaller movies in which a singular hero has to discover his or her own powers and take on an antagonist at the end. Throw in a gimmick to give the movie something unique and watch the cash from ticket sales come pouring in.
The gimmick this time is the setting. Most of the movie takes place on earth in 1995. Here, amnesiac Vers has to uncover her past and the origin of her powers with the aide of Nick Fury (a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson). All while wearing a grunge outfit and a soundtrack full of mostly female sung pop songs from the era. This basically turns Captain Marvel into a period piece, which is all the more depressing since the decade of my own youth is now already a period setting in a movie.
On their trail are a couple of Skrulls: Shape-shifting alien creatures who can mimic every human they see. This ups the paranoia factor as anyone they meet can be a potential enemy in disguise.
Because Captain Marvel is such a by the numbers production this movie won’t win over any new fans. But I don’t think this movie will end up high on fans’ best MCU movie. The 90s setting gimmick is just too bland for that. Unlike the magic realm in Doctor Strange it doesn’t bring anything new to the table and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel hardly has the charisma most of her Marvel alumni have. But a lot of that could also be attributed to the fact that there seems to be some sort of feminist agenda behind this movie.
This is Marvel’s first female drive superhero movie. There have been complaints that it took them 21(!) movies before they made a standalone movie starring a female superhero. Together with Brie Larson’s outspoken comments the movie has gotten a feminist undertone which works against it. Captain Marvel is less quippy than most Marvel movies and the titular character is never the butt of a joke. She’s a strong independent woman in every scene she’s in, whether she gets her ass kicked or not. Of all the Marvel superheroes, Captain marvel takes herself serious the most. So serious, the movie has Nick Fury function as the comedic sidekick.
If they actually tried to have some fun with one of Marvel’s most powerful characters, they would throw in a line like “don’t call me babe” as a reference to 1996’s classic bomb Barb Wire starring 90s sex symbol Pamela Anderson. But sadly they didn’t.
This all makes Captain Marvel just a snack in between meals.