Good. I have your attention. If you have not watched Captain Marvel yet, and you hate spoilers, please watch it first before reading this. Go. I’ll wait.
**twiddling fingers; scrolls through Facebook; does whatever writers do while waiting**
All right, you’re back, thanks. There are spoilers ahead, again warning you in case you still stayed because you can’t bear waiting for another second to read this.
The worst thing the makers of Captain Marvel could have done was try and keep up with Wonder Woman—which is impossible. I mean, Wonder Woman had the same impact on superhero films as the first Superman movie that starred Christopher Reeve (directed by Richard Donner, released 1978).
Those of you who were born in the 1990s and beyond have no idea how ridiculous and unbelievable superhero movies were before Superman. Unbelievable—watching those old movies (or TV shows), you really had to work at convincing yourself that superheroes could exist.
(The only exception to this was The Incredible Hulk TV series starring Bill Bixby as David Banner, God rest his soul. Yes, the TV show changed the name from Bruce in the comics to David. That TV show transcended the not so advanced special effects. Of course, credits to bodybuilder and actor Lou Ferigno who played the Hulk.)
Okay, sit back now for a bit of history. Just a bit.
The promo tagline for Superman was “you’ll believe a man can fly”. That was a promise fulfilled. Especially when you think about the old black and white 1950s Adventures of Superman TV show starring George Reeves (not related to Christopher, of course).
In the 1950s show, you definitely knew Reeves was just lying down on board while a huge fan was blowing somewhere to make his cape flap. The board underneath was compressing his torso.
So when the 1978 Superman movie came out, everybody as in everybody was awed. The Superman flight effects were that good. Plus, the story itself, even if you’ve already read the comic books and knew the origin story, wow that made you love the film forever. Donner proved that yes, a superhero film can capture the world’s imagination—and more importantly for Hollywood, become a blockbuster and earn millions of dollars around the world.
Unfortunately, this feat was never replicated until the first Iron Man film with Robert Downey, Jr., and again, with Wonder Woman in 2017 with Gal Gadot.
Captain Marvel is not any of these groundbreaking, milestone films. Not even close. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film.
Despite the mixed and lukewarm reception of critics, I am happy that as of March 12, Captain Marvel has earned $524.3 million and its producers are hoping it hits $1 billion based on projections. So yes, please go and watch this film if you haven’t, yet.
As mentioned before, it avoided trying to keep up with Wonder Woman—by going in the opposite direction. Wonder Woman was spectacular, mythical, epic, magnificent, just… just so BIG. The best scene was when she walked through No Man’s Land in World War One, the part where she essentially transforms into this awesome superhero.
This is probably why some viewers and some critics got bored. There is just no comparing Captain Marvel with Wonder Woman when it comes to spectacle excitement on a mythic scale. That said, here’s what this Brie Larson film got right: it took a quieter, funnier, more human approach. This does not make it an epic superhero movie but it still becomes an important superhero film.
By refusing to take the epic route, the makers of Captain Marvel fail to make it a proper debut of who is supposedly one of the, if not the, most powerful Avenger in the MCU. Still, if you think about it, that’s absolutely fine.
Even if they did make this on an epic scale, it would still not have achieved what Wonder Woman did, and I bet critics would still pan it, anyway.
It is a worthy successor to Wonder Woman in the female superhero sub-genre. And yes, Captain Marvel still kicks ass in the film. The action scenes were adequate.
Yes, there’s less action compared to many other superhero films but hey, there wasn’t much action in the first Iron Man and Ant-Man films, either.
This was because Captain Marvel focused on the character arc of Carol Danvers/Vers/Captain Marvel. Someone pointed out that the character arc was somehow incomplete or not developed well. I’ll get to that in a bit. (Spoilers ahead.)
In the story, Danvers is a US fighter pilot in 1989, a time when females in the military still had to prove themselves as being as worthy as male soldiers. It’s not shown directly but it’s implied and hinted that both Danvers and her best friend, co-fighter pilot Maria Rambeau, faced discrimination and assholery during their time in the air force.
Well, Danvers dies in 1989 after trying to save scientist Dr. Wendy Lawson (a still refreshingly gorgeous Annette Bening) from an attack by space aliens.
Lawson had built a prototype aircraft with a “lightspeed engine” that for some reason, the aliens wanted. The aliens shoot the aircraft down and Lawson is killed. Still, before she dies, she tells a distressed and disoriented Danvers (doh her plane just crashed!) something about lives that need saving and to destroy the lightspeed engine before the aliens can get it and take the technology.
Danvers does this but gets caught in the blast, absorbing the engine’s mysterious power. Then she wakes up on the Kree planet of Hala, where she’s gone from human fighter pilot to Kree soldier with photon blast powers coming from her fists.
Search for humanity
Think about it: Danvers the human already died on Earth. What wakes up on Hala is neither human nor Kree. We meet Kree soldier Vers (pronounced Veers, because apparently extra Es are in short supply on the planet, spelling-wise), a member of the corny-sounding Kree Starforce (a group of sort of Kree special forces commandos) who has Danvers’ body and memories.
Danvers the human died a hero, but Vers is no hero. She’s just a soldier following orders; she is plagued by memories of her previous life. She’s already been trained as a Kree soldier for six years but those darned memories keep coming back.
It’s when Danvers somehow ends up on Earth in 1995 and meets a younger Nick Fury who still has hair and both eyes (a digitally de-aged by 25 years Samuel L. Jackson) that she begins, although she doesn’t know it, what is essentially a quest for her humanity.
Of course, the film is also a metaphor for how women struggle to find their selves and their identities in a world that oppresses them and keeps telling them what to do: annoyingly and convincingly illustrated by Jude Law’s character, Yon-Rogg.
Those moments when Vers veers (Aha! Yes, I did that!) away from her cold, Kree conditioning make Captain Marvel important as an addition to the MCU. Reportedly, filmmakers Ann Boden and Ryan Fleck are more into small, dramatic films (not big action movies) and it shows.
Moments where Vers humanity emerges are a-plenty. First of all, notice that the Kree never laugh. They don’t even properly smile—maybe they just sneer when they’re happy. But Vers has a lot of funny buddy cop (or buddy soldier) moments with Fury.
It even comes to the point where you think, what’s this, a remake of Lethal Weapon (1987, starring a yet non-Catholic extremist Mel Gibson and Danny Glover)?
Also, there are moments when the dynamic between Jackson’s and Larson’s characters reminds you of The Long Kiss Goodnight (1987, starring Geena Davis AND an actually younger Samuel L. Jackson). Interestingly, Geena Davis also plays a kick-ass combat expert character with amnesia (or rather, she formed an alternative identity, forgetting she was a black ops assassin).
From weapon to human
Vers’ character arc becomes problematic. Despite these moments and glimpses of humanity, you really can’t fully connect with Vers as a human. In other words, she only really begins to take on more humanity by the end of the film, but she still isn’t human. Danvers the human is dead.
This is part of the problem where it’s difficult to fully sympathize or empathize with her character. As mentioned in the movie, Vers “is a weapon”. You could say that by the end of the movie, she is still transitioning from being a weapon into a character with enough humanity for us to connect with.
Then again, Boden and Fleck do their best and mostly succeed in drawing in as much empathy as possible during those moments where Vers interacts with real humans.
Still, of course, Vers’ powers are impressive. In fact, they are too impressive. She’s just too powerful for everyone in the film. Look, this is a character that, all by her lonesome, destroys missiles and the equivalent of Imperial Star Destroyers in Star Wars.
So there is no moment in the film when we feel that Vers is in actual danger of losing against an enemy. Maybe we’ll get to see the opposite when she meets Thanos.
Bottom line: it’s a fun, surprisingly touching, and still meaningful film. And yes, like Wonder Woman, it champions woman power all the way. Brie Larson is absolutely crush-able here—and thank God she can really act. Also, you might love the switcheroo plot twist near the end of the film.
Anyway, we all need to watch it to make proper sense of and fully enjoy Avengers: Endgame. As with all MCU films, watch for the Easter eggs and hints on how this film connects with Endgame.