- Dina Reviews,Looking at TV and Film,Superheroes and Other Heroes
Dina Reviews: Captain Marvel
- December 16, 2019
I saw Captain Marvel last week.
This might have been one of the MCU movies I’d most anticipated seeing… Not because I’m a big fan of Captain Marvel in the comics; in fact, even back when I DID read superhero comics I didn’t have much interest in Carol Danvers. In fact, I liked Monica Rambeau, one of the previous Captain Marvels, better… but that’s really neither here nor there. Point is, I have never been a Captain Marvel fan. Nope, when I wanted to see this movie so badly, it was for two reasons:
1: The MCU has a tendency to take characters I don’t like much in the comics and make them into characters I really enjoy. Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Nick Fury, Thor… I found all of them boring in the comics, but the movie incarnations I loved. And that’s not mentioning T’Challa, the Black Panther, whom I actively dislike in the comics, but then the Black Panther movie was so awesome. I mean the Black Panther movie was SO FUCKING GOOD that I’m still squeeing about it. So there’s a good track record here and I was curious what the MCU would do with Carol Danvers.
2: The reactions to the movie has been pretty evenly split down the middle based on gender. There have been exceptions (Hi, guys!), but for the vast majority of people I talked to, the tendency was that the GUYS were a lot more reserved about it… there wasn’t so much outright dislike, more like “it was okay, nothing special”… while the GIRLS were almost completely positive, calling it one of the best MCU movies to date… two girls I talked to even said that this movie had made them like the entire MCU a lot more. Which I really found interesting because that was pretty much the exact reaction I had with the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. And this movie wasn’t likely to have a cliched “scruffy half-loser of a man teaches uptight female love interest to relax” subplot either (I like Starlord and Gamorra, but that part of the movie was the one I could have done without).
So I was REALLY excited to see what my reaction to this would be. Would I side with the guys and go “yeah, it was okay, not one of the better MCU movies” or would I side with the girls and totally love the movie?
Oh, some minor spoiler moments here, by the way. If you haven’t seen this movie and want to go in completely blind, perhaps skip the rest of this review. Now then:
My reaction to this movie is 100% girl, because THIS MOVIE WAS SO GOOD! I was squeeing through so much of it. It was just a big love-letter to the 1990s, and since I was a 90s kid I actually GOT a lot of the references this time around. I hadn’t seen the trailers and nobody’d even told me that Nick Fury was one of the main characters, and it was Young Nick Fury who was less cynical and who was fawning over the cute kitty, and he had so many funny lines, and the camaraderie that developed between him and Carol was just adorable without ever turning romantic, and that fight scene on the train where Carol fights the Skrull was just hilarious, and STAN LEE WAS ON THE TRAIN REHEARSING HIS CAMEO FOR THE MALLRATS MOVIE AND OH MY GOD IT’S KIDDIE MONICA RAMBEAU AND SHE’S IN THE MOVIE AND I DIDN’T EXPECT HER TO BE IN THE MOVIE AT ALL BUT SHE IS AND SHE’S AN ADORABLE TEN YEAR OLD WHO CALLS CAROL “AUNTIE CAROL” AND THAT CAT IS SO FUCKING AWESOME AND SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
…ahem. Yes, I liked the movie. I REALLY liked the movie.
The idea to set it in the 1990s with Younger Nick Fury (Really good job at making Samuel L Jackson look thirty years younger too!) was a brilliant move, and something that really made it stand out for me… this movie celebrated the 1990s like Guardians of the Galaxy celebrated the 1980s, but in a slightly different way… Guardians of the Galaxy was more about the awesome 1980s soundtrack, and while you do get some cool 1990s tunes in Captain Marvel, the decade really shows in the movie… and WITHOUT going the obvious “TOTALLY RADICAL, DUDE!” route that it would have been so easy to do. It’s a lot more subdued, but as a result it really does feel like the 1990s and not like an exaggerated parody of the 1990s. And… this may just be me, but I find it REALLY FASCINATING to see a movie that takes place just a few decades in the past, and it’s ALMOST exactly like modern day but then you realize that the Internet isn’t really a thing yet, and it’s not a given that every one has a cell phone, and there are just tons of small references where you realize that society actually has changed significantly, even if it looks very similar on the surface.
Carol Danvers has officially joined the rank of Marvel characters whose comics counterparts I could not care less about, but whose movie incarnation I really quite like. I don’t think she was the best character in the movie or anything (I think the “best character” slate is shared between Fury and the cat… I love that cat), but I came to really like her as a comically-serious and pragmatic warrior lady… she kind of reminded me a bit of Gamorra, but less uptight and more snarky.
Plus, that scene at the end where Yon-Rogg insists that she fight him hand-to-hand without using her powers and yells “prove to me that you can!”, and she just BLASTS him with an “I don’t have anything to prove to you”… oooh, that was so awesome. And I could just HEAR people grumbling about SJW feminism or whatever, but really… this is a TOTALLY SENSIBLE THING TO DO. So many villains try to play on the hero’s pride, talking them out of giving up on a significant tactical advantage or power imbalance just because they have to “prove” they can do it without that advantage. It’s REALLY refreshing for once to have a hero go “nope” and just refuse to play the villain’s game.
In the end, I think a lot of the lukewarm reception from the guys I talked to… often boils down to how the movie so often just looks at things from a woman’s perspective, presenting a lot of situations that a lot of guys plain can’t relate to but a lot of girls CAN. And this is a bit of an oddity in mainstream entertainment… unless a movie or book or whatever is specifically aimed at a female audience, it tends to follow a male perspective where men’s problems are treated as “universal” problems that we can all recognize, while women’s problems are just problems specific to some people.
I don’t think the movie beats us over the head with it. It doesn’t shy away from showing those moments, but it doesn’t dwell on them either. Yeah, everyone complains about the “unrealistic” sexism Carol and Maria go through when told they can’t be fighter pilots, but really… this is a VERY small part of the movie, and this movie takes place in the 1990s, when women who wanted to be fighter pilots or have other military roles really DID go through all this crap. And of course there’s the scene where some douchey jerk tells Carol to smile, and calls her a freak for ignoring him… Yeeeeeah, I THINK you’ll find a LOT of women who can recognize THIS particular annoyance. It’s not fun to be told to smile all the time, especially by total strangers who think they’re being charming. Also, the scene became HILARIOUS, at least to me, because I remembered all the online complaints to the first trailers where a lot of guys were complaining that Carol didn’t SMILE in the trailer… the META COMMENTARY, man, the META COMMENTARY.
Granted, Captain Marvel as a movie doesn’t hit you in the FEELS like some other Marvel movies. But it’s not trying to. It’s mostly a lighthearted romp through the 1990s, with snappy dialogue, engaging characters, a couple of semi-transparent plot twists, some REALLY good action, a nice tie-in to the larger Marvel Universe… and it continues the trend of the later MCU movies of having villains that were actually interesting and weren’t killed off at the end.
In the end, it doesn’t topple the Guardians of the Galaxy movies as my fave MCU movies… and I think I’m still a little more impressed with Black Panther… but you know what? This was an AWESOME movie, of the kind that made me feel REALLY glad I took the time out to see it.
….Oh… and since apparently you can’t review this movie without at least mentioning Brie Larson and her controversial comments… So just, very briefly:
Brie Larson’s main crimes seem to boil down to “being an outspoken woman who speaks against harassment and wants more diversity in the entertainment industry.” Comments about how movies don’t HAVE to pander to 40-year-old white men, and wanting more women and people of colour among movie critics was almost immediately twisted into “BRIE LARSON HATES WHITE MEN!!”, mostly by those white men who felt attacked… and then by people who only read the articles where her quotes were largely taken out of context… or people who just read clickbaity headlines like “Brie Larson: ‘I Don’t Want to Hear What a White Man Has to Say…'” and “Brie Larson doesn’t want Captain Marvel press tour to be overwhelmingly white male” and just assume they have the whole story and that Brie Larson is a rabid hater of white men.
Really, though, I’ve read her initial comments, and she’s actually VERY BLATANT that she doesn’t hate white dudes. She just wants people who AREN’T white dudes to be given more of a voice. I find it hard to disagree with her on this. Sure, she made one or two comments that COULD have been worded differently, but nothing that justifies the seething hatred of the woman that I see online. It’s REALLY easy to make someone seem much worse than they are by quote-mining and not bothering to present things in a context.
And just so I won’t end this review on a sour note:
Goose the cat-who-wasn’t-actually-a-cat is one of the coolest animal companions in a movie yet. And knowing just how hard it is to train cats to work with you on camera (cats aren’t like dogs, they only obey commands when they feel like it), I’m doubly appreciative that the moviemakers cave the cat so much screen-time.