Watching Without Feminism Goggles, Captain Marvel Actually Fun Superhero Flick

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Captain Marvel BD

CAPTAIN MARVEL was, perhaps, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film to come with pre-release baggage. The marketing machine started things off by signalling how much of a milestone it was that this was the first Marvel film to have a female lead, as though that were a reason to watch the film. Then lead actress Brie Larson began making disparaging comments about the opinions of white male critics. There was simply too much pre-movie commentary that came off as "You will enjoy this movie for the reasons we tell you, or else you're a bad person."

That was before the film hit the theatrical circuit, where I did not see it. More time has passed now, and viewing CAPTAIN MARVEL on Blu-ray is my first exposure to the film. And with the hype and anti-hype simmered down, I could actually sit down and watch this without being told that I have to have a feminist mindset, or that there's a politically subtextual nuance to every comment, or that Brie Larson doesn't smile enough.

Instead, I sat down to watch a superhero film, and saw a soldier and a pilot, cracking wise and fighting bad guys, who just happened to be a woman. That is to say, being a woman was not intrinsic to making the character what she was. Sure, there were flashbacks to events in her younger life where she was getting hurt, being competitive, and falling down. But they were no different than the scenes of a pre-Super Soldier serum Steve Rogers getting battered in an  alley, or a pre-spider bite Peter Parker getting shoved into a locker. It's the typical "I struggled before I became super" trope that is common throughout a hero's mythology.

Not that CAPTAIN MARVEL was without problems. But being politically preachy was not one of them.

When we first meet Larson, she is a warrior with the Kree empire, under the name Vers. She fights the shapeshifting Skrulls in an ongoing war led by the Supreme Intelligence. But when she is captured by the Skrulls, her interrogation opens memories of another life, a life on Earth, where she happens to find herself shortly after escaping. It's the 1990s, so the film has a retro-backdrop. (I realize I'm old when the 1990s don't seem all that retro to me. The 70s, that would be retro. The 80s would be extremely comfortable. The 90s were just yesterday.) Nick Fury (SAMUEL L JACKSON) still has stereoscopic vision, and Phil Coulson (CLARK GREGG) is a rookie agent new to S.H.I.E.L.D. They first encounter Vers after she crashes through the roof of a Blockbuster Video store.

Initially disbelieving her story, Fury quickly comes around after having his own "Men in Black" moment with a Skrull. Following her spotty memory, Vers and Fury are led to a top secret project for developing a faster than light engine, which was covered up to hide the death of a pilot -- Carol Danvers. But Vers is Carol, and now she has more questions than ever, which take her to the home of her former best friend, Maria Rambeau (LASHANA LYNCH). Together, the three of them discover the truth about Carol's disappearance from Earth and the many layers of lies that have been presented to her as her reality.

Captain Marvel is, indeed, powerful, matched perhaps only by Thor. Seeing her come into her own and realize who she really is made for quite the fight scene, culminating when she turns the tables on Ronan the Accuser (LEE PACE). She's literally the "Superman" of the MCU.

Plotwise, however, there were more than a few issues, which, to discuss properly, must be preceded with the appropriate S P O I L E R   W A R N I N G.

Highlight from here on in to uncover potential spoiler plot points:

- Monica Rambeau (AKIRA AKBAR) is eleven years old, and immediately recognizes "Aunt Carol" who has been missing for six years. Find me an eleven year old who hasn't seen anyone since they were five, and let me know if they have immediate recognition.

- Nick Fury tells Agent Coulson they need to find more heroes like Captain Marvel. Find, not make, which might have been his first thought given that he should know about the not-top-secret Captain America. Especially Agent Coulson, who was such a fan that he had trading cards of the hero.

- The 90s also post-dates the Cold War, during which time the original Ant-Man and Wasp were active -- another set of heroes-through-technology that Fury should have known about.

Okay, those weren't really so bad as far as spoilers go, but you never know with some people.

Overall, CAPTAIN MARVEL isn't quite as good as its evangelists would want you to believe it is. But also is it nowhere near as bad as its detractors would like it to be.

Now I just need someone to tell me how the tesseract went from Fury's desk to the lab in THOR -- and why we can't simply call it a Cosmic Cube. If you want a real brain-bender, however, try to count how many tesseracts there must be in 1995, viewed through the lens of all the time-travel we know happened now that AVENGERS: ENDGAME has come and gone. It's more fun that trying to figure out the number of Deloreans in 1955!

 

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0