Hitting theaters this International Women’s Day is Captain Marvel, the twenty-first film in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. It’s also the first MCU film where a female character has solo booking (shouts out to you, though, Wasp). Taking place in the ‘90s, it’s set to work two angles: on one hand, it will introduce viewers to the powers of Captain Marvel, as well as give us a glimpse of what Agent Fury looked like with both eyes in-tact. Secondly, it will be the proper set-up for the MCU’s 22nd film, Avengers: Endgame, which is due out in April, providing a proper book-end to Marvel’s first massive arc.
Sadly, the world we live in can’t just let things be. Trolls who are afraid/upset that a woman is getting top billing in a Marvel film tried to tank the Rotten Tomatoes score, forcing the review aggregator to reconfigure how its pre-viewing reviews are handled (which, honestly, should’ve been handled years ago). Fact of the matter is, what are we walking into? Is Marvel properly tackling the ‘90s? Can Brie Larson hold the weight of a whole cinematic universe on her back? Are we ready for a new Sam Jack hairdo?
On a chilly night in the city that never sleeps, we braved a packed AMC with a ton of eager critics to consume Marvel’s latest epic. Here are our (mostly) immediate thoughts on Captain Marvel from our in-house Marvel Comics professor Khal and Frazier.
Frazier: Let’s just get this out of the way: Ben Mendelsohn is the unexpected shining star of this movie. On one hand, that’s great because Ben Mendelsohn is one of our greatest working character actors and his role here that cleverly subverts the recent villain run he’s been on may be one of his best yet. On the other...this is the origin story for a celebrated superhero, another sorely needed example of female representation AND the lynchpin for Avengers: Endgame and...Ben Mendelsohn and a cat steal the show right out from under her. Which, in my opinion, says multitudes. There’s a much more interesting universe where Mendelsohn’s character here is airlifted out of this mediocrity and into the Barry Sonnenfeld-directed Men in Black sequel that he and we deserve. Alas.
Khal: Yeah, being that I’ve been on my OH MY GOD, THE MCU IS ABOUT TO START THE WHOLE SKRULL INVASION, I was shocked that I was duped into loving a whole Skrull. Mendelsohn (and really, any Skrull with screentime) had a way of bringing emotion to a species that I felt was always emotionless in the comics, although with the way they bent the Kree-Skrull conflict in Captain Marvel, that makes sense.
And we can’t NOT talk about the “cat,” Goose. I told cats (pun intended) a while ago to expect Goose to be more than a cat, so I was just waiting for the furball to show its true colors on-screen....although Goose’s amazingness is also the start of my issues with these kinds of films.
Like, remember how, in Solo, we were forced to check out cringe-worthy scenes like how Han Solo got his name? Captain Marvel does that...a lot. It’s similar to how, in the comics, Sentry was retconned into the Marvel universe to be an impactful figure throughout the decades that no one remembered. In this case, there’d literally be no Avengers without Captain Marvel which, cool, but feels a bit heavy-handed when you start to unravel how much of the MCU’s history is tied to this one 24-hour period in Nick Fury’s life.
Frazier: The number one misstep most if not all prequels make: writing scenes that full-on wink at the future we know will pass. The last scene of this movie is truly groan-worthy. But to that same end, I expected way more of a dynamic character arc to take us from the two-eyed, pet-friendly chipper Nicholas Fury we meet here to the one-eyed paternal but still removed dickhead we know and love. I expected the hardening cynicism of Nick Fury to be a badass subplot. What we got was… not that. It’s goofy. Really, this whole movie is goofy to a point of not inspiring awe and entertainment or vehement displeasure. Just aggressive indifference. What’d you think of Brie?
I wish the film had just picked a tone and stuck with it.
Khal: I liked Brie more as the film went on. That first act ended up making sense later on, but I was pretty taken aback at how not into the film I was from the opening. For what it’s worth, once she hits
Planet C-53 Earth, the film does pick up. And if we’re being frank, I wasn’t sold on Brie’s Captain Marvel from the trailers. Something didn’t connect for me, but I will say that I got what she was doing as the film moved on. It’s an intriguing character; I’m not sure if it has anything to do with her being a woman (although her role as a women in society plays a big part in the decisions she makes and how they impacted her life), it’s just that in these films, most “heroes” have a cockier air to them. Iron Man, Thor, and others already feel like they are the shit. Carol Danvers doesn’t know who the hell she is, and I was cool with taking that ride with her, especially when it lead to moments like her sitdown with Maria Rambeau, who shared the frustration of sitting across from her best friend who didn’t know anything about her.
On the flipside, I definitely don’t know what to make of this version of Nick Fury. From the dishwashing karaoke moments to the knowing glances with Agent Coulson, I too would like to know how he goes from this film to when we first saw him. To be fair, there’s practically a decade in between meeting Carol and meeting Iron Man, but that’s also a whole different hairstyle...and a whole different attitude. Should we just start campaigning for a Fury film?
My question to you is, what’d you think about the overall tone of the film? My immediate thought was that it leaned too hard on the corny nature at times, which created those groan-inducing moments you spoke on earlier. Am I off the mark?
Frazier: Snark, sarcasm, dry wit and an abundance of Justin Theroux-style one-liners are probably a prerequisite in every MCU screenwriter’s contract. With that said, this movie some of the shit they made my man Sam say had me wondering if we were watching a PG-movie. They left him out of Black Panther for this??
The tone here is confused...it feels super-light and low stakes but character driven but also not nearly badass enough. Which is how I feel about Brie. She’s charming, she can do lost-memory gravitas in her sleep (the woman doesn’t have an Oscar for nothing!) and her banter with Sam is great. Their dive-bar feeling each other out tete-a-tete deserves a better movie. I believed her less when she’s bodying aliens (save for an early escape scene). Being a believable action hero is another skill set unto itself, and after a whole movie I still don’t know if I’m gonna find her believable when she’s two-piecing Thanos.
Really, there are worse movies and way worse Marvel movies. This movie was fine, it got Annette Benning in a superhero flick; I never need to see it again. You?
Khal: Yeah, one of our homies asked me that as I was on the train home, and after looking at our MCU ranking, it’s somewhere around Thor in that mid-range. It’s fun! A lot of fun...sometimes too much fun. But doesn’t stick the “origin story in the thick of it” film that Deadpool did. I wish the film had just picked a tone and stuck with it. If you’re gonna be goofy, go full-Guardians. If you’re going to make this a more serious film about finding oneself, I’m with that, too. Retconning a megapower like Captain Marvel into the MCU is one thing; retconning whole characters into different people is frustrating. That said, I’m not totally against this film, and in the end, it did what it needed to do: give us Marvel’s justification of why Fury would, in his final moments, two-way ol’ girl.