#18 in my Ranking of The MCU Phases 1-3.
This is a movie with some ideas that fail at their execution, but at least it has some ideas. I don’t mean thematic ideas, but some basic structural ideas that place it above the worst of Marvel’s films that were more hodgepodge collections of different things thrown together to hit feature length.
Vers is a Kree military operative sent to fight the Skrulls on a planet. She gets captured and we see a montage that makes perfect sense to the audience instantly but Vers doesn’t understand at all. That’s a frustrating situation for an audience, watching your protagonist slowly catch up with what you’ve figured out already. Anyway, she ends up thrown to Earth where she promptly shoots off the head of an Arnold Schwarzenegger on a True Lies stand up in the middle of a Blockbuster Video (because she’s the new badass action hero, I guess). She is chasing some Skrulls and gets involved with Agent Nick Fury of SHIELD. They buddy up and head to a secret Air Force base that Vers’ fractured memories led them to. They discover that she was human and a pilot on Earth 6 years earlier (1989) right before she appeared with the Kree.
The Kree continue to chase her as she gets to know the Skrulls and realize that they’re not so bad, so she sides with them, finds a cloaked Kree base in orbit that’s housed no one but a handful of Skrulls for six years. The Kree then show up and Vers embraces her human side (which was enhanced by techno babble gobbledygook energy stuff that gave her super powers) and single handedly destroys a Kree warship, sending the rest running.
Alright, this movie is dumb, and bad. However, it’s half a step up from Ant-Man and the Wasp because its story is cohesive (even if dumb). The basic plot of the film mirrors Carol Danvers’ (her real name) personal journey. As she personally gains knowledge of her past, her conflict with the Skrulls diminishes and her conflict with the Kree grows. It’s held pretty consistently through the whole movie, and it makes the film a whole story.
And then, the particulars of that story are pretty bad. Chunks of this movie make no sense, but the largest piece is probably the origin of Danvers’ power and her inclusion in the Kree. So, reordering how it’s delivered in the film, Danvers is a pilot for a Kree hiding out as a human and using our tech to test some new lightspeed drive (why Earth? Why not a more advanced planet? Why not anything else?), the plane gets attacked by a Kree ship and crashes. The scientist Kree (Mar Vell) dies and Danvers tries to take a stand, shoots the ship and gets slathered with the science fantasy goop that gives her powers. The Kree then, instead of killing her, take her with them, somehow wipe her memories, and add her to their military strike forces. However, instead of bringing her in order to use these powers, they’re constantly trying to tamp them down. Why bring her along? If all they wanted was a human with flight experience, they could have grabbed someone not slathered in science fantasy goop who doesn’t exhibit signs of super powers. How she got to the Kree military and how they handle her makes no sense in the least.
There’s a tonal problem as well, and it stems from the fact that Brie Larson has terrible comic timing. They want her to be a new Tony Stark, quippy and fun while kicking ass, but she doesn’t have nearly the same level of charm. Her pauses between lines, the sort that make them funny, are too fast and they induce groans rather than smirks. The buddy cop quality of her time with Sam Jackson as Nick Fury is okay, but that’s driven more by Jackson than her.
On top of that, the movie is kind of ugly to look at. It seems to be trying to strike a balance between the cosmic colorfulness of Guardians of the Galaxy with the toned down Earthiness of Iron Man or the Earth stuff in Thor, but the scenes filmed outside of Earth are awful to look at. They use a dark green and black color scheme combined with an incessant need to dim the lights that produces images that are simply hard to see. Then, when the action gets to Earth, it goes in the exact opposite direction with flat imagery, bright lights, and little color design at all. It looks more like a television show than a big budget film.
So, yeah, it’s not as manically unfocused as some of the worst Marvel films, but that doesn’t suddenly make it good. It’s cohesively bad.