Review Round-Up: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel

So far, most critics are singing the praises of Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie.
Captain Marvel - Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has some pretty great female characters — e.g., Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Okoye, Shuri, Peggy Carter — none of them have (unfortunately) headlined an MCU movie. But that all changes with Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel.

The character — who has been billed as one of the MCU’s most powerful characters and a key to battling (and presumably, defeating) Thanos — was teased at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, when Nick Fury uses a pager(!) to send off a mysterious message. But she makes her big screen debut with Captain Marvel, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Mississippi Grind, Half Nelson).

The film opens in theaters on March 8, but reviews have already begun pouring in from critics.

ScreenAnarchy’s Shelagh Rowan-Legg calls Captain Marvel “a force to be reckoned with,” and concludes that “[w]ith a great soundtrack, the right kind of girl power, solid cast, exciting action, and the right dose of intelligence and humour, it’s a fresh addition to the canon, taking it in a needed new direction.”

Birth.Movies.Death’s Todd Gilchrist is even more emphatic in his review, calling Captain Marvel “an important benchmark in the evolution not just of superhero films but films that offer woefully overdue, intersectional representation of women and people of color on a massive, mainstream scale.” But lest you think that Captain Marvel is just for social justice warriors, Gilchrist confirms that it’s still “a rousing, fun superhero saga that earns the right to be viewed without needing conditions, asterisks or equivocation to evaluate its artistic worthiness.”

io9’s Yolanda Machado praises the film’s depiction of female relationships: “While the MCU has shown women working together (Nakia, Shuri, and Okoye in Black Panther), as well as part of a hot/cold sibling rivalry (Gamora and Nebula), Maria and Carol’s relationship is truly the first time we’ve seen women in a close life-defining friendship… While both are strong in their own ways, they are two different women, and it was thrilling to watch such a close female bond come through in a comic book action film.”

However, other’s aren’t quite as taken with the new Captain’s adventures.

Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos finds the cinematic Captain Marvel underwhelming when compared to her comic book version: “This isn’t to say that Captain Marvel isn’t ever fun or joyous. It’s just that for large stretches of the movie, it feels like everyone around Carol, but not Carol herself, is channeling the joys of being a superhero. It’s not until fairly late in the film that Carol finally gets to soar. And even then, I was left hoping for something better for the character.”

The AV Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky likes Brie Larson’s “confidence and chutzpah” as Captain Marvel but takes issue with the film’s reliance on ’90s nostalgia: “[I]t might be called the ’90s superhero movie that Marvel never got to make. It has the approximate pace and running time of a blockbuster of that era, which means that it’s comparatively short and fast-paced by modern standards. Unfortunately, it also has a lackluster plot; bog-standard chase scenes and pew-pewing space ships; a notable shortage of interesting characterizations; and a fight scene set to No Doubt’s Just A Girl’ that is nowhere as awesome or as silly as it should be.”

Finally, Time Magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek finds the film’s depiction of a female superhero problematic: “[D]oes our sense of the power and capability of women always have to be filtered through a highly fictionalized superhero universe — as if that were the only way we could possibly bring ourselves to register the value of what women can bring to the table? Words like badass and kick-ass, used to describe women, have been trotted out so often that they’ve come to mean nothing. They tell us little about whether a woman has any sense of judgment or style or true intelligence. The idea is that it’s best just to bash your way through everything, just as so many guys do. That way, no one will ever think of you as weak.”

More reviews can be found on Rotten Tomatoes, where Captain Marvel currently has an 84% rating.