Captain Marvel (Blu-ray) (2019)

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Released 19-Jun-2019

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Introduction
Featurette-Becoming a Super Hero
Featurette-Big Hero Moment
Featurette-The Origin of Nicky Fury
Featurette-The Dream Team
Featurette-The Skrulls and the Kree
Featurette-Hiss-Sterical Cat-Titude
Deleted Scenes
Outtakes-Gag Reel
Audio Commentary-with Directors Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2019
Running Time 123:42
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Anna Boden
Ryan Fleck
Studio
Distributor
Marvel
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Brie Larson
Samuel L. Jackson
Jude Law
Ben Mendelsohn
Lashana Lynch
Clark Gregg
Gemma Chan
Annette Bening
Lee Pace
Djimon Hounsou
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music Pinar Toprak


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Russian
English Audio Commentary
Russian Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

    Arriving twelve months after 2018's culturally significant Black Panther, Captain Marvel is the first instalment in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe to feature a female lead. The obvious comparison in this respect is 2017's Wonder Woman, which verified the commercial and critical validity of female-led superhero movies after years of misfires (Elektra, Catwoman, Supergirl, and so on). Unfortunately, although it is reassuring to finally see a female-led MCU entry, this aspect alone is not enough to elevate Captain Marvel above the ordinary. In fact, the effort as a whole is below-average - it's certainly slick and full of colourful action, but it lacks the requisite stakes to make this story genuinely compelling. Furthermore, it lacks the thematic and narrative elegance of something like Wonder Woman, and the result feels like the worst kind of bland, commercial, assembly-line filmmaking.

    Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), who is known as Vers, works as part of a Kree military squad on the planet Hala, answering to her mentor and commander, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). The Kree are at war with the Skrulls, a race of shape-shifting extraterrestrials led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) who are capable of impersonating humanoids. Following a conflict with the Skrulls, Carol is subjected to a mind probe which reveals scattered memories of a past life on Earth in which she was a pilot in the United States Air Force. Carol escapes but crash-lands on Earth in the mid-1990s, where she immediately attracts the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). With the Skrulls arriving on Earth, Carol pairs up with Fury to stop a potentially world-ending alien invasion. In the process, Carol also learns more about the life she previously lived, reuniting with her former co-pilot and best friend Maria (Lashana Lynch).

    With a script credited to directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Mississippi Grind), as well as Geneva Robertson-Dworet, one of the fundamental issues facing Captain Marvel relates to the narrative. The opening act of the movie is borderline indecipherable, rushing frenetically through too much story material without any substance to supplement the visual pizzazz. As a result, even though the film benefits from a slick technical presentation that is customary for the MCU, it's impossible to feel genuinely involved in the proceedings. Moreover, whether it's a shortcoming of the editing or the screenplay the film butchers the Kree/Skrull war, which is a significant storyline in the comics but receives insufficient development here. Worse, Captain Marvel should be about Carol trying to reconcile with having fragmented memories of a past life, and experiencing the disorientation of recognising places and people without knowing why she does. Upon arriving on Earth, investigating these memories should be Carol's primary motivation, taking precedence over the Skrull hunt. Alas, without this motivation, Carol's arc feels tragically underdeveloped. Admittedly, dealing with Carol's origin in flashback is a welcome formula change, but the audience should be allowed to spend more time in Carol's past life to get to know her. Alas, a lack of meaty background detail affects a viewer's ability to become emotionally invested in the protagonist or care when she's in danger.

    At the end of the second act, Captain Marvel pulls a bait and switch with a twist that recontextualises the narrative. However, not everything adds up with the characters' previous behaviours, and it also means that the real villain is not revealed until the finale. The political metaphor of said finale is about as subtle as a shotgun; the villain is, essentially, the patriarchy holding Carol back from embracing her true power. Equally awful is a battle sequence set to the tune of "Just a Girl," to further underscore the dubious significance of a female superhero kicking a*** on-screen. Indeed, Captain Marvel is too on-the-nose with political matters, with Carol being belittled by an obnoxious man on a motorcycle, and preachy themes about border control/refugees. Real-world allegories are a staple of Marvel Comics, but most of this material comes across as head-slappingly obvious and sanctimonious. Even the devout refusal to include a love interest for Carol is clearly a political decision.

    There is no denying Larson's talent as an actress, with her breakout role in Room leading to an Academy Award, but she is grossly miscast as Carol Danvers. She lacks personality and spunk, and fails to make an adequate impression or convey requisite cinematic strength. One can certainly argue that her memory loss led to a personality wipe, but her renewed personality should begin to emerge through the film as she grows and develops. Unfortunately, this does not occur. Worse, there is no character arc for Carol. Throughout the movie, men consistently belittle her and hold her back, until she eventually removes an actual physical mechanism which suppresses her powers, and summarily becomes supercharged and invincible. But this version of a hero's journey literally amounts to Carol being right and perfect for her whole life, and the proceedings continually validating her righteousness. In other words, there are no flaws for her to overcome, nor does she actually learn anything, because Carol has no flaws - and, consequently, she does not feel human or relatable. Thus, Carol does not have a meaty motivation and never undergoes a meaningful arc. It's difficult to ignore the political implications of this character, since the writers appear reluctant to portray Carol as flawed in any way. One could argue that any number of weaknesses might feel clichéd or overdone, but, if executed with genuine sincerity, even the tritest of character weaknesses can translate to something meaningful and emotional. Anything would be more rewarding than this.

    On the bright side, the 1990s nostalgia is appreciated, such as Carol crash-landing into a Blockbuster Video store, plus a painfully slow-loading CD-ROM drive and the mostly agreeable selection of era-specific songs. (Carol even wears a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt.) Also, the recreation of the 1990s is spot-on, from the vehicles to the fashions, and production values are state-of-the-art all-round. Another element which truly works is the original score by Pinar Toprak (TV's Krypton), which is flavoursome and unique as opposed to outright generic - there is even some retro synth. Unfortunately, no amount of CGI and nostalgia can compensate for the utter emptiness of the battle sequences, which are devoid of stakes because it's impossible to care about Carol and it's difficult to become invested in the Kree-Skrull war. Furthermore, watching the supercharged Carol defeat everybody without breaking a sweat is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Captain Marvel also lacks a sense of the exotic since every alien species on-screen speaks English. Hell, the Skrulls are often depicted as buffoonish, too, which undermines any sense of menace. Unsurprisingly, Mendelsohn is an acting standout - he is even allowed to embrace his native Australian accent while playing Talos, and he gives the material genuine gravitas.

    The prequel angle of Captain Marvel facilitates some interesting possibilities; for instance, both Djimon Hounsou and Lee Pace reprise their (now-deceased) roles from Guardians of the Galaxy. However, Pace's role of Ronan the Accuser is particularly emasculated and powerless, with his appearance amounting to nothing. This story also introduces a glaring timeline issue relating to the Tesseract, which is top-secret S.H.I.E.L.D. property but was apparently loaned out to a military scientist (played by Annette Bening). Meanwhile, the digital de-aging of Jackson is sublime, ably demonstrating that this technology has progressed to the point that such characters can take on a major role in future productions, which has innumerable possibilities. Jackson visibly enjoys playing a younger version of Fury, delivering a loose, humorous performance - he almost saves the movie. However, Jackson's athleticism is lacking, as he still moves with the limited agility of a man in his 70s. (Martin Scorsese's The Irishman encountered a similar issue.) The mystery of Fury's scarred eye is also addressed...and it is disappointing and underwhelming. It is also worth pointing out that the de-aging of Clark Gregg (in his first Marvel movie since 2012's The Avengers) is less effective, though the illusion still works to an extent.

    Among the things that Captain Marvel does correctly, the opening tribute to the late Stan Lee is enough to bring a tear to your eye, and Stan's cameo in the film is one of his better appearances in the MCU. At the end of the day, however, Captain Marvel is one big misfire which sits right at the bottom of the Marvel canon, just below The Incredible Hulk and the two Ant-Man films. The narrative issues are a major problem, as well as the lack of a character arc - as a result, this superhero blockbuster is entertaining in drips and drabs, but falls drastically short of the brilliance of Iron Man or The Avengers, or any number of other great MCU entries. Even though Larson's titular character is on-screen for two hours, she still remains an enigma when the end credits begin to appear, and she's never as endearing or as fun as Jackson's Nick Fury. Captain Marvel is a waste of potential, pure and simple.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    A tremendous box office success in early 2019, Captain Marvel is presented on Blu-ray in AVC-encoded 1080p high definition, framed at its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. (As per usual, there is no aspect ratio extension for the IMAX sequences.) Placed on a dual-layered BD-50 with minimal special features, this two-hour blockbuster is mastered with a perfectly adequate average video bitrate of 31.88 Mbps, which is one of the highest bitrates for a Disney MCU flick in several years. The movie is also available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, though this is the first MCU movie not to receive a local 3D Blu-ray release - if you want 3D, you'll have to import from the United Kingdom. (I won't be indulging, and I'm kind of thankful I didn't have to buy two editions.) Even though Captain Marvel is the weakest MCU entry to date, the Blu-ray presentation is exceptional - sharp, richly textured, colourful, and free of encoding anomalies. The 4K transfer still offers an improvement, but make no mistake: this is a very, very handsome-looking image.

    Since Captain Marvel relies on expensive special effects and carries rich, nuanced cinematography (by Ben Davis), this movie is not a great fit for 1080p with the format's limited colour space, but Disney's encoding team have done a great job transferring the pristine digital source to disc. The transfer struggles a tad at the 12-minute mark due to the excessive haze and smoke, but this is pretty much to be expected - and it by no means looks awful, as object delineation and shadow detail remains relatively strong nevertheless. I was also unable to detect any banding in the smoke, which must've been a difficult feat for the encoding team to achieve. Deliberate film grain is also added for the flashbacks at around the 15-minute mark showing Carol's past, and said grain does look a touch smeary and lacking in tightness, but this is a minor shortcoming. The other only shortcomings to speak of are related to 1080p's imperfections - i.e. black levels don't quite attain definitive inkiness, and harsh light sources look super blown out, especially when Carol unleashes her powers. Additionally, the transfer doesn't do much for the digital de-aging on Clark Gregg, which looks overly smooth and even a touch smeary at times (see an especially problematic shot at 29:35 of the side of Gregg's face in the car with Fury). There are times when the transfer as a whole is a touch smooth, which is unsurprising for a digitally-filmed production, but it's never a huge problem. It's possible that, like most MCU movies, the movie was given a slight de-noising pass in post-production.

    Aside from all of this... holy hell, Captain Marvel looks great on Blu-ray. With the benefit of a generous video bitrate, the transfer ably resolves even the tiniest of details, from skin pores to fabrics, even in medium and wide shots. Indeed, the presentation is astonishingly precise, especially in brightly-lit scenes which look razor-sharp and pleasingly detailed. It's easy to marvel (heh) at the intricate prosthetics on the Skrull faces; close-ups of Talos are extraordinary, even under lower light. Also see the Skrull autopsy at 36:10; the skin looks so lifelike and tangible. Likewise, the incredible digital de-aging of Jackson still appears seamless, and the transfer handles these complex digital de-aging effects with ease. Admittedly, the colour palette still appears a touch drab compared to the Ultra HD presentation which is enhanced with High Dynamic Range, but I was still impressed with the satisfying colour saturation. Digital imagery of Hala cityscapes are colourful, Carol's red & blue outfit looks bold and vivid, and the various tints are faithfully represented without overwhelming the frame (flashback scenes are tinted to look like old film, for instance). Of course, the 4K HDR version features a more nuanced colour palette, but, once again, this transfer still looks great considering the limitations of 1080p.

    Casual viewers and videophiles alike should enjoy Captain Marvel's excellent Blu-ray transfer, which surpassed my expectations given Disney's usual track record with the MCU. As previously stated, I couldn't detect any encoding issues throughout the transfer; banding is not apparent in smoke, while I also couldn't see any aliasing, macroblocking, or anything else of concern.

    English and Russian subtitles are available, and I couldn't detect any issues with the English track.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    As per usual, Captain Marvel's Blu-ray presentation is accompanied with a lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio track, while the Dolby Atmos is saved for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Also on the disc is an English descriptive audio track and a Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but I didn't even sample these - I solely focused on the 7.1 track. It almost goes without saying, but you will have to raise the volume above normal listening levels to get the full effect of the 7.1 mix, but, once you're there, the viewing experience is a real treat. This is not another unnecessarily gimped Disney audio mix; instead, it's precise, crystal clear, enormously impactful and consistently dynamic, with very little to complain about. When Carol and Yon-Rogg engage in a fight at the beginning of the movie, each punch, kick and body fall is accentuated with impactful subwoofer activity, while eye-shattering, room-shaking low-frequency effects are likewise evident when the Kree ships leave Hala at the 9-minute mark. The battle with the Skrulls at the 12-minute mark is deafening, from the photon blasts to the explosions, as well as the Skrull screams. When Carol scuffles with the various Skrulls at the 20-minute mark, LFE is consistent and never lacking. The Air Force jets are also loud, and you can feel the subwoofer impact whenever they fly through the frame. The climactic battle on the Starforce ship is satisfying as hell from a sonic standpoint; loud, dynamic and full of LFE. Gunshots are slightly weak, but that appears to be a creative decision since this is true for other MCU entries. I could keep going on and on, providing more specific examples in every major moment, but, suffice it to say, nothing seems lacking in the audio department. I know that Disney soundtracks are supposed to be limp and underwhelming, but these issues never occur at any point during Captain Marvel.

    In addition, all audio assets are precisely placed in the soundscape, with frequent separation and panning effects. When vehicles, including cars and spaceships, either enter or exit frame, panning effects are evident - see the accident with Wendy Lawson's jet at the 67-minute mark. When Carol is subjected to the mind probe on the Skrull ship towards the beginning, Talos' voice comes from all around. When the lights come on in the Air Force archive at the 46-minute mark, the noise of the lights gradually move backwards to the rear speakers. Additionally, the soundtrack - including the selection of '90s pop songs as well as Pinar Toprak's original score - perpetually fills the rear channels, and there are no issues with clarity or prioritisation. The music comes through clearly and packs an impact when intended, and it never overwhelms the sound effects or dialogue. On that note, dialogue is perfectly prioritised from start to finish, ensuring you can always hear what's being said during the loud action set-pieces. I don't have any negative things to say about this track, except that it should've been mastered a tad louder, and it's not an object-based audio mix. No doubt some people who are biased by Disney's previous output will be tempted to dismiss this track before even listening to it, but rest assured it's an excellent effort and one of the best MCU soundtracks to date. I'm also sure that people will bemoan the lack of an Atmos option, but that's on the 4K disc, for those interested.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The selection of extras are pretty customary for the MCU - there's nothing significant here. There's barely twenty minutes of behind-the-scenes material (none of it worthwhile), some deleted scenes, bloopers, and a commentary.

Intro (HD; 1:51)

   The new normal for MCU movies on Blu-ray, we have an introduction with directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, intercut with behind-the-scenes footage and film clips. They talk about taking on a blockbuster after working on indie films, as well as other brief topics. Not bad.

Becoming a Super Hero (HD; 6:40)

    Larson speaks enthusiastically about joining the MCU, while cast and crew gush about her acting abilities - it's especially amusing hearing the directors claiming she gives the role humanity. Additionally, this featurette goes over Larson's preparation for the role, including physical training and spending time with the Air Force.

Big Hero Moment (HD; 3:31)

    This next behind-the-scenes segment delves into the character of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. It says a lot that this featurette is so short, and observations about Carol's character and personality are so shallow and superficial. This feel like shallow EPK fluff with more film clips than actual interviews.

The Origin of Nicky Fury (HD; 3:33)

    Another surface-level promo piece, this runs over Fury's appearances in the MCU and his part in Captain Marvel.

The Dream Team (HD; 2:44)

    Directors Boden and Fleck get the spotlight in this brief EPK piece, which actually recycles some interview material from the previous extras (to say nothing of the constantly re-used film clips). Once again, this featurette refuses to delve below the surface.

The Skrulls and the Kree (HD; 3:31)

    Next up, the Skrull and Kree alien races are explored in this brief EPK segment. Yet again, endless film clips constitute at least half of the featurette. This is YouTube-grade stuff.

Hiss-Sterical Cat-Titude (HD; 3:23)

    Presented in 4:3 with deliberate VHS artefacts and other retro touches, this tongue-in-cheek featurette - the only worthwhile behind-the-scenes segment on the disc - is all about the cat, Goose. This is an amusing watch.

Deleted Scenes (HD; 8:47)

    Six deleted scenes are available to view here, which can be viewed individually or via a "Play All" function. Interestingly, these scenes are more or less completed, down to the digital de-aging on Jackson and Gregg in the last scene, plus sound design and music. One assumes these were cut late in the creative process.

Gag Reel (HD; 2:02)

    Two minutes of bloopers, which is pretty standard for an MCU movie. These are relatively amusing.

Audio Commentary

    I was kinda hoping I wouldn't have to sit through a commentary for this... but here we are. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck deliver a feature-length commentary track which gives some fascinating insights into the production of the movie. They discuss shooting conditions, they have countless memories from filming to impart (including the very first shot that was captured at the beginning of production), they go over finding a nice balance between practical effects and digital effects (including a few in-camera cool tricks), and they even discuss adding film grain to several scenes from Carol's past to make them look more authentically retro. It's somewhat interesting to hear about the deliberate decision to cut down the pre-Earth material as much as possible - this explains why it's so uninvolving. They also discuss the thrill of filming on the Blockbuster Video set (Fleck mentions that he used to work at a Blockbuster in the mid-90s), and the head of Marvel's security actually gets a cameo as the security guard outside said Blockbuster store. Also interesting is that one key scene with Talos at the 72-minute mark was filmed with three cameras, limited time, and no digital manipulation; the sun was genuinely setting behind Larson (the crickets in the background were also genuine, and the sound team needed to overcome this). This isn't an essential track, but it's pretty good, especially considering my disdain for this flick.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Extras are the same on all editions worldwide, and the video encodes are all the same - language options are the only aspect which differ from country to country. It's a draw.

Summary

    Captain Marvel is a major misfire for Marvel Studios. It was deliberately designed to be a female empowerment movie, but nobody involved in the production process appears to understand character arcs or narrative. This film only exists because Marvel rushed to make a female superhero movie after the success of Wonder Woman, and they needed to introduce the character in order to use her in Avengers: Endgame. But alas, the resultant movie sucks.

    I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but this weak movie is permitted an exceptional Blu-ray presentation. The 1080p video is frequently striking and satisfying, while the DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio track is dynamic and impactful. The extras are pretty pathetic and fluffy, though the commentary is worthwhile for those interested in listening. Try before you buy.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Monday, July 20, 2020
Review Equipment
DVDSony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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