Let’s get some of the early stuff out of the way: I was looking forward to this movie on the basis that Marvel movies tend to be fun. I was looking forward to seeing how Marvel handled their first leading woman. I was looking forward to more Goose.
What I wasn’t bringing into this movie: Brie Larson is ruining Marvel because, oh, I don’t know, boobs or something something. Nobody wants to see a woman superhero in a skin-tight body suit. My enjoyment of the movie depends entirely on if I pop a boner or not.
Obviously, this post is going to be full of spoilers. You have been warned. (Although, judging by the box office reports and my WordPress stats, that shouldn’t be an issue.)
With all that aside, I am not as happy with Captain Marvel as I wanted to be. I didn’t cheer nearly as much as my wife and sister-in-law with whom I watched the movie did. I spent too much time in the opening half hour trying to sort out what I knew from the comics and the MCU to get this story in my head.
We know the Kree as the enemy from the Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D TV show, and we didn’t see any pink-skinned Kree in that series, so having them in this movie was a bit odd. I was able to connect Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with the Kree from Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D, but this group of Kree felt different. I suspect when someone in the cinematic universe side remembers they still have one television show, they’ll whip out some “renegade Kree” bullshit to continue the tradition of ignoring the television shows in the movies.
I know the Skrulls from the comics as an invading force. Chris from Comic Tropes offers a great (and timely) summary of the Kree-Skull War that was some of the basis of this movie, although it’s easy to see where they change things up here.
The Supreme Intelligence
I appreciated how they changed this up for the movie, allowing a great actor like Annette Bening to play this strange creation that we usually see as a giant head with tentacles for hair, usually floating in a tank. This does introduce a potential plot hole: If the Supreme Intelligence appears to Vers as Mar-Vell, wouldn’t the Supreme Intelligence recognize the renegade Kree scientist? My no-prize submission: The Supreme Intelligence is lying about everything anyway. The Supreme Intelligence already knows where she is from and that Mar-Vell is dead. Even if the Supreme Intelligence knows Mar-Vell’s final words, it’s probably managing Vers in such a way to find out what Mar-Vell was up to.
I didn’t notice the CGI youthing-up they gave him. Coulson’s was uncanny valley obvious, so it’s good they didn’t give him too big a role. Either Jackson’s darker skin made this trick easier to get away with, or they didn’t try to reshape his face to his younger look. (I am also willing to accept that, as a white guy, I notices the distortions to the white actor more than the black actor.) Steph Cozza, in her non-spoiler review, claimed that Fury was having too much fun. I’ll return to this.
Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel
What I knew about the character from the comics going in: She was an Air Force pilot, was handed down powers a-la the original Green Lantern, was de-powered, put through an abusive relationship that Chris Claremont had to retcon, re-powered, de-powered again to Rogue, re-powered again, and is now one of the heaviest cosmic hitters in the Marvel Comic Books Universe. (In other words, not a whole lot, considering.)
So that same backstory in my head made the first scenes hard to figure out. I know the character is supposed to be from Earth. I know from the previews she claimed to be a Kree and was proud of that fact. The memory loss is an easy way to make this work.
So I’m guilty of trying to figure out the story they were trying to tell me and not letting the filmmakers just tell me the story. That’s going to happen with any movie based on other source material: Someone’s going to spend the first act screaming “that’s not what this is supposed to be!” and hopefully not ruining it for the rest of the audience.
The Stories Men and Women Tell Themselves
This is an attempt to summarize a bunch of narrative theory that still needs more sorting out: Women don’t get the hero’s journey (as defined by Campbell/Lucas/Snyder) because they don’t get the luxury of refusing the call. Instead of mentors pushing them forward, they have to overcome their mentors’ efforts to hold them back and control them. They are not granted some boon (either power or knowledge) in their journey, but instead realize that who (or what) they are is enough. Their self-actualization is a clearer vision of who they have always been, and they lose the constraints others put on them.
Captain Marvel has to regain her memories to find herself: A woman who has never let others define who she is. Even when she lost her memory, the core of her (stand up when you fall) is in full display. She is defined as the person who will do good. The Kree weaponize her by lying to her, and letting her natural instincts work to their favor, even though she fights them on the grounds that they are trying to control her and she will not be controlled.
The one time I did cheer for her was at the end, when Yon-Rogg tried to goad her into fighting without her powers, that she couldn’t be a hero unless she could beat him in an unpowered match, which is insanely biased because as a Kree he is stronger than she is (or most other humans). She blasted him into a rock and he deserved it. No one other than Carol Danvers defines who Carol Danvers is.
Character Arcs and Growth
Another complaint I’ve seed bandied about is that Carol doesn’t “grow” as a character. Sam Spade didn’t “grow” in The Maltese Falcon. Steve Rogers doesn’t “grow” during Captain America: The First Avenger. Some people may have wanted to view that journey, but this isn’t an origin story so it doesn’t make sense to judge it by that standard.
There is an external challenge she must overcome and that changes mid-way through the film. The internal challenge is to dump the blinders everyone else has put on her. She is tested time and time again and she remains true to herself. No growth needed. No arc necessary.
Would the movie be improved by adding a scene near the end when she is tired, or about to admit defeat? No, because the only way to do that is to kill one of the two people she genuinely cares about: Maria or Monica. That would be cruel and even if they had done so, I doubt Carol would have folded. She’d have kicked ass. No, we need the powerhouse leaving this movie in the greater scheme of the MCU.
I will admit that at no time did I feel like Carol was vulnerable. I’m not sure I felt that way about Steve in the first Captain America movie. If it didn’t bother me with Steve Rogers but it does with Carol Danvers, then I have found some unconscious sexism in my own head and I can find a way to erase it.
Is Captain Marvel To Powerful For The MCU?
I know some complaints have to do with, well, I think it still comes down to boobs we don’t get to see, but the closer rational complaints are that she is too powerful compared to other characters, and she’s clearly being brought in at this time to beat Thanos.
Only, from what I know from the comics, Thanos can’t be beaten by brute force. Thanos loses because of his own hubris. I predict that Captain Marvel will give him a proper beat down in Act One of Endgame and we’ll all cheer that Thanos is getting whipped, then he will crush her and we’ll spend Act Two in a state of shock.
Compared to the other heros, she’s overpowered.
The Actors Have WAY Too Much Fun
The working relationship between Captain Marvel and Fury seems to go from agent-suspect to buddy-buddy pretty fast. To be fair, Fury and Rambeau also jump into a buddy-buddy pretty fast, so maybe that’s just the way Fury was as a young agent who didn’t like authority and that was his easiest way of flouting it. It explains his relationship to the cat as well. He’s serious when he needs to be serious, but otherwise fun.
It also speaks to Carol Danvers herself. We can see in the memories that she knew how to have fun, and frequently did. It is easy to see Carol instinctively trusting Fury as a good guy.
And, as Lindsay Ellis pointed out in her comparison between Independence Day and the Scientologist’s take on War of the Worlds, the 90s were a completely different time. The Pre-9/11 world is hard to remember but it really was that kind of fun silliness. Any movie with federal agents would have been similar.
Let’s face it, after Infinity War we needed a couple of lighthearted movies. Ant Man and the Wasp was one, this is another.
Comparing Captain Marvel to Wonder Woman
As a Marvel fan, I hate to say that Wonder Woman is the better movie. Gal Godot expressed a full range of emotions and Wonder Woman had the heroic traits of lifting up those around her. Brie Larson played this a bit cooler, a little less empathetic, less “that’s terrible” and more “let’s right this wrong right now.” Wonder Woman had a definitive goal through the whole of that movie. Captain Marvel had to shift to new goals as the story unfolded.
Steph Cozza’s spoiler review is a diatribe against the movie for plot holes against the MCU. One thing we fans forget is the powers that be do not give a shit about continuity to the same level, and neither does the majority of the movie-going audience. Butts were in seats. That’s all that really matters.
They are telling a big story with lots of episodes and all they want is eyeballs and a promise to come back for the next movie. This isn’t a great big vision like Lucas claimed to have, so we’re not going to see these movies being changed and updated.
Besides, Comic Books are really good at ignoring continuity, retconning, and bluffing, so the following No-Prize submissions are fatuous:
Nick Fury’s Eye
Apparently in Winter Soldier Nick Fury states “the last time I trusted somebody I lost an eye”. Now we know he lost his eye to a Flirken scratch. Could be he was referring to Carol during that speech, she’s the only person he trusts, and Kevin Fiege disabled the “why didn’t Fury use the pager” complaint with “how do we know he didn’t?” which means if he did, then Carol ignored it, or showed up too late, or (more likely) spoke to Fury in the background. It also enforces the idea that Fury doesn’t trust anyone in the chronologically later movies.
Apparently there’s also a photograph of Nick Fury being sworn in as Director of SHIELD with a healthy left eye. I’m sure they’ll pull a Lucas and edit the photo when the movie is streamed on Disney +, if they even go so far as to care.
“Nobody calls me Nick”
Well, apparently other people do later in the timeline. This is easy. As an up-and-coming agent trying to make a name for himself, this line is part of the presented persona and forces a sly kind of respect in people who interact with him. Later in the timeline, when things have gone to shit (you figure between 1995 and 2008 he’s recruited two people: Natasha and Clint, and they aren’t even super powered), he doesn’t need to pull this persona BS because he has the respect from his history. He no longer needs to micromanage or even care about that part of his persona.
“SHIELD” as a name
Yeah, in the first Iron Man they were “working on it” because the full name was complicated. A) Coulson could have lied about “we’re working on it”, and B) I’m pretty sure the name appeared in Agent Carter (not that the movie side cares about the TV side, but at least Agent Carter derived directly from a movie).
Some Song/Movie/Book didn’t come out early enough to be in this movie
Yeah. The only people who would be disturbed by a videocassette case of First Knight or a song by Garbage (a band I hadn’theard of until reading the IMDB trivia and goofs pages) are hardcore fans of those things. Let me tell you a story.
When I was a burgeoning curmudgeon (ages 6 to 16, when I stopped burgeoning), I was a Beatles uber-geek. I knew every song, every album, running times, which songs were original and which were covers. You know what I didn’t bother with? Release dates of the albums or singles. I’m not saying there aren’t people out there who don’t have these dates connected to significant events. I can imagine there is at least one couple who went to First Knight on a First Date and have that date firmly memorized. And I’m willing to bet that even if they noticed the calendar on the wall with the month and year they didn’t freak out and think the Captain Marvel movie was ruined.
And with any other minor real world timeline goof, you know this is all an alternate universe, right? Timelines could shift. Software could be shipped on time. Movies could be made a year earlier. To complain about LEDs on a plane in a movie where a woman glows; flies into space; and manhandles oversized planet-killer nuclear missiles, is to focus on the wrong levels of verisimilitude.
I liked Captain Marvel. It was a fine entry into the series and there’s only so much fangeeking I can manage to put into it right now.
It was fun, sure. Like a few others, I may not have been impressed with the final fights (except blasting Yon-Rogg) but in the context of the MCU, I’ve seen more impressive SFX-driven fights. Hell, Thanos threw a MOON a couple of movies back.
I’ll probably see it again in the theater, and will probably buy the movie, and I’ve already subscribed to the new Captain Marvel series from Marvel Comics, so Marvel has won the battle anyway.