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#TAPReviews | “Captain Marvel”

How will the new Captain fit into the MCU tapestry?

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After the cataclysmic event in Avengers: Infinity War that garnered the colossal shift in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the MCU has been putting out rather safe films out to fill the gap until Avengers: Endgame. And this is not to say the films like Ant-Man and the Wasp were terrible, but, obviously, it was not much to write home about, sadly.

And whilst the Wasp has been argued to steal the thunder of what would have been Marvel’s first heroine onscreen to get some major shine, Captain Marvel aka Carol Danvers aka cosmic Brie Larson landed like a comet into the MCU. And the result has been… well… well-documented.

From the love, all the way through to the hate. And of course, all the misogyny in the world that could be slung at this new hero endeavour. And of course the blanket protection from genuine critique bolstered by the interwoven quilt of the MCU tapestry. All in the age of toxic fanboying and potentially just-as-vile cancel-culturing. But alas, here I am, about to distil these two putrid things into one tall glass of bon a-critiqué .

And without further adieu, let us get into the cosmic wave of the MCU that we have not seen since, well, I want to say since James Gunn’s abysmal Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. Was not even trilogy-worthy.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

Noble Warrior Heroes

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Trauma. It is how Carol Danvers story begins. So deep her memories before it are seered from her mind. And it is the Kree, a space force of sorts, that bring her in. Fused her blood with theirs. Training her. Making her faster. Stronger.

Danver, however, is plagued with indiscernible flashes from a past life. And when one of her first missions goes awry, she finds herself a prisoner of war on a Kree ship. It seems she is not the only one interested in the memories locked away in her head. As it turns out there is space technology on earth that both the Kree and the Skrull want, and its exact location may be locked away in Danvers’ head.

Danvers’ earth connection soon becomes concrete, and the side of the war she has been fighting on may be the wrong side of history. The trick now is to overcome the conditioning and internalised doubt that keeps her from reaching her true potential as Marvel’s new Captain.

Gender Politics Lite

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Being the first ever Marvel heroine with her own film, it was no surprise this landmark would speak to what has been dubbed ‘gender politics’. Feminism, if you’re nasty *Janet Jackson voice*. As a pilot in a gender-segregated Air Force, Danvers previous Earth-life and memories are presented to us as an amalgamation of men telling her she was never strong enough, skilled enough, or worthy enough. Moments that left her deflated, sprawled out, flat on her face. However, it was in here rising, and going full Phoenix did we see her blossom and go full Nova. It was brief, and pretty much was in the trailer in its entirety. So no extra ‘whoa’ factors existed past that.

I wished that more of the psychology of breaking Danvers played a part in the relationship between Captain Marvel and Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg. Stressing the idea of teeter-tottering between praise and condescension a bit more. The warped psychological games aimed at creating dependency. A physical ‘manhandling’ doing training that was not prompted by Danvers. And Danvers seeking approval initially as opposed to being a rebellious lark. Transformations register more when the transition is a full one-eighty as opposed to a toe pivot. No one is going to be surprised if the rebellious one rebels.

And, arguably, there is a thin line between creating a socially-aware narrative versus a narrative with socially-aware content crowbarred in to fit some agenda or current ‘hashtagable‘ moment. And, sadly, any criticism of this, which is almost never a full damnation of the movie, ends up with the critiquer being swept into the vile pile along with the trolls and racists and mysiogynists that populate the internet.

The Patty Jenkin et al onslaught on James Cameron is indicative of this. Cameron, referencing Wonder Woman, used the film as a launching pad for a broader critique of Hollywood’s cookie-cutter approach to creating strong female characters. A valid point that was quickly attacked by people who used the importance of Wonder Woman to little girls as a defence. Sorry, but the importance of a female character should not be used as a bolster for trope-esque, safe narratives.

Captain Marvel does trod these safe territories, and whilst Wonder Woman has the legendary history and mythos to fall back on, Captain Marvel only has 10 years of the MCU quilt to cushion her from any feedback.

Less is More. More is Forced.

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This is going to sound foul. Brie Larson needs to smile more. Now, before you crucify my fat ass, let me finish. She needs to smile more organically. Get angry more organically. Run more… well, you get the drift.

Some people have that rigidness to them where every expression seems like the same one. And I thought it was the character she was playing – a celestial, space-bound soldier being to a race of noble warriors. But her interviews are the same. And that Omaze video she did alongside Danai for an Avengers: Endgame promo.

Or maybe it is just me. Probably.

Youthful Fury

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A huge part of me believes that this is where most of Captain Marvel’s budget went. Even more so that her brief flight in outerspace. And of course, in a Solo: A Star Wars Storyesque ploy, we see a patchless Fury and get bated along the breadth of the film as to what will cause him to lose his eye. Now that you know it was a Flerken scratch, does this epiphany illuminate and enlighten your understanding of the grand, varied tapestry that is the MCU? Huh?!

To be fair it did not feel prosthetic or CGI heavy, so I guess we can thank our lucky Nova stars for that one. Can’t believe Star Wars is under the same umbrella.

Duck-Duck-Goose 🐱

It’s always the critters that end up stealing the show. Maybe it is our affinity to feel all doughy inside when we see cats or dancing CGI baby trees. But this, of course, is often symptomatic of an ongoing movie trope that equates to a magician’s slight-of-hand. Essentially, ducking the responsibility of crafting a refined narrative versus a safe, easy trope-esque device used to fall back on during narrative black spots. Nevertheless, Goose is still dope. And was not nearly as much as a crutch as GoTG‘s Baby Groot.

What appeared to be a normal domesticated cat increasingly struck fear in the more alien lifeforms who were notably uncomfortable around the so-called ‘Flerken’. But what seemed irrational becomes a legit concern. Which is understandable when your perceived house pet opens up its face and sprouts many-tentacled appendages that grab hold of human-sized things and basically swallow them whole.

Even though the Flerken is part of Danver’s story, a part of me does think that a script writing session happened with an online analytics team specialising how best to incorporate the cute furry kitty in the movie.

All Retrograde Everything

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Captain Marvel’s amnesia was not the only thing that was retrograde. The Cap herself has gone through some changes before her being the chosen embodiment of woman power. She was an alcoholic and not your friendly type that you would want to associate with.

Many nerds have used this as a precursor to legitimise their dislikes. Others attacked Brie Larson’s supposed stand-offishness and perceived snobbishness when it comes to comic-book culture. And where some of this came from people simply making a point in a forum or two, many used this as a way to trojan their deep-seated hate and misogyny into any and all Captain Marvel conversations. Which then eroded our so long-standing freedom of speech. Particularly with Rotten Tomatoes new Disney-pressured erasure of voting that gauged if people wanted to see the upcoming Captain Marvel film before it was officially released.

So, a few things –

  1. If you are using Rotten Tomatoes to gauge whether or not you go to see a movie, you need to step off this planet right now.
  2. I understand if you feel if it is not cool that Captain Marvel is being moulded to fit some PC matrix. Nevertheless, it’s not the end of the world. It happens to the best of characters as we enter into new social eras.
  3. If a character has to go through that much retrograde to be acceptable, maybe that character is not the right hill to die on. Just saying.

And the above does not give you the right or absolve you from acting like a prick. Don’t be that guy.

Nevertheless, I do understand why Captain Marvel has been revived time and again in comics. She’s female. Not many stand out women on the imprint as it is. She has ‘Marvel’ in her name. The name was got through some luck-of-the-draw copyright sweepstake deal which ended up biting the Distinguished Competitor in the ass. I suspect Marvel were giddy about this. Kinda like when I steal a crate in a game of COD Deathmatch.

Ultimately, the problem with retrograding a character clean, we sense the changes. Even if we don’t know exactly what they are. Things feel overly synthetic. Even if we do not know the original state, we know what we are seeing is not its original, true-to-nature form.

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Maybe I expect more from Marvel now after 10 years. Maybe I feel Marvel is too comfortable in their formulaic approach. Captain Marvel did not push the boundaries of what was possible, sadly. It felt like fodder to keep the masses happy until Endgame, or some other colossal outing.

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And let’s talk suits. If you were wearing a Nazi suit, but you thought the Nazis were the shit, but then you found out they were pieces of shits, and then you go fighting for the other team, do you think a colour change of the swastika red/white/black would be a significant one? Okay, I’m fishing maybe.

I like and see the need for a Carol Danvers. Who better to bring a bit more fiery morality in what surely will be Civil War 2 with Iron Man and Captain Marvel leading the charge on their respective sides of the aisle. It is just her debut was not as eventful as it could have been.

Captain Marvel has the ability to be a formidable force in the Marvel-verse. Travelling from earth to space and back to earth again was about the first time I’ve seen that from anyone in the present Marvel-verse.

Marvel already seems to be setting Carol Danvers up as the greatest force of good in the current MCU. Seen as the ultimate defence weapon that Ronan the Accuser would return to Earth and claim for himself. Plus you saw her cocky little declaration in the Endgame clip. We just think her story should be that much more impactful too. But hell, if Thor could be bossing with weak, solo outings, there is still hope yet.

#TAPReviews | Captain Marvel
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Pros
  • • Costume (for the most part)
  • • Young Fury
  • • Jude Law
Cons
  • • Main character's emotive range and presence lacking
  • • story too generic for the proposed impact Danvers will have on the MCU
  • • feels more filler than nexus-bearing canon
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