For my fourth blogiversary, I’m doing a SPOILERY collaboreview with The Wages of Cinema for Captain Marvel! It only took twenty-one films, but Marvel Studios finally has a solo superheroine & a female (co-)director!
You can read the rest by
Skrullin’ scrolling higher lower, further, faster, baby!
Carol Danvers didn’t adopt the Captain Marvel title until late in her career, so fans were expecting a more seasoned actress like Charlize Theron or Emily Blunt (who was almost Black Widow & Peggy Carter). Marvel wanted a period piece origin so they skewed younger with Oscar-winning Brie Larson. Of course since Carol isn’t going to age much in subsequent installments, they still could’ve had an origin movie for an older actress ala Iron Man. Brie Larson’s body became buff! She threw a cake like a Frisbee! I like it when she photon-blasts all the things!
Captain Marvel didn’t intrinsically need to be a period piece, but it seems like the decision was made to make her seem retroactively less like a deus ex machina afterthought for Avengers: Endgame. If Marvel had just scheduled Infinity War after her movie’s release, this setting wouldn’t have been necessary. Even if the movie really had to be set before Iron Man, was it that crucial to set it thirteen years before? So now both Avengers’ Captains are supersoldiers displaced from their homes for decades.
90’s hits are used to good effect. Now I don’t have to look fan edits with period music on YouTube. This has one of the better Stan Lee cameos, but otherwise the movie doesn’t capitalize on its setting. Whither pogs? The Earth locales are nondescript. (Our heroes fly all the way from California to New Orleans.) I wanted more worldbuilding in space!
Instead of having Monica Rambeau, the first woman to use the Captain Marvel moniker, as a main character, we get her mom. If her character resonates enough, the sequel may double up on Photons just like 2 Ant-Men 2 Wasps. But if Monica becomes Carol’s #1 fan turned superheroine, won’t that make Kamala Khan less unique as Ms. Marvel? If they do Moonstone perhaps she’ll get a variation of the classic Ms. Marvel black costume ala MCU Yellowjacket. (She may have gotten her Dark Avengers costume secondhand from Ultra Girl, but Moonstone copied the idea from Dr. Minerva.)
MRAs have been trying to tank this movie because of its nefarious feminist agenda, but the movie isn’t even very political. The flashbacks in the trailer are pretty much all we see of Carol encountering sexism. (Ditto what could’ve been an extended USAF recruitment video.) Some jerk tells her she can’t do something that men are allowed to, she does it anyway, she fails, but nonetheless she persists until she’s successful. She’s not a Mary Sue because she has to struggle to achieve her goals. The problem is that this all happens in a montage so it’s not that engaging. Making her origin a mystery (that the trailers mostly revealed) shakes up the the structure, but there’s less investment in her. It’s better than Black Widow’s & Gamora’s formative character arcs happening before they’re introduced to the MCU, but it’s not as inspirational as following Steve Rogers as he proves himself.
While Doctor Strange is the MCU movie most similar to Green Lantern, Captain Marvel is the character most like Green Lantern. (This doesn’t bode well for Marvel’s other GL analogue, Rich “Nova” Rider, making his cinematic debut.) Carol & Hal Jordan even have the same job. Carol having amnesia makes it harder to connect with her than if her origin was told more traditionally. Instead of being immersed in her iron-will, she’s mostly a cipher. Her quippy insubordination to the Kree (who value her as a military asset unlike the Air Force) can feel too much like other MCU superheroes’ snark, whereas I’m used to a more no-nonsense Carol. She’d be more distinctive if they leaned into the chip on her shoulder. Even with her edges softened to make her more palatable to the public, misogynists still find her too threatening. Larson’s charisma transcends a screenplay by multiple writers that doesn’t support Danvers that well.
The Life of Captain Marvel caused a furor over how Marvel retconned Carol’s origin to be more like Aquaman’s. The movie, however, sticks pretty close to her classic origin. So what was the point of making her history more convoluted if it’s not even going to syngergize with the movie? Was it just a publicity ploy to get fans talking about her? It’s certainly not going to make it easier for new readers drawn in by her film.
The movie’s Mar-Vell is hiding out as Dr. Wendy Lawson instead of Dr. Walter Larson because this time she’s Annette Benning. I didn’t think it was necessary for making Carol’s backstory more feminist, but the genderswap works perfectly fine. (The power imbalance of Ant-Man directly granting Wasp her powers is worse than Carol inadvertently acquiring Mar-Vell’s.) If Marvel Studios thought this change would remove concerns about interoffice romance, however, they’ve never heard of femslah! It’s not much more underwritten than their typical romances. The movie makes a case for shipping Carol with Maria Rambeau too. (They probably should’ve also made Carol’s Kree name Dan-Vers considering the slang definition of Vers.) Friendships are just as important as romances, but it does seem like a missed opportunity to use this time period without directly addressing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
When The Avengers came out, I mused that they could’ve included Carol Danvers as a SHIELD pilot empowered by the Tesseract during the climax as a way to streamline her origin & have her in place for the sequel. In Captain Marvel, she gets empowered by a Tesseract-engine instead of for the Psyche-Magnitron. So Marvel Studios is cribbing from my fan theories! Having Carol destroy before it & being pressganged into Star Force are the other major changes. Weirdly teleportation doesn’t seem to be in her powerset.
Larson reteams with Samuel L. Jackson (Is the L necessary at this point?) after Kong: Skull Island! (They’re also in her directorial debut, Unicorn Store. It kind of sounds like Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, for which I’m onboard.) Prequel Nick Fury still doesn’t get to do the sci-fi spy stuff I associate with Nick Fury. I want him wearing a navy SHIELD uniform with a jetpack & wooing Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine! That aside, this is the most that Fury has felt like a real character instead of a gruff exposition & plot point dispenser. His double act with Danvers is one of the movie’s strengths. The youthening effect is as excellent as Sam Jackson’s t-shirt collection.
Skrull transformations are more grotesque & time consuming than shapeshifting is usually depicted, which is less of a hindrance than expected. Sometimes their bodies morph into clothes while other times they just wear them? I was hoping the Skull costumes would go full retro with purple & magenta unitards. These just have purple swirls on their black coats. We’ve already seen Kree in leather coats, so it’s not helping to sell them as a species with a unique culture. Jumpsuits might’ve been generic when the Skrulls debuted, but now they’d look novel since this futuristic fashion trend has yet to happen in real life. (What’re you waiting for, influential designers?) Ben Mendelsohn wore bright platform sneakers on set, so maybe using those as the official Skrull footwear would’ve helped.
In the comics Talos the
UnTamed can’t shapeshift, so that was a weird name pick. He’s a great subversion of the sort of baddie Mendelsohn has been typecast as. Not only is he droll, his Aussie accent gives him bonus personality. How did he managed to immediately impersonate Fury’s boss?
The heroes do help the refugee aliens, but they don’t offer them asylum on Earth. There isn’t even a discussion about whether Skrulls could be an invasive species that would eventually prove harmful to the planet’s natives. The plan is to immediately remove them & hope there’s another planet that can support them. It’s not a constructive metaphor for aiding human refugees.
I am concerned the movie may have made the Skrulls too sympathetic as victims to use as future antagonists. Or maybe the Kree are too uniformly bastards? Could Ant-Man in Endgame be a Skrull impostor to explain why he’s not still trapped in the
Microverse Quantum Realm?
When I first heard Jude Law had been cast in Captain Marvel, I presumed he was playing Mr. Tawky Tawny. It turns out he’s actually Yon-Rogg, the Sinestro to Mar-Vell’s Hal Jordan. (Or is Marv-Vell the Sinestro since he betrayed his planet?) Law’s inherent haughtiness (he & RDJ really should’ve swapped Sherlock Holmes roles) works in this underwritten antagonist’s favor. Carol defeating him on her own terms is a highlight.
She proclaims “I’m not going to fight your war; I’m going to end it!” So I expected the climax of the movie to be Captain Marvel being integral to stopping the intergalactic war. Part of me is glad she doesn’t as it would seem too easy. On the other paw, we already know the Kree Empire gets humiliated prior to GOTG. Is spreading the the war across sequels really going to be that satisfying when the aliens haven’t been fleshed out enough? I’d prefer to see Captain Marvel star in post-Endgame sequels.
Carol’s Jamie Mckelvie-inspired costumes are close to perfection: Exposed hair on a space helmet looks dumb on Star-Lord, & it still looks dumb on Carol. She should just have a regular metal crest like the other Kree. Maybe then she could get a real Mohawk instead of trying to make everyone think she already does.
Carol cycles through a bunch of costume palettes with Monica. I spotted homages to original Mar-Vell, Shazam, Lex Luthor, & Lite-Brite. It’s a testament to the strength of the underlying costume design by Andy Park & Sanja Milkovic Hays that these variants all look great! I just don’t understand why Star Force uniforms have the option to change into non-camouflage colors.
Carol steals some grunge fashion to blend in. I thought she quickly threw the clothes over her uniform, but we later see her bare knees (SCANDALOUS!) through torn jeans. So what happened to her suit? Aside from the helmet, it’s shown to be a physical item that can’t be summoned at will. It’s the April O’Neil costume change scene from TMNT: OOTS all over again!
Everybody sees the Supreme Intelligence differently. This would be a clever special effect work around in a fan film, but here it’s a cop out. The Supreme Intelligence is supposed to look like The Face of Boe! They can afford to show us grody Zordon! It needed a reverse “man behind the curtain.” It makes for a kickass scene when Carol unleashes her full Binary power, but is there a reason Star Force connects her to the Supreme Intelligence at the end?
Star Force is composed of obscure canon Kree, but they’re barely characters so it doesn’t matter. This iteration is lacking Shatterax, who has the edgiest name & armor despite not wielding an ax. Do you think Star Force & the Nova Corps argue over who has the superior star sigil?
Gemma Chan of Humans (not to be confused with Inhumans) is Minn-Erva. (She & Lashana Lynch disguise their real accents.) She’s a sniper instead of a geneticist. Mostly she’s notable for being the Star Force Smurfette after Danvers defects. I thought they’d expand upon her rivalry with her ex-teammate in the sequels, but they killed her during an Independence Day homage.
I was excited that Lee Pace was reprising Ronan since this would be the perfect place to add context for his debut in Guardians of the Galaxy. Sadly he’s barely in it & has even less personality. He does look better in green. Better luck next prequel! Korath the Pursuer is also present. (Djimon Hounsou is the link between 2019’s Captain Marvel films.)
Not only does Carol have the surname of Supergirl’s adopted family, Goose looks like Streaky the SuperCat! As an easy mark for cats, I’m glad this film pandered to me! Goose is played by four felines, particularly Reggie. Changing the Flerken’s name from Chewie to Goose is pointless since he’s still an orange murder prince. Like Kiernan Shipka, Larson is allergic to her feline scene stealer. It feels really random the Goose clawed out Fury’s eye. He’s not particularly bothered about the mauling?
A possible continuity error is Phil
Skrullson Coulson knowing about the Kree ahead of Agents of SHIELD, but my No-Prize is that Project TAHITI scrubbed it out of his mind. If Fury knows that Captain Marvel has experience with the Cosmic Cube Tesseract, why didn’t he beep her in The Avengers? If he’d given up trying to contact her by then, why did he happen to have the Kreeper on him just before The Snappening?
Although I’ve already written a lot about it, it paradoxically feels like I don’t have much to say about Anna Boden’s & Ryan Fleck’s movie? It’s as enjoyable as many MCU movies (& superior to Infinity War), but doesn’t stand out much. This would’ve felt fresher if they hadn’t waited a decade to release a superheroine solo. Captain Marvel is fun, but it’s not marvelous.
Some have accused the Marvel Legends Captain Marvel figure of looking more like Amy Pohler, but the Larson likeness is strong in person. Of course the two actresses don’t look that dissimilar, so it’s still a good investment for anyone making Leslie Knope customs. I accidentally bought another Captain Marvel because she has a kitty & I’m weak. Her Star Force uniform with alternate Minn-Erva parts is Target exclusive. Now that I have Envy Adams, I kind of wish I’d gotten toys of the rest of Scott Pilgrim’s cast. (The film toyline also includes the Midas of Marble, Grey Gargoyle.)
Rather than repainting the fists & flat hands that came with Wasp, the standard Captain Marvel gets new sculpts for both. Then the jacketed Carol has another open hand sculpt for holding Goose. This time her fingers are molded together so she can’t do Gendo Ikari & Mr. Burns poses. You have to paint the nose & paw pads for Goose unbound though. Fury’s been reading The National Lampoon?
Deluxe Hot Toys Goose includes bonus Captain Marvel!
The official Captain Marvel website is Geocities perfection! You can vicariously punch Granny-Skrull! (It’s okay when Captain Marvel punches the elderly because she’s not a Millennial.)
Jen’s Bartel’s Addidas sneakers are exactly what tie-in shoes should look like.
I find it amusing that the misogynists (they can’t all be die hard Mar-Vell fans, though I’m sure some are both) calling for a boycott of this movie are instead telling you to see Alita: Battle Angel. The cynic in me suspects they would’ve gone with a different alternative if there was a male-led action movie open at the moment. Disney now owns Fox, so it’s not as if they’d be supporting a separate media conglomerate. I’ve heard that Alita is also good, so bully for comic book adaptations with female protagonists! What a time to be alive when you can see both! There’s even plenty of other female-led options at the cinema (Greta, Fighting With My Family, Happy Death Day 2 U, Isn’t It Romantic?, What Men Want, possibly The LEGO Movie 2 if you count the female co-lead) whose profits would spite Disney if you really want to make a point.
Even the star & director of
Captain Marvel Shazam! support Captain Marvel! Good on WB/DC for not being petty! (Mind if I recycle the “Captain Marvel” tag for my impending Shazam! review? I’m lazy & it’ll make things as unnecessarily confusing as comics intended.)
Next week will most likely feature Black Lightning season 2 talk or a custom action figure! In the meantime, why not read my latest Gotham recap that’s been overshadowed by this movie?