The first wave of Captain Marvel reviews are in, though not all of them are as bright and glowing as the cosmically supercharged Carol Danvers.
While press came out of the first screenings for the Brie Larson-starring superhero flick with high praise, the full-length deep dives from critics are much more mixed. “Captain Marvel is Not Bad, is the unthrilling point I’ve been circling here. But Not Bad is better than where we’re coming from,” EW’s Darren Franich writes.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich calls it “a massively disappointing introduction to Carol Danvers,” while others like The Los Angeles Times‘ Kenneth Turand and Nerdist‘s Rosie Knight describe how Larson “absolutely nails the character” in a “fun, fresh take on the superhero movie.”
In Captain Marvel, set in the 1990s before the events of the first Iron Man, Carol Danvers, our titular heroine who initially goes by Vers, is serving in the elite Kree military strike team known as Starforce when she crash lands on Earth. Learning the Kree’s mortal enemies, the shape-shifting Skrulls, have secretly infiltrated the planet, she now fights to stop their plans while also uncovering the lost memories of a past life she once had.
Rotten Tomatoes changed its Audience Score functionality after headlines came out of individuals bombarding the Captain Marvel page with negative comments and reviews before even seeing the movie — not unlike what some other people did with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But despite these efforts, which RT considered “sometimes bordering on trolling,” critical favor for the first solo female-fronted installment from Disney’s Marvel Studios seemed intact.
Read the first reviews of Captain Marvel, out in theaters this Friday, below.
Darren Franich (Entertainment Weekly)
“Captain Marvel is all over the place, careening from far-flung laser-spraying cosmos to the car-chasing streets of ’90s Los Angeles. This latest Marvel Studios expansion pack stars Oscar winner Brie Larson as an amnesiac. (She’s haunted by memories of Annette Bening, as all the best humans are.) So the main character doesn’t know who she is, and the movie around her has a similar problem. Captain Marvel only figures itself out toward the end, when a couple twists I won’t spoil sharpen the spanning saga into a motley-crew errand of mercy.”
Owen Glieberman (Variety)
“Vers is pulled into the drama of questioning the core of who she is, and that’s where Larson’s performance takes wing. Vers was taught one thing: to fight this way, for these people, for this cause. She needs to open herself up to a new mode, and the film uses that journey as an analogue of her existence as a female superhero. Everything she’s been told is wrong! Can she wake up from the oppressive (read: patriarchal) mind-set of the conventions that bind her? Captain Marvel is only the second major Hollywood movie to have a female superhero at its center, but it’s a savvier and more high-flying fantasy than Wonder Woman, because it’s the origin story as head game. Larson’s Vers is like someone trapped in a matrix — she has to shake off the dream of who she is to locate the superwoman she could be. And that makes for a rouser of a journey.”
Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
“The picture is not dull, exactly, just mundane, marked by unimaginative plotting, cut-rate villains, a bland visual style and a lack of elan in every department. Or put it this way: What Black Panther did for black representation in the superhero realm is not done for women in Captain Marvel. And if it came down to a one-on-one between rival franchise uber warriors Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, there is no doubt who would inspire the heavy betting.”
April Wolfe (The Wrap)
“Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s take on the Carol Danvers origin story jettisons subtlety in its messaging of female empowerment and anti-imperialism to varying degrees of success. At times, the film has all the makings of a wildly effective Nike commercial. You know the kind, girls falling down and getting up again, withstanding jeers and taunts until you’re weeping on your couch? But the two co-directors, working from a script they co-wrote with Geneva Robertson-Dworet, have seemingly taken a tip from all that surrounds them in 2019 that renders subtlety obsolete and beats on some well-worn sexist tropes with a story that screams: ‘I guess you did not hear us when we said we don’t want to smile!'”
David Ehrlich (IndieWire)
“As generic and retrograde as Black Panther was specific and revolutionary, Captain Marvel is a frustrating disappointment at a time when every inclusive blockbuster is fought over as though it could be the decisive battle in our never-ending culture wars. That disappointment is only deepened by the fact that the film was directed by the talented indie twosome of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, whose previous work (Sugar, Half-Nelson, and Mississippi Grind being the highlights) is charged with all the verve and humanity that’s missing here. If not for some grounded character work towards the end of the story, their contributions to this $152-million behemoth would seem totally anonymous.”
Kenneth Turan (The Los Angeles Times)
“With a luminous and powerful Brie Larson starring as a woman with a knockout punch that would have daunted Muhammad Ali, the news is not that this pre-sold property about a superhero coming into her own will sell a ton of tickets, it’s that it is actually good. For this we have to thank not only Larson, who absolutely nails the character, as well as co-stars including Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening and Jude Law, but also directors and co-writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.”
Mike Ryan (UPROXX)
“There are some legitimately strange scenes and imagery in Captain Marvel, and not ‘strange’ in the quirky tone of, say, Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a full-on, strange, sci-fi film. Some of the scenes reminded me of Rey snapping into the endless mirrors during The Last Jedi. This is a movie that features a cerebral, psychedelic fight set to Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are.’ And a huge reason this movie works is Ben Mendelsohn, of all people. (I say ‘of all people’ because, under his green Skrull makeup, a lot of people might not even realize he’s under there until they see the movie.)”
Matt Singer (ScreenCrush)
“Vers eventually does become the best version of herself. Captain Marvel never quite gets there. It has a lot of good actors, a couple clever twists, but never once approaches the ranks of top tier Marvel movies. The action too messy, and the lead character — an amnesiac for much of the film — is repeatedly overshadowed by her charismatic co-stars.”
Kayti Burt (Den of Geek)
“Captain Marvel continues to prove just how good the MCU is at expanding its universe in new ways that still feel integral to the larger world. Experiencing the film’s final moments is not unlike the experience of watching the final moments of Rogue One, so cleverly does the film weave its way into existing canon, informing what has already happened in the franchise (and what will eventually happen in the world of the MCU) in emotionally-resonant ways. After Captain Marvel, the MCU feels more complete.”
Helen O’hara (Empire)
“There’s a lot to absorb — a few pauses in the first act might have been welcome — and the film is so anxious to emphasise Danvers’ toughness that it sometimes forgets to allow us to glimpse her inner life and (presumable) insecurities; it’s a good thing that Larson is both gifted and charismatic, or she’d be a little dull. It also feels like it’s been chopped down a lot: some glimpses of Mckenna Grace as the young Carol, showing her troubled relationship with her dad, feel surprisingly thin. You also sense that there might have been more for Bening to do, given how good she is in the little time she’s on screen. Still, once Danvers connects with Fury, their odd-couple banter blasts the film into the stratosphere.”
Susana Polo (Polygon)
“In Captain Marvel, Marvel Studios brings to bear the familiar formula of its best origin story movies: character development, good casting, quips, decent-but-rarely-groundbreaking special effects, and a soupçon of political allegory and science-fiction invention. This sounds like a criticism, but I mean it with sincerity: Marvel Studios rarely makes a truly bad movie, or even a mediocre one. The studio has mastered the building blocks of heroic narratives, and it’s no surprise that Kevin Feige, with directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) stuck to the blueprints while constructing its first heroic narrative about a woman (a prospect so daunting it apparently took over 10 years for the studio to work up the courage).”
Rosie Knight (Nerdist)
“Captain Marvel is a fun, fresh take on the superhero movie and hints at an interesting future for the MCU. It’s a sci-fi heavy actioner, which is at its best when it’s being sincere and is a good first step to rectifying some of the problems of the franchise’s past. But coming after groundbreaking films like Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, and even Wonder Woman means that sometimes Captain Marvel‘s impact feels like it would have been bigger had it come out closer to the era it was set.”