Much like the all-female “Ghostbusters” film of 2016 and the recent female-led “Star Wars” films, “Captain Marvel” has served as a flash point for online anger even before hitting theaters. Critic aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes had to change its policies to stop online trolls from leaving negative reviews before even seeing the film, and YouTube has been flooded by videos calling for boycotts of the movie in part because its star, Brie Larson, said that she wanted to see greater gender and racial diversity in film criticism.
Fair or not, as Marvel’s first female-led film, many will look to “Captain Marvel” to be a standard-bearer in the same way 2018’s “Black Panther” was for black superheroes. But is the 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe up to the task?
While the film had earned an 84 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this article’s publication, reviews for the movie have been generally mixed — a single number can’t adequately capture the range of critical response, and many of the reviews coded as “fresh” or “rotten” by the critic aggregation site have a bit more nuance.
To help you decide whether to buy tickets for opening night, here’s what critics are saying, both good and bad, about “Captain Marvel.”
Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times praised both Larson and co-writers/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, whom he credited with humanizing the film.
“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.”
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman wrote that Larson brought “the superpower of expression” to the film, and gave kudos to Boden and Fleck for crafting an engaging, absorbing plot.
“‘Captain Marvel’ doesn’t do anything revolutionary; it’s been crafted as another clockwork piece in the Marvel puzzle (the 21st MCU film). It’s a way-back prequel that casts its gaze way forward. Yet in its sturdy and standard-issue way, it invests Carol Danvers with a heroic majesty and heft that moves her, as a presence, to the forefront of the series.”
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune praised MCU producer Kevin Feige for taking a chance on Boden and Fleck, and compared “Captain Marvel” to the first “Captain America” film, which he said “went about its business with retro assurance” in its 1940s setting.
“Hiring Boden and Fleck for ‘Captain Marvel’ took some legitimate and, I think, rewarding risk. Once we get past the machinations and alleged farewells of ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ maybe a ‘Captain Marvel’ sequel with the same directors can expand on the tantalizing possibilities in this conflicted human/Kree hybrid, and really let Larson fly.”
CNN’s Brian Lowry found “Captain Marvel” to “contain an empowering message thanks to its gender distinction,” but to be below average by Marvel’s high standards.
“After a solid stretch for superhero fare — including ‘Black Panther’s’ groundbreaking bid in the Oscar race — ‘Captain Marvel’ ultimately feels more obligatory than inspired, a movie that basically gets the job done and little more.”
The AP’s Lindsey Bahr granted the film two and a half stars out of four, calling it “fine, but nothing to get too excited about,” and writing that after an entire film spent with Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, she still had “no idea what her personality is.”
“It’s hard to say whether that’s a flaw in Brie Larson’s performance or a failure of the script, but I came out of the film from writers/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck not caring all that much about her beyond what her dazzling powers might mean for the next Avengers film, which is perhaps the lamest way of all to experience these movies.”
The AV Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky gave the film a C, conceding that Larson brought “confidence and chutzpah” to her role, but ultimately finding a number of other faults in the film.
“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.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy called the film the “least” of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, and referred to it as “the cinematic equivalent of elementary brick and mortar construction.”
“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.”
Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post gave “Captain Marvel” one and a half stars out of four, writing that “nearly every aspect of this film is half-baked.”
“What’s said to be Marvel’s most powerful superhero ever is served Melatonin by Larson. There is precious little texture or detail, ups and downs, or emotions of any kind in her performance. The character, even when kicking ass, is a total bore. Such as it is, the film’s best moments are provided by Jackson and a hilarious cat. Let’s call the sequel ‘Captain Fur-ball.’”