Spoilers for "Captain Marvel" and a few minor ones for "Endgame" ahead.
I completely forgot to write a review for "Captain Marvel" because, honestly, it's a pretty forgettable movie. It's competently made, delivers a lot of good action moments, and introduces interesting characters like Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), and the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening). Our heroine Carol Danvers, however, isn't one of them.
The MCU has largely been the domain of male heroes for a while now, so the series' first female headliner (no, Wasp doesn't count) should be cause for celebration. The trouble is that the version of Captain Marvel we're introduced to isn't very compelling. Brie Larson is well cast as Carol Danvers, the former US Air Force pilot turned amnesiac galactic ass-kicker. However, the character is an infuriating blank for far too long, a mystery to everyone, including herself. We get a lot of flashes of memories of who she was, and other characters filling in details about her life, but very little substantive about her past and relationships. Just hints. Just echoes.
There's some good character-building bits when she and Nick Fury partner up on Earth. Danvers proves herself to be resourceful, smart, tenacious, and funny. However, her most prominent trait is uncertainty, and there are weird ellipses all over the place when it comes to her emotional arc. It's odd that the story makes so much of Carol not having her memories, but it doesn't bother letting us know at the end whether she gets them back or not. Does she finally self-actualize because she remembers who she is, or because she realizes that it doesn't matter? Dr. Lawson (Bening) was apparently the person she most respected, but we never get a solid answer as to why. As for Maria Rambeau, I've heard theories that she and Danvers might have been a lesbian couple - and they might well have been, as their friendship onscreen is so vaguely defined. I don't need it spelled out that they were flight school buddies, or whatever the actual backstory is, but there should have been something more concrete.
As she currently exists, Captain Marvel feels like a work in progress, her origin story, her personality, and her motivations all unfinished. She's never even referred to as "Captain Marvel" at any point, though presumably her name comes from the character Mar-Vell. However, this never made explicit, so the audience is left to fill in more blanks themselves. I appreciate that Carol Danvers doesn't have a love interest in this movie, but I also think that she could have used one to give her a stronger connection to another character. It's hard to sympathize with her, because she feels so aloof and untethered. We know who she cares about, but little time is afforded to showing the hows and the whys. She's admirable and impressive, sure, but we don't know her well enough to love her.
I've heard some grumblings about Brie Larson, but Larson's not the problem here. Captain Marvel's fundamentally poor construction as a character, and the way they chose to introduce her are the culprits. The "Captain Marvel" movie tells us far too little about who Carol Danvers is and barely gives us a chance to get to know her as a person before she's off to the other end of the galaxy, unreachable. When she appears in "Endgame," there are even more mysteries. Why hasn't she aged in her decades away from Earth? Did any of her friendships from the previous film survive those intervening years?
Apparently, a lot was left on the cutting room floor. The home media release reportedly contains over twenty minutes of deleted scenes, and they might help to shed some light on the mysteries of Captain Marvel before the sequel rolls around in a few years. The overwhelming financial success of "Captain Marvel" ensures that there will be a sequel, and there's no question that there's an audience for more MCU heroines. There will be at least two more female superhero-led MCU films next year, and there have been rumors of more in the works. Clearly, Marvel is trying to make up for lost time.
However, the MCU's track record with its female characters has been pretty poor up to this point. I wasn't happy with how "Endgame" handled Black Widow, and her prequel film feels like incredibly bad timing. The big girl power moment in the final fight was such obvious pandering - and it wouldn't have if those characters had been treated better from the outset. I like characters like Scarlet Witch and Peggy Carter, but their stories have been so truncated and used as ancillary material. Arguably, the female Avenger treated best has been Nebula.
And that's why Captain Marvel has been such a disappointment. This was a big opportunity, and it didn't really pay off. Fortunately, the MCU provides a lot of second chances. There's still time to do better and to make her a character worth caring about, as well as a hero worth rooting for. There's still time to get to know Carol Danvers. I just wish it could have happened in the movie that has her name on it.---