In the picture

March 17, 2019

In the picture

Captain Marvel**1/2

*ing: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, and Jude Law

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Tagline: Higher. Further. Faster.

Captain Marvel sure knows how to cause a furore. Few movies generate quite as much critique before they have even been released as Marvel’s first female-led superhero outing managed to do in the last few months. But for a film that has caused such a ruckus, the adventure itself is significantly more run-of-the-mill than you’d expect.

The movie takes us to the mid ‘90s, where a Kree warrior, Vers (Brie Larson) - who is mentored by commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), and can’t recall much about her past - joins a squad for a mission to rescue an undercover Kree operative from their shape-shifting nemeses, the Skrulls. But when the operation goes awry, Vers ends up crash landing on Earth where she meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The two then find themselves working together, uncovering secrets from her past while navigating the interstellar war between the Kree and the Skrulls.

It isn’t the most inspired storyline. Nor is the basic premise very inventive. In fact, Alita: Battle Angel went down the "amnesiac young woman from a military background with a mysterious past and immense power" path only recently. The supposed twist Captain Marvel has to offer isn’t very imaginative either; you’ll definitely see it coming from a mile.

The film tries to have some fun with its ‘90s setting with references and music but doesn’t make full use of the opportunity. The song insertions feel forced and are not nearly as enjoyable as the absolutely joyful musical moments in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy series.

The cast, to their credit, try their best to make the most of a mediocre script. Larson makes a fierce protagonist and it is fun to watch her with Jackson, who has been seamlessly de-aged in the movie. And there are moments of humour - especially those involving a cat - that certainly work.

But too many generic action movie beats take away much of the film’s suspense. That said, while it may not be riveting on its own, the adventure is still fairly enjoyable if you are already invested in the Avengers saga and eager to see how Carol Danvers fits into Endgame.

Captain Marvel leaves you with the sense that the project would have seemed a lot more impressed a couple of decades ago. In the 11 years since Iron Man conquered the box office, we have been spoiled by far better superhero flicks, which might be why Captain Marvel comes off as unexceptional.

This isn’t an altogether dismal effort; the problem is: it’s not particularly exciting either. Marvel doesn’t really do anything extraordinary or memorable here. Ultimately, this is a somewhat fun but mostly inessential detour on the way to the eagerly anticipated Endgame.


Vox Lux**

*ing: Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Stacy Martin, Jennifer Ehle, and Raffey Cassidy

Written and directed by: Brady Corbet

Tagline: A twenty-first century portrait.

A popstar’s rise and fall is the subject of Vox Lux, a musical drama that charts a young girl’s journey after she suddenly lands in the spotlight. Traumatised by a horrific tragedy - a plot point so jarring that it feels exploitative as the setup of a movie - teenager Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) writes a song about her experience that becomes a hit. With the help of a manager (Jude Law), she quickly becomes a global star and is whisked away into the world of music, losing her innocence along the way.

There is nothing particularly striking about the movie till this point, but it is intriguing enough to keep you interested in the proceedings. Then, about halfway through the film, Natalie Portman shows up as the now-grownup Celeste and things begin to fall apart. Portman simply lacks pop star presence and her character lacks even an ounce of likability. To make things worse, Brady Corbet makes the weird casting choice to have Cassidy (who admittedly is the MVP here) play a dual role - appearing as young Celeste in the first half and as Celeste’s daughter in the second - which is just distracting instead of effective. And for some reason, we even have Willem Dafoe needlessly narrating the film.

As for the music, the soundtrack comprises mostly Sia’s standard pop banalities and for a movie about pop stardom, the songs are disappointingly forgettable.

For the most part, you can see what Corbet was trying to do here, but he doesn’t quite manage to pull it off. With a first half that is dull but intriguing and a second half that is as big a mess as its protagonist, Vox Lux fails to build on what could have potentially been a promising premise. The performances are largely unexciting and the movie’s social commentary is as unsubtle as can be. Combined with its unremarkable soundtrack, the end result is thoroughly underwhelming.


Rating system:  *Not on your life  * ½ If you really must waste your time  ** Hardly worth the bother  ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only  *** Good enough for a look see  *** ½ Recommended viewing  **** Don’t miss it  **** ½ Almost perfect  ***** Perfection

In the picture