I almost didn’t get out to the movies at all last month, and really, I may as well not have at all, because the only thing I watched in theaters was the moribund “Captain Marvel,” the eight-hundred and sixty-seventh in a line of “essential” installments in the pointless saga that is the Marvel cinematic universe. I say “I may as well not have at all” because I go to the movies to experience a sense of joy or celebration or surprise or discovery. But despite the landmark moment that this movie should represent by being the first female-led Marvel movie, all it did for me was to leave me feeling so incredibly sad for the state of the contemporary popcorn flick.
To be clear, I’m not above super-hero movies at all, even those you would classify under the category “dumb fun.” But it’s no fun to watch these slipshod exercises in corporate auteurism, because they have so little fun themselves. The plot of “Captain Marvel” is literally about the first time that humanity encounters otherworldly life, and the blasé, perfunctory way that that ostensibly mind-bending event is treated by the plot, by the actors, by the whole enterprise just demonstrated the utter lack of imagination going on behind the camera.
What’s truly regrettable though is the outsized financial success of this movie and others like it, because they reinforce the incredibly low expectations that we’ve all come to accept in our cinema. Imagination, surprise, artistry, even logic are immaterial to these films; all that matters is that they somehow, by hook or by crook or by horrifically unsightly computer graphics, advance us to the next purchase, to the next movie ticket, to the next video game, to the next whatever. The most important message of each of these films is that they are essential viewing in order to consume what we’ll be sold next. The only filmmaking going on in this cinematic universe is of the Power Point variety; these flicks are marketing plans, not movies.