Synopsis: Just who is Vers (Brie Larson), the neophyte warrior-hero for the human-looking, blue blooded Kree Empire saving the universe from the terrorist scourge of the shape-changing Skrulls? She does not know. Her memories are wrecked from an incident six years in the past. When a mission finds her captured by the enemy and unlocks some of those “lost” memories, she learns that she has ties to several women on a backwater planet (Earth), but who are those people? One of them is obviously important because when Vers has a confab with the Kree’s AI known as the Supreme Intelligence, who manifests in a shape of the most important person in the viewer’s life, the Intelligence appears as one of the people in her fragmented memory—Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Benning). Despite requests to the contrary made by her emotionally reserved warrior mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Vers decides to see what’s going on. Off to Earth she goes, arriving in the mid-90s to discover a threat, some heightened stakes, and ties to the Terran Carol Danvers, Air Force pilot. Vers finds herself swept up in a game of raising stakes, shifting alliances, and mind games as she explores the origins of (as well as how to control) some extraordinary powers in Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019).
CAPTAIN MARVEL is a movie I’ve been looking forward to since its announcement. It leaps into thing en medias res with a sparring session between exposition-font mentor and empty vessel student followed by a race to stop those vile Skrulls from infiltrating (perhaps infesting is not too strong a word) a world on the edge of the Kree empire, and then hurtles to 1990s Earth for a rendezvous with a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) as well as Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and her wee daughter Monica (Akira Akbar), important people from missing ace pilot Carol Danver’s life (she went missing six years ago, and has been thought dead all this time), before throwing several pleasant curve balls midway through Act II that recasts everything we’ve seen to that point and kicks off some big changes as our heroine switch horses midway through the picture.
CAPTAIN MARVEL is a solid entry in the one-or-two superhero focused pictures, which makes it right up my alley. Alas, I have little patience for the cash grab “team up pics” that deliver plenty of faces at the expense of an involving story. While it may not have the resonant gravitas of BLACK PANTHER (2018), it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Marvel Studio’s recent bout of quirky-fun entertainments like THOR: RAGNAROK (2017) and ANT MAN AND WASP (2018).
Trista, what are your opening thoughts?
Opening thought: SO MUCH FUN. Like a good Wonder Woman comic, there were a lot of kick-ass women who got to do stuff that mattered in this movie. The renewed friendship between Carol and Maria was inspiring, and it was refreshing to see an older female mentor figure in Carol’s past. I’m a sucker for spirited little girls, and Monica Rambeaux delighted. I didn’t feel shorted by the lack of a romantic storyline; though there might be some out there shipping Yon-Rogg and Vers, any romantic relationship there was left to the viewer’s imagination. Watching Sam Jackson goof around was also pure delight for me – too much of the time he’s a cameo for my taste. I loved the scenes where Maria and Fury got to riff off one another as well.
I’ve seen a lot of stories open with the POV character having amnesia. It’s not one of my favorites, but the screenwriters made it work and wisely didn’t let it linger. I may be more forgiving here than some younger viewers, however, because the amnesia storyline let the filmmakers have fun with a very 1990s-era setting. Let me tell you, it’s strange to be the nostalgia demographic. J
The 1990s setting was like catnip for me. It’s a period I recall fondly, and while elements of it may seem quite silly in the wake of today’s social media and mobile phone booms, it hearkens to some fun, frustrating times. Of course, I expect this is happening to take advantage of the thirty year nostalgia wave’s transition away from the ’80s and into that period. Well, it certainly worked for me!
The soundtrack was a delight to listen to. It added to my enjoyment immensely. Thank you for the suggestion not to check it out ahead of time to better be surprised by song appearances (and some of the posters/set design and wardrobe choices). It was a blast from the past for me, reminding me of college years and the times that culminated with us getting together in 1998. The time period has a solidity that was fun to see exploited as a backdrop for science fiction action. It was akin to that whole MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (1987) flick where Eternia’s heroes invaded 1980s earth, but with better storytelling. And CAPTAIN MARVEL gave us touches of the modern day’s interest in defining the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter, the rigid control of information, and matters of a questionable government given absolute authority (which admittedly are issues that have returned to dog the nation every decade or so since the 1960s).
I wasn’t ever really sure what the 1990’s were about other than figuring myself out and if I’d fit into the world that was becoming. However, I thought CAPTAIN MARVEL captured the feeling of shifting alliances and anticipation/dread that went with the politics of the time. All of a sudden the cold war had imploded and we weren’t sure who were our enemies or our friends. Ver’s quest to figure out her past asks and answers some of these questions as she goes into the wilderness to find out who she is and what she was fighting for. I wonder if the screenwriters grew up when I did?
The music reminded me so much of what my friends listened to, however, and that was mega fun. It was almost as if we had the most ironic 90s DJ watching the show with us, to give us just the right songs to fit the moment. (Trust me, the actual radio experience of the day was nowhere near that nuanced.)
Another thing that had me smiling in CAPTAIN MARVEL was that Vers-the-supersoldier gets to come back to the 90s – to the decade after TERMINATOR (1984) and TERMINATOR 2 (1991) – and still has to deal with a sexist society. That she does so with reserve and without killing people is pretty cool to see, and admittedly satisfying to girls that grew up in the 90’s. (Take that, Schwarzenegger.) I mean, she’s just so classy! She doesn’t need to wear a midriff-baring bikini supersuit to be tough and smart; the girl just doesn’t have time for that bullpucky. Once Vers reunites with her memories enough to call herself Carol again, that robotic reserve is gone but her determination and sense of self remains. She is the human running the marathon, getting up again and again to do the right thing.
What did you think of the ‘Feminist Agenda’ in the movie, Daniel? I’ve seen some very silly hot takes on the Internet.
All hail our new women overlords. Oh, wait.
I personally would have liked to see more of the Riot Grrl music on the soundtrack if a feminist agenda angle was what they were heading for, but maybe that’s just me. In fact, instead of an agenda, CAPTAIN MARVEL just gives its women characters something to actually do. It’s akin to what George Miller and his co-scenarists Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lothouris did with MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015). I certainly did not feel anything was rubbed in my face.
But Internet is going to grump. However, to all the internet dudes wanting a more agreeable Captain Marvel characterization for their jerk off fantasies, I suggest checking out that Cosplay Girls adult site that specializes in such things. No linkage here, alas, as this is a more or less family friendly site folks in need for some onanism materials will need to hit up their favorite Porn Videos site and search for cosplay OR use your google fu. I’m sure it won’t take long.
Agenda’s aside, I wish the film had been released much, much earlier (maybe as a part of the first wave or even the latter part of the second wave of Marvel movies, since it has the fun spirit of the flicks that took themselves less serious than the ponderous experiences AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015) or AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018) turned out to be. However, as I mentioned before it gave me a fun vibe of an ANT MAN (2015) picture and the coolness of a BLACK PANTHER piece.
The last thought I have about CAPTAIN MARVEL is that I really admire the story, because like many other superhero movies it meditates on just what being a hero means as we follow Carol Danvers on her road to becoming, but combines classic tropes in a refreshing way. We see the broad strokes of the Campbellian Monomyth – the hero goes forth on a quest to help a wise mentor, and is dragged into a world of alien adventure and values. The hero loses themselves and must be reborn out of the death of self, transfrormed into a powerful being anew to vanquish the problem. At the same time CAPTAIN MARVEL walks the paces of an internal, more ‘maidenlike’ journey – the heroic maiden must figure out who she is and how she relates to society. She must persevere even through suffering and humiliation to achieve her goals, which she ultimately does because she connects with a deeper sense of who she is. She realizes she’s been lied to – that the tests were false and she doesn’t have to adhere to society’s measure. At the end, she is victorious because she doesn’t give up and knows her truths.
Best of all, unlike the traditional Campbellian hero’s return to the normal after adventure, the maiden who persevered and said ‘yeah, no thanks’ to the wrong societal expectations – GOES OFF TO HAVE MORE ADVENTURES.
How bad-ass is that?
(And yes, I love the kitty.)
Well, the Campbellian hero is not always content to remain in the regular world afterward, either. Carol’s journey is not completely removed from Odysseus’ return home. For those unfamiliar with that Greek poem/story, it is about an incredibly canny character who has gotten himself in trouble with superpowerful gods, and finds himself unable to return home following the Trojan War. He loses his allies in various adventures and then ends up on an island in an affair with a sea goddess (Calypso) for years. Back at home, things are falling apart when some suitors are trying to take his wife and take over his lands. In the end, Odysseus manages to “escape” back to his home, kills off all the suitors, and reunite with his wife (briefly). At the end of “The Odyssey”, we get the sense that the hero is not content to remain home for long. He will stick around long enough to mourn his dead father and then he’s back on the road having more adventures. This would be one of the literary antecedents to the lone gunslinger riding off into the sunset after putting down trouble endings for classic Westerns.
Carol begins the film caught up with her own Calypso. A force of forgetfulness, a retardant to who she is. Once she triumphs over that force and makes her way back home in time to save it from large numbers of enemies who would plunder it for their own wills, she does not remain content and ventures off to the next adventure. Sure, she is doing so out of a sense of duty and building a community than any Greek hero ever was, but her story here is not completely dissimilar.
The cat Goose is one hell of an enjoyable character. Of course, we have cats so it comes as no surprise that I liked him as much as I did. I was amused by the fact that he was played by four credited actors (Reggie, Gonzo, Archie, Rizzo), since this means he is in the same class as the Heath Ledger character from that Terry Gilliam flick THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSIS (2009), where one character was played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell following Heath Ledger’s untimely death. However, I’d say the cats did a bang up job at mimicking one another since I could not tell the difference in actors from scene to scene.
I came for Carol Danvers, who I’ve been enjoying as a character since her resurgence in comics during the oughts, and ended up rooting for Goose to eat all the baddies . . . I guess that means I had a swell time after all.
CAPTAIN MARVEL is playing in theaters right now, so go buy a ticket and catch it on the big screen. You could do a lot worse than checking out some of the graphic novels featuring the character, so those in need of a Carol Danvers fix are recommended to hit up:
MS. MARVEL: BEST OF THE BEST (eBook)
“Movie Mondays: Captain Marvel” is copyright © 2019 by Daniel R. and Trista K. Robichaud. Images taken from IMDB.