Runtime 124 minutes PG-13
How many ages hence/Shall this our lofty scene be acted over/ In states unborn and accents yet unknown? —Cassius, Julius Caesar, Act 3 Scene 1
Yon Cassius certainly wasn’t thinking of the prosaic filmmakers of the 21st century who keep making the same movie over and over but if he were, he would have been incredibly prescient.
When people of my generation think of Captain Marvel, they think of disabled newsboy Billy Batson who, when he expected danger, would utter the word “Shazam” (an acronym of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury), and a lightning bolt would strike and transform him into superhero Captain Marvel. Created in 1939 by Fawcett and first published in 1940 as an answer to “Superman,” Captain Marvel actually outsold Superman in the ‘40s.
But due to a copyright infringement lawsuit from DC Comics, Fawcett ceased publication of Captain Marvel in 1953. But in 1972 DC licensed the character from Fawcett and it has been in and out of publication with various iterations. Carol Danvers became Ms. Marvel sometime in the last century and she became a Captain in 2012.
Now Marvel, a division of Disney, has made this film and it bears no resemblance to the Captain Marvel of Billy Batson, and more’s the pity. Directed by the man/woman team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who also wrote the script with Geneva Robertson-Dvoret, Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers is a beautiful woman (Brie Larson). Here we find her in some other part of the Galaxy with some kind of amnesia and controlled by a man, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Consistent with other superhero fantasies today she comes (back) to earth and fights with other creatures from the Galaxy here on earth (sound familiar?), linking up with earthling Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson who looks like he had stem cell treatments to make him look 30 years younger than the septuagenarian he really is; well, it is set in 1995, but, really?).
This thing is hardly distinguishable from the other superhero films, except that the superhero is a woman and I guess that makes all the difference. It’s full of CGI and idiotic fights and funny looking aliens fighting other funny looking aliens. Because we all know that Captain Marvel won’t lose any of them, there’s absolutely no tension, and there never is in any of these films. It’s just two hours of the exact same stuff we see in every superhero film extant, except that in this one it’s a beautiful woman who is beating the bejesus out of a phalanx of creatures.
This is a “statement” movie, folks. Women are no different from men. And if you want to be one of the other when you aren’t genetically, just say you are.
The late Stan Lee appears in a Hitchcockian-style cameo. Lee has become immortalized as a hero for all the superheroes he created for DC Comics. But he never had anything to do with Captain Marvel, neither the original nor this female iteration, as far as I know. As far as I’m concerned, all he did was ruin the film world for the foreseeable future.
As P.T. Barnum didn’t say (although he is always given credit), there’s a sucker born every minute. And these suckers flock to the movie theaters to keep seeing the same story told to them over and over and over, and it never gets any better or worse. Apparently these films are enough to satisfy the 21st century mind.
Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at TonyMedley.com.