The first female-centric entry in the MCU deserved better
Let me start this with a full confession: I am so over the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
We are now just over a decade and 21 movies into an ambitious project that's seen some great storytelling, but has also become a Hollywood behemoth that's choked out all of the oxygen in the industry.
And 21 movies into this saga, we finally have one, one, that is fully centered on a female lead.
That's half the population of the earth. And there's finally an MCU movie just for you. To quote a decades-old tobacco campaign that realized that half of the population was a viable market: You've come a long way, baby.
It's not fair to give “Captain Marvel,” a perfectly passable popcorn movie, the full weight of the obscenity of this cinematic gender disparity. But after this wait, society deserved better.
“Captain Marvel” deserved to be “Wonder Woman,” only better. Patty Jenkins's entry into DC's side of the cinematic superhero universe superseded its seeming supporting role within the Justice League, almost through sheer will.
“Captain Marvel” and its star, goddamn Oscar-winning treasure Brie Larson, deserved better than feeling like a placeholder/commercial for the next Avengers movie. And, in the process, the MCU made a movie as flat as most of the DC movies that came before “Wonder Woman.”
We drop into the “wow” of an intergalactic struggle far too immediately. There's plenty of bang, and the notion is that eventually we'll figure out who these people are and why we'll care.
Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers (Larson), is there, as is another apparent heroic intergalactic hero (Jude Law), and we'll all figure it out when the effects settle.
And the effects and action do dazzle. And Larson's Danvers is an unapologetic badass, which is especially refreshing when we've seen this so many times over — only with dudes.
But a lot of those dudes portrayed complex characters with emotionally deep backstories. Captain Marvel deserved more than set pieces and setup.
Co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck would get more credit if this was, say, the third movie in this MCU journey. It wouldn't feel so paint-by-numbers, nor would it feel the weight of the emotional complexity that many previous characters have received.
If “Iron Man” could somehow make a rich white man's journey feel like a complex struggle, maybe a modern woman's struggle shouldn't be literally alien.
It's still somehow oddly empowering to see essentially a Jerry Bruckheimer superhero movie with a female lead. But for a movie with a soundtrack featuring Elastica, Garbage, No Doubt and Hole, I can't help but feel we haven't come a long way, baby.