film

Review: Captain Marvel

Written by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman, and Meg LeFauve and directed by Boden and Fleck, “Captain Marvel” is the 21st film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is the first film in the ongoing series to be led by a woman (Maybe next time Black Widow). Set during the 1990’s “Captain Marvel” is an origin story that can, at times, suffer under the weight of everything the film requires of it as a piece of the larger shared universe. Don’t fret though, the film has enough attitude and heart to appease most audience members. Since the film has to do a lot of legwork in unpacking Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) own story through her memory loss and the galactic war between the alien races of the Kree and the Skrulls- the pacing and smoothness of the script do suffer somewhat.

While the film overall may have a “stepping stone syndrome” I’m admittedly doubly excited after the credits rolled to see how the character of Carol Danvers will fare when thrown into the mix with the other Avengers. This film was a lot of fun though- Carol’s scenes with a younger Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) was my favorite part of the whole film, the charisma and chemistry between these two was palpable! I really didn’t expect Fury to be in the film all that much given the de-aging tech required to digitally craft a believable 1990’s Sam Jackson, but it was seamless and incredibly impressive given his amount of screentime. Ben Mendelsohn almost stole the show as Talos the Skrull too, he was menacing, crafty, and far more layered than I would have expected from the shape-shifting alien race. The 1990’s setting was fun to play around in and the jokes devoted to the decade weren’t overdone thankfully. More importantly though, the hints of characterization we got of Carol from both her time as a member of Star-Force and as a pilot in the Air-Force with her friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch- who was the heart and soul of this movie!) show that her personality was singular even through her memory loss. She had attitude and a punk flair that was encouraging for the character’s future. Oh, and Goose the cat- he was pretty great too.

Okay, so, I have to mention the downsides of the film. While I may have had a good time with the superheroine’s space adventure- the film has its share of structural issues. The story at its core is fine as far as origin stories go, but the way the film was pieced together was incredibly clunky. In one of the first few scenes of the film a pair of Skrulls capture Carol and take a peek through her memories to find some information- showing us what her true past was. I get it, at 21 movies in an ongoing saga there’s a lot of pressure to consistently deliver us new content while still being familiar to what the audience loves- but giving the audience all of the information that the main character is seeking for the majority of the rest of the film (with one notable exception) keeps her distant. We get whispers of who Carol is, they tell us who she is, but as we begin the film with her being a powerful hero already- we weren’t with her when she struggled. Sure, we get a cool montage of her defying defeat and getting up from being knocked down throughout her life, but that’s not truly characterization within a story. I think there’s enough in this film to make great use of the character in future outings, but given that this is the first MCU film headed by a woman, shouldn’t she deserve more care with her story? There’s also a few other nitpicky issues I have with the movie, scenes lit too dark, direction lacking in a few fight scenes, and how Nick Fury lost his eye was kind of silly and I would have preferred him losing it in a battle with an alien- but hey that’s just me.

While “Captain Marvel” may have stumbled a bit out of the gate, she stands with excellent peers in the MCU. Tony Stark, Thor, and Bruce Banner don’t have the cleanest cinematic records here either, and that’s okay. The MCU has proven that they can take stumbles and turn them into ballets. Here’s to Carol Danvers giving Thanos a glowing fist to the face in April!

Final Score: There’s only 1 Goose!

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film

Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

Written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons and directed by Roar Uthaug, “Tomb Raider” is the third film adaption of the popular video game series of the same name- whilst also being a reboot that in itself is an adaption of the series’ most recent reboot to the video game series that was released in 2013 (whew, that was a lot). Alicia Vikander stars as Lara Croft this time around in a much more grounded take on the action adventure series than the prior Angelina Jolie films (which, I have to say are quite a lot of fun in their own right). In this origin of the character Lara’s father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), became obsessed with ancient myths and artifacts after the death of her mother and had absconded off to a mysterious island in the pacific near Japan seven years prior to search for the tomb of Himiko, the cursed first empress of Japan. Myth and legend shrouded her legacy, but all cite a supposed apocalyptic scenario that would be unleashed upon the world if her tomb were to be disturbed. Lord Croft had pursued the legend with The Trinity at his coattails, an evil organization looking to weaponize the myth. He sought to keep the tomb hidden and out of the hands of the Syndicate… err, the Nazis… I mean… Trinity– yes them, that’s the one.

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When we meet Lara in the first act she’s living in London on a shoestring budget, refusing to accept her father’s inheritance- signing that contract would be accepting his death. Instead she makes ends meet by training at a small gym and cycling through the crowded streets as a courier. Right off the bat the film sets the mood firmly in the momentum and thrill of Lara’s life. After overhearing the details of a lucrative courier race, in which a paint can is strapped to her bike leaking paint with a fox tail attached and only given a moments head start, she’s accepted the challenge and races through London closely followed by a league of cyclists. This scene was cleverly shot and a fun way to kickstart the film’s energetic sense of fun. Which is one of the film’s best attributes overall.

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Once Lara makes her way to the Croft building to begrudgingly accept her inheritance, she’s given a puzzling cryptex that she solves as she’s being read the specifics of her father’s will, as if she were simply fidgeting. As she does so, a key pops out with a clue that leads her to her father’s own tomb- where she discovers the details of his globe-trotting adventures. She’s quickly off to follow his trail and discover the path he took to his death. She ends up in China before long to question the captain that chartered her father to the remote island. Instead she finds Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) the son of the captain she sought. After some squabbling she offers him a payday worth his while and they set sail, so to speak, for the island dead set in the middle of the devil’s sea.

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Once she’s stepped upon the island she meets the villain of the film, Mathias Vogel, an employee of the shapeless Trinity organization played with serviceable cruelty by Walton Goggins. From there the film goes about the usual tropes of any action adventure movie or video game, i.e. solving puzzles, sneaking past unnamed and heinous henchmen, encountering dizzying thrills, all in service of seeking the eponymous tomb. So that’s all well and good, but is the film successful in its execution of these well-worn adventure themed devices? I would say that it does. While this film never reaches the heights of Indiana Jones, it does enough to separate itself as a story all it’s own while maintaining a solid sense of momentum and adequate adventure thrills. Alicia Vikander was an excellent casting choice for this reboot, while the script never reaches for the wise-cracking snark and personality of her video game peer in Nathan Drake, she does a lot with what she’s given. You can feel her struggle and her purpose in seeking answers to her father’s mysterious end.

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This latest version of “Tomb Raider” gives a lot of potential for a solid string of sequels if the studio so chooses. There could be some polish done in the future, maybe learn what didn’t exactly work in this entry for example, and this could very well turn into quite an enjoyable series. Though the last five minutes of the film do go a bit over the top in their obvious hopes for another shot at the material. While the film lacks some magic in the writing and the plot points feel a bit familiar, it’s still good fun at the theater!

 

 

Final Score: three puzzles, one island, and a good deal of fun