Is the Internet Right That ‘Captain Marvel’ Is the Worst Marvel Movie?

Of all the weird things that have happened in the wake of everyone being stuck inside during the coronavirus, one of the most unexpected was Captain Marvel suddenly trending on Twitter. There was no announcement of a sequel, no news about the character in the comics, no reason for it to be trending.

It turns out the reason that Captain Marvel was trending is that people were debating about what the worst Marvel movie was and there was an early winner.

But is the Brie Larson film really the worst that Marvel has ever done? After all, it has Brie Larson in it. If we look at just the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and exclude the raft of terrible made for TV movies, I think a strong case can be made for it.

First of all, we need to look at the contenders. Marvel has made around two dozen movies, so which ones are on the short list for worst? Captain Marvel makes the cut, obviously. Thor: The Dark World and the Ed Norton The Incredible Hulk also come up a lot. I would also say Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron are strong contenders, and Captain America: The First Avenger is on the list.

With our list of contenders assembled, the most striking thing is that half of ‘Phase One’ are on our list. Iron Man, Thor and The Avengers did a lot of  heavy lifting in making this franchise so popular. Let’s look at these early movies and see if any of them qualify as the worst.

The Incredible Hulk was only the second movie Marvel had made and it wasn’t that bad for a second outing. Ed Norton was a good Bruce Banner and the story about Banner and Betty was good. They also had the foresight to skip over Hulk’s origin and get right to just telling a good story, an especially good decision considering Iron Man was an origin film.

Iron Man 2 might be my favorite of these contenders for worst Marvel movie. Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer is honestly a great foil for Tony Stark, a better villain than Jeff Bridges’ Iron Monger and there are some great performances from Garry Shandling and Don Cheadle.

Captain America, along with Thor, was a first attempt at giving Marvel films an identity outside of just a straight superhero action-comedy, something that made ‘Phase Two’ the strongest era of Marvel films. In this case, the idea was combining a superhero film with a World War II film. It wasn’t great, but Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull was a great villain and obviously introducing Peggy Carter was pretty important to the overall story.

Next we have Thor: The Dark World, which I think is a bit unfairly maligned because of a weak villain. While the main plot is somewhat disappointing, the first two Thor movies had a great supporting coast, both with the Warriors Three and Natalie Portman’s friends and colleagues. It was a superhero love story and the love story part worked really well even if the superhero part was lacking.

Our last two entrants are the real dregs. Avengers: Age of Ultron was a disjointed mess of a film that was free of the usual charm Joss Whedon brought to his films. It introduced the Sokovia Accords, a MacGufin used to drive a wedge between the Avengers for ‘Phase Three’ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the first of many terrible decisions they would make in the overall storyline. It also introduces and kills off a pretty important character in the grand scheme of things over a dispute with Fox, which they’ve since settled by buying Fox.

Then there’s Captain Marvel. It’s a tough call as to what’s worse, this or Age of Ultron, but I’m going to go ahead and say Captain Marvel is the worse film. Age of Ultron at least introduced Scarlet Witch, there’s virtually nothing redeeming going on in Captain Marvel, which is mostly just paid propaganda for the United States Air Force.

Right off the bat, I have to ask how hard you have to work to make Brie Larson look that unsexy. It’s like they put ass-flatteners in the back of her costume. We all saw Scott Pilgrim, we know Brie like an 11, what are you doing?

Captain Marvel had the unenviable task of coming out between Infinity War and Endgame as well as being set in the 1990s. It was nice to see Sam Jackson and Clark Gregg again but the plot was weak, culminating in twists everyone saw coming a mile away. Oh, the Kree were the villains? Who could have seen that coming except anyone who watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which did a while season about the Kree being space Nazis.

On top of that, Marvel has tried to take an unearned victory lap form the film, making Captain Marvel a sort of Superman-like figure. No one is ever going to react to Captain Marvel coming out of the sky the same way the react to Superman. There are only a few more popular and beloved comic book characters than Superman. Batman, Spider-Man, Monkey D. Luffy and maybe Son Goku and that’s it worldwide. Marvel has spent some 20 years trying to create their own Superman in the comics before finally landing on Carol Danvers, and they really should have kept looking.

The worst sin of Captain Marvel is that it doesn’t really try to be anything than a by-the-numbers affair that fills a box office release window and keeps the Marvel money printer running between two Avengers films. Marvel has definitely created a template that they use to make movies now, and none of them follow that template closer than Captain Marvel.

Of course, even the worst Marvel movie is a 3 out of 5 because of their producer-driven nature and rigid adherence to orthodoxy. Marvel, who made a name for themselves in the 60s by making edgier, character-driven stories has become the face of movies as corporate, mass-produced products, and the reason Captain Marvel is the worst of them is that it’s also the most emblematic of this approach.

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4 years ago

Captain Marvel is a decent stand alone movie, but is the worst of the MCU movies because of it’s impact on the MCU Nick Fury’s eye being scratched out by the cat makes the Winter Soldier a lesser movie. That Nick Fury named the Avengers off of her Air Force nickname rather than the previous, “We may not be able to protect the Earth, but we’ll damn sure avenge it.” line detracts from the MCU. Brie Larson is terrible in the role. She said in an interview that she had never played a superhero before and that she was struggling.… Read more »

3 years ago
Reply to  DorkusMagorkus

I agree…Brie Larson was the problem…in terms of marketability and fan appeal I think a male captain America would have been much better.