Orange Wednesday: Captain Marvel (2019) and Mile 22 (2018)

Captain Marvel

Every Wednesday, TMINE reviews two movies and infringes a former mobile phone company’s trademarked marketing gimmick

Two recent movies for Orange Wednesday this week, one of which only got released this week – yes, I’ve been to the cinema!

  • Captain Marvel (2019): Marvel’s first superheroine movie
  • Mile 22 (2018): Mark Wahlberg and his team of special forces spies has to get Iko Uwais 22 miles to an airport

Both of those after the jump.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel (2019)

Slightly amnesiac alien Kree superwarrior ‘Vers’ (Room‘s Brie Larson) falls to Earth in the 1990s during a war with the shape-changing Skrulls and learns that several of her enemies may have infiltrated society. She tries to track them down and stop them with the help of youngish agent of SHIELD Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), before her bosses destroy the planet to eliminate the ‘infestation’. However, she soon begins to realise she may have once had a life on Earth and that all she knows may be wrong.

For a lot of Marvel movies, I’ve had to point out “this isn’t really a superhero movies, it’s a…”. Black Panther was more a James Bond movie than a superhero movie, Ant-Man was more a heist movie, while Captain America: Winter Soldier was undeniably a superb spy movie. Captain Marvel, however, is quite clearly not just an origin story for the pager seen at the end of The Avengers: Infinity War but a proper superheroine origin movie, as we learn how former USAF pilot Carol Danvers ended up getting superpowers and becoming a superheroine.

As with many of its previous movies, Marvel has picked indie directors (Mississippi Grind‘s Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) to helm Captain Marvel and they do bring more of a character-oriented storyline and approach to the piece, showing off Danvers’ relationships with and supporting cast of women and girls to good effect. They also twist established Marvel comics continuity, so that there are some genuine surprises in the plot, even for fans.

But just as Winter Soldier was as much a Black Widow movie as a Captain America movie, so Captain Marvel is also Nick Fury movie, providing him with a partial origin story, too. The magic of CGI de-ages him convincingly and combined with an energetic performance, we do get to see how Nick Fury slowly comes to be the man who invents ‘the Avengers initiative’.

Captain Marvel is also as much a fan of the 90s as Guardians of the Galaxy was of the 70s, from the soundtrack and the fashions to the chortle-worthy tributes to the slow tech of Windows 95 and Alta Vista.

However, this does feel a little like it has been crunched through a machine to smooth off some of its more individual corners. Larson is fabulous and gets plenty of moments to show off, both humorous and dramatic, right down to her own equivalent of Wonder Woman‘s ‘no man’s land’ scene. Given the huge box office the movie has already done, her performance and those moments clearly resonate with women around the world. But as her character largely can’t remember her more interesting party-girl pilot past for the first half of the movie, all she gets to do is fight and dish out trademark Marvel quips until the midway point, so it feels like the character is underserved by her own story – since she doesn’t have one yet. By the end, you’re not even 100% sure what Captain Marvel’s powers are.

Captain Marvel is certainly very good but it’s not outstanding. There’s nothing truly magical or exceptional to make you gasp in wonder, as Thor, Black Panther and Winter Soldier (and Wonder Woman) did. Nevertheless, this is a strong foundation for the character and just as Winter Soldier vastly exceeded Captain America: The First Avenger, I’m fairly confident that future movies, including Avengers: Endgame will be able to take what’s been established and really build on it, principally by focusing on Carol Danvers and taking full advantage of Larson’s acting abilities.

Mile 22

Mile 22 (2018)

Some bad guys in a made up country want to get some dirty bomb material so the US sends in top soldier-spy Mark Wahlberg and his team to rescue the man who knows where the material is stored (The Raid‘s Iko Uwais). But he wants to be taken to the US, so Wahlberg and co have to escort him through the city to the airport. Unfortunately, the bad guys have cracked Wahlberg’s secure communications system so know exactly what he’s doing…

Mile 22 is a bit of a mess, and I’m not just talking about the wig that Wahlberg’s boss John Malkovich is sporting. Directed by Peter Berg, it’s a nonsensical, often laughable action movie that tries very hard to be a gritty, realistic piece, but fails quite badly. The film’s entire structure works against, with a big (nonsensical) twist at the end that’s made so abundantly obvious through flashforward and cuts to a seemingly unrelated plotline that when it arrives, you just wonder why no one in the movie saw it coming. It also doesn’t help that the twist highlights how ridiculous the entire film’s foundational premise is: (spoiler) (spoiler alert) Malkovich leads things from a mobile HQ in a random building in a random city that the bad guys are trying to hunt down. Rather than in a secure, well-defended army camp in the US, say.

Particularly daft is Wahlberg’s character. Trumpeted during the credits as having a brain so much faster than other people’s, he has to keep thwacking an elastic band on his wrist to stay focused, in the story itself he’s actually magnificently stupid and his ‘condition’ manifests itself mostly as him shouting Wikipedia extracts at whomever he comes across. It would help if he could pronounce Edvard Munch’s name correctly for that to work the way everyone intended.

Meanwhile, for characterisation, Whiskey Cavalier‘s Lauren Cohan spends most of her time throwing her phone around angrily in response to her ex-husband’s child support demands. That’s not character: that’s cliché.

When the action does kick in, it is at least kinetic and done in camera, rather than through CGI. But it’s all filtered through Berg’s Bourne Supremacy-esque shakycam lens. There’s a reasonably exciting street shoot-out that’s a virtual copy of both the choreography and production techniques of Heat‘s bank heist shoot-out, but it’s so hard to follow, it loses most of its impact.

Similarly, there’s a sequence where everyone has to go into a building and fight the bad guys, and guess what? It’s a straight out copy of The Raid, except shot so that every time something exciting is going to happen, there’s a bad edit or the camera pans away, so you can’t see what’s going on or you’re taken out of the action.

What Mile 22 does have in its favour is Uwais, who despite Berg’s best efforts, manages to be as good as he was in The Raid. There are several really quite breathtaking fights that show off Uwais’ really quite extraordinary skills and while there’s more than a hint of daftness to the scenes as well, even Berg can’t detract from Uwais’ talent. Indeed, despite Wahlberg ostensibly being the star, the film serves Uwais far better than it does Wahlberg.

There are talks of a sequel and even a short-form online series based on Mile 22, but if there’s one thing that should come out of this, it’s really a stellar career in Hollywood for Uwais.

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