Sunday, March 10, 2019

Captain Marvel

 As the very fabric of geekdom is ripped asunder by charges of sexism, your Crabby Reviewer weighs in with a fair and balanced review.

 This was not a good movie.

 I'm not particularly invested in this iteration of the Captain Marvel character. I discovered the original, male, version of the character when Marvel released Jim Starlin's THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL graphic novel in 1982, the success of which led to deluxe reprints of Starlin's WARLOCK and CAPTAIN MARVEL work from the '70s. I primarily know the Carol Danvers character from her appearances in THE AVENGERS and UNCANNY X-MEN in the '80s, as Ms Marvel, Binary, and later Warbird. I enjoyed her well enough, and felt that she really came into her own as a character when Kurt Busiek made her a member of his Avengers team: A deeply flawed character who struggled with alcoholism and feelings of worthlessness, who overcame her issues and became a core member of the team. I've never read any of her more recent adventures as the new Captain Marvel. So I really have no axe to grind. I am relating my feelings as a moviegoer who paid for a ticket, not as a disgruntled male.

 As always, there will be SPOILERS ahead, so if you haven't seen the movie, be warned. (If you're intending to see the movie, go see it and then come back. It's OK. I'll wait for you.)

 The film starts on Hala, the Kree homeworld, and we are immediately immersed in full-blown geekiness as Bree Larson's character, known on Hala as "Vers", spars with her commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), communes with The Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening), and goes on a mission with her team, which includes GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY baddie Korath The Pursuer, played again by Djimon Hounsou. (I wondered if this cold-opening would make audience members who aren't familiar with the comics feel confused/left out, and my wife later confirmed that that was indeed the case, at least with her.) A battle ensues, and it was right about this time when I lowered my expectations from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY to IRON MAN 2 and 3. 

 Vers is captured by our favorite shape-shifting Marvel bad guys, The Skrulls (Yay, Skrulls!) More fighting happens, and Vers is marooned on Earth. Vers crashes into a Blockbuster Video, and my inner geek perked up when S.H.I.E.L.D. dispatches agents Fury and Coulson to the scene of the crash. Coulson doesn't have much of a part to play, but it was great to see him again on the big-screen. Fury, however, joins Vers on a road trip to find a missing scientist that is being sought by The Skrulls, turning a sci-fi epic into a buddy cop movie. (This was, undoubtedly, the best part of the movie for me. Samuel L. Jackson is always fun to watch, but seeing a young, idealistic Nick Fury in action was pure gold, and their interactions were the few times that Larson ever exhibited any real personality.)

 If you're seen the commercials or trailers, you already know that Vers is really Carol Danvers, an earthling Air Force pilot. Fury and Danvers seek out her fellow pilot Maria Rambeau, who joins them on their quest to find the power source discovered by the missing scientist, who turns out to be a Kree spy, known as Mar-Vell, also played by Annette Bening. The power source, of course, is The Tesseract, which we've seen before.....

 The Skrulls, led by the wonder Ben Mendelsohn, also provide a swerve, as they're not the warmongering race that we're expecting, but cosmic Mexicans running up against the Supreme Intelligence's outer-space Trump wall. A really heavy-handed allegory, but I ran with it. This leads to yet more fighting, as Carol fights her old Kree allies, flies around blowing stuff up in space, and then has an underwhelming one-on-one with Jude Law (The shots of Carol flying around in space are REALLY addition to being terribly shot and flat-looking in general, the film has some truly sub-par effects.)

 The movie ends with a paradox: It feels like it has gone on forever, but nothing is resolved....when the credits roll, it almost seems like we are at the halfway point. She just sends Yon-Rogg back to Hala with a good scolding? Why not turn him over to S.H.I.E.L.D.? No confrontation with The Supreme Intelligence? No shot of The Supreme Intelligence as a giant tentacled floating head in a jar?
(I never really knew that I wanted to see The Supreme Intelligence onscreen, but now, having been deprived of the opportunity, I consider it one of the great MCU missed opportunities, right up there with not seeing Arnim Zola look like this:
and not seeing the legendary M.O.D.O.K. in a film yet.

 I expected the film to tie into AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and AVENGERS: ENDGAME at least a little, instead of not at all, which is what we got. The supposed easter egg of Cull Obsidian wearing Captain Marvel's sash in INFINITY WAR?
Nope. Thanos? Nope. An explanation of where Danvers has been for over two decades? Nope. Instead, we get groundwork laid for THE AVENGERS (The Tesseract) and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Ronan The Accuser), and an ending that hints at more flashback adventures, but.....I'm really not interested in another film showing where Carol has been for two plus decades. This was their opportunity. The ship has now sailed.

 The first credits scene is a kind of a gyp, as it appears to just be a scene lifted from ENDGAME. The second one was a short, literal gag scene, which made me wonder why Fury, now aware of the threat of hostile alien intelligences, lets a dangerous alien, who has INGESTED THE TESSERACT, just roam freely around S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters. And the way that Fury lost his eye was ridiculous.....his face is clawed by the aforementioned dangerous alien, and he....just eats dinner? Did he wash the fucking wound? He seems very unconcerned, even after his eye just...rots out? Fuck that cat.

 This is where I get branded an incel/neckbeard/basement dweller: The main flaw of the film is Bree Larson. She exhibits almost zero range or charisma in her role. (I say "almost" because she seems to suddenly come to life in her scenes with the young actress who portrays Monica Rambeau. She becomes animated, infused with personality and energy...and then it vanishes as soon as the kid does.) If it helps my case, my wife agreed (She did not like the film), as did my Nephew John, a twenty-something who DID enjoy the film. (As John said, and I paraphrase "It was an OK film, but, yeah, she did seem to be lacking charisma") I don't know if this is the fault of the script or Larson's acting ability....I have only seen her previously in SCOTT PILGRIM, where she made so little impression that I honestly have no memory of her being in the film, and KONG: SKULL ISLAND, where she seemed....OK. I was honestly more interested in the giant ape, but even without Kong, she was out of her league against John Goodman, Tom Hiddleston, and Sam Jackson. But, IMO, Marvel made a big mistake by not course-correcting after seeing a few days worth of footage, and either replacing Larson or trying to figure out some way to make her more interesting onscreen. As I said, I went in with high hopes, but this was definitely one of Marvel's more sub-par efforts. (My wife said "It almost seems like they had to slap a film together to make sure we had seen her before she flies in and saves the day against Thanos." In the interest of fairness, my sixteen-year-old daughter and ten-year-old son both loved the film.

 I'll leave you with this question and observation. After the film, we went to my Mom's house to celebrate my Dad's birthday. When she asked me if I liked the film, my mother told me that she had read that this was an important film, because it "empowered women". I said "Mom, you're almost raised me alone, you worked like a dog, you put up with sexism and bosses that hit on you and treated you like a second-class citizen. You overcame all that, fought and scratched your way through life.....would seeing a fucking film with a flying woman empower you? She chuckled and said "Yeah, I get your point." Living life should empower you, not seeing a movie. I grew up watching Stallone and Schwarzenegger kill millions of enemies, and I never left those films feeling empowered to be a man. If anything they left me feeling like a fat, inadequate frump. If you're counting on a movie to empower you, something is wrong with you, and with how you're living your life. (My Mother also asked me if, when I was a kid, it even occurred to me that a  woman could BE a superhero...I stared at her slack-jawed, and started rattling off "Mom.....Wonder Woman, Liberty Belle, The Black Widow, The Scarlet Witch, Jocasta, Moondragon, Mantis, Gamora, Catwoman, The Invisible Woman, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk.....I could go on and on. They were there."

 I'm not going to tell you not to see this film.....It wasn't terrible. but it was very average and meh. Your mileage may vary. I give CAPTAIN MARVEL four out of ten alien cats, a poor showing for a Marvel movie, and one that I hope isn't indicative of the future output of Marvel Studios:
(Two of those four are due to the tribute to Stan Lee that opens the film, which made me cry like a baby.)

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