Captain Marvel

brie-larson-captain-marvel

Can Marvel make a successful comic book fantasy movie with a female lead? The answer is yes. Captain Marvel is a solid effort by all concerned. (Including the dozen or so digital effects companies I counted in the closing credits.)

Captain Marvel may not be the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movie ever. And Captain Marvel may not be the greatest MCU superhero ever. But the new film starring Brie Larson accomplishes much in just over two hours.

It introduces and establishes a new movie franchise player and sets up future Captain Marvel stories. It delivers a cool backstory for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The movie is set in the 1990s and dishes a bunch of fun nostalgia for that decade. And it features a cool cat (an actual feline) named Goose.

Action/fantasy films sometimes have pacing issues and often have effects overkills but co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck keep things moving ahead at a consistent clip, with occasional respites. And the many confrontations among characters tend to resolve within reasonable periods.

The story? Well, there’s a lot going on here. Of course, it’s always about good versus evil. But it is not always clear who is a good guy (or woman) and who is a bad egg. Captain Marvel works to solve a mystery about her own background (including her life as Air Force pilot Carol Danvers) and about a scientific discovery that Wendy Larson (Annette Bening) is developing. Carol/Captain Marvel’s time among the Kree aliens on the planet Hala is a key plot point.

Brie Larson handles all the physical tasks of playing a superhero well. She has a good head of hair, which is only reined in near the end of the movie. (Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman at least had a band across the front of her hairline when she was in action.)

The cast also includes Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn and (as Carol’s Air Force friend Maria) Lashana Lynch.

Captain Marvel should garner strong ticket sales and whet appetites for Avengers: Endgame whose release is just seven weeks away. As Black Panther showed last year, a superhero movie can be released in late winter and still attract a huge audience.

Of course, you should stay until the very end of the credits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantastic Four

 

Sorry, but Fantastic Four is hokey and actually a bit boring. It’s an origin story, telling the world how the Fantastic Four came to be.

Some of the scenes and even some of the effects reminded me of low-budget mid-century sci-fi, the kind often lampooned by Mystery Science Theater 3000. The script is workmanlike, advancing the thin story, but gives the cast few chances to shine.

The beginning of the film shows promise. The setup is good, beginning with grade school and high school versions of Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) leading to their being recruited by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) to work with his kids Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and Sue (Kate Mara) at Baxter on teleportation projects.

Convincing Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) to cross over from his dark side and join the team is a dicey move.

By teleporting themselves to an alternate universe, the team members undergo the physical changes that make them the superheroes they become. Teleportation issues and confrontations with Doom form much of the (yawn) latter part of the film.

Hardcore fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will feel an obligation to see Fantastic Four, out of a sense of loyalty and duty. And to see if it is, indeed, as disappointing as was predicted and is now revealed to be.

Those of us who are not Marvel fanboys but enjoy a good Marvel film may want to stick with Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron for 2015 viewing pleasure.

(Sidebar note: Reg E. Cathey has an incredible deep voice. He might want to shoot for some of the voiceover work that currently goes to Morgan Freeman by default.)