My household went to see Captain Marvel this past Thursday night. We’re not normally an opening-weekend movie-viewing type of household, but this time I wanted to make an exception. And I was deeply delighted that we did.
Because, spoiler-free picoreview: CAROL DANVERS IS MAGNIFICENT AND I MUST SEE THIS MOVIE AGAIN.
Behind the cut you will find ALL THE SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, and care about spoilers, come back and read this later.
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If you’re reading this either directly on angelahighland.com OR on my Dreamwidth account, spoilers in the comments are fair game.
Now with all the caveats out of the way, let’s talk Captain Marvel. 😀
Some reactions to this movie are along the lines of “I’m tired of all the superheroes being beautiful cishet white people”. Which is a legit complaint, because yes, Carol Danvers as portrayed by Brie Larson is another beautiful cishet white person. I acknowledge that right out of the gate.
And I really, really hope that this is an issue Marvel will address more in the future. Black Panther certainly helped, and Captain Marvel takes steps in the right direction as well. Maria Rambeau and her daughter Monica are critical characters in this movie. And in the comics, Monica is one of the prior holders of the Captain Marvel name, and she later uses the names Photon, Pulsar, and Spectrum.
That we see a young Monica Rambeau in 1995 suggests very strongly that a grown Monica Rambeau could feature into later movies. She should feature into later movies. I will be very disappointed if she doesn’t. DON’T SCREW THIS UP, MARVEL.
More on Maria and Monica below.
Meanwhile, I’ve also seen a few complaints that Larson’s acting is wooden. For the record, I didn’t find this to be a problem.
For one thing, Carol (or “Vers”, as the Kree call her, though they pronounce it “Veers”) is under regular pressure to control her emotions. She’s told she has to do this in order to master the abilities that the Kree claim to have given her. Since she’s amnesiac, and as far as she knows an elite military operative of the Kree empire, of course she’s going to work hard to keep a lid on expressions of emotion. It makes total narrative sense.
Now, whether she’s emotional enough later, once she learns her true identity, *shrug*, your mileage may vary on that. Again, I didn’t find it a problem. Carol played for me as a naturally tough, confident woman rattled by what she finds, and then quickly moving forward into acceptance. Which also made narrative sense.
For another thing, if Larson’s portrayal had been more overtly emotional, you know for damn sure that she would have gotten shit for that. Because every woman on the planet can tell you about their experiences with being dismissed as “too emotional” because they’re women.
As a viewer, particularly as a viewer with a bit of experience with the character in the comics, I didn’t need her to be more blatantly emotional. I needed her to be awesome. And to my delight, that’s the Carol Danvers the movie gave me.
Moving on to two more quibbles: I did not expect the Tesseract to show up again, and I’m still pondering whether it was narratively lazy to use it here. I need to have another viewing of the movie to get a better understanding of how exactly Lawson/Mar-Vell was using it, and whether it was part of the core explosion that gave Carol her powers. (Which would be interesting. If Carol took a direct blast from something powered by an Infinity Stone, it could help explain why she’s going to be instrumental in reversing universe-wide damage done by the Infinity Stones.)
At first I thought it was an outright continuity error to see the Tesseract here. But then I remembered that the first Cap movie establishes that Howard Stark found it in the ice while he was searching for Cap, and later, he turns it over to SHIELD. The next time we see it, Erik Selvig is experimenting on it and Loki shows up to start messing with his brain. At that point, I’d certainly thought that SHIELD had recently finally acquired it.
This movie, however, establishes that SHIELD had it before then. And once I realized that it was plausible for Lawson/Mar-Vell to have had access to SHIELD assets, its appearance here made more sense.
That said, I do also take minor issue with Fury’s learning about Carol, the Skrull and the Kree as another round of “Nick Fury discovers there are aliens, decides Earth is laughably outclassed, and decides he REALLY needs to found the Avengers”. We saw him make that decision already, after Thor. I can buy that he’d have kept this movie’s incidents under as tight a wrap as possible, and that it would have informed his later decision once Thor shows up. Still, we didn’t need to see this particular character development note again.
Last thing, presumably Goose was Mar-Vell’s cat and came with her to Earth. But did he wander around that base for six years before Carol and Fury showed up? And keep it astonishingly free of any mice and rats and possibly much larger wildlife? 😉
I also still don’t know why his name was changed from Chewie. Though I suppose Disney might not have wanted to cross the streams by having her pet named after a character in the OTHER big movie franchise they control now. 😉 I’m also told “Goose” is a reference to Top Gun, so.
Now then, let’s talk about all the things I loved.
ALL HAIL OUR FLERKEN OVERLORD GOOSE
Quibbles aside, I adored Goose, another thing I know from the Captain Marvel comics I’ve read. Particularly since Fury went so gooey over him. And I am very amused that Goose is the reason for the loss of his eye, and that he is not telling anybody that. (Noting for reference: this is a plot point that didn’t play as well with my housemate Paul.)
Fury and Coulson
In general I also adored Fury in this movie. Marvel’s de-aging techniques worked splendidly for him, and for Coulson as well for that matter. My household wondered what sorts of challenges this must pose for actors. Because here we had Sam Jackson looking like he was having eighty-nine kinds of fun playing a younger version of his character. We were envisioning the director being all “Less gruff, Sam! LESS GRUFF!”
Also: check out the singing voice on Fury! He can carry a tune! Who knew?
Most of all, I loved the chemistry he had with Carol. (Chemistry in a non-romantic sense; I’m talking the chemistry of two like-minded souls taking instantly to one another as friends.) The two of them played off one another splendidly. So we got to see not only what Fury was like as a younger SHIELD agent, but ALSO Carol exhibiting her sense of humor.
It was nice to see a younger Agent Coulson here in a supporting role, too. One wonders how many Captain America trading cards he’d managed to nab at this point.
Maria was great. It was very clear to me why she and Carol were best friends, and I appreciated her pain at Carol’s apparent loss and her reaction to Carol showing up again. Nor did her callsign painted on her plane–“Photon”–escape my attention. (This had BETTER be a hint that Monica is going to grow up to be Photon. DO NOT SCREW THIS UP, MARVEL!)
And Monica. I loved Monica. I loved that she clearly idolized Carol, who’d nicknamed her “Lieutenant Trouble”. How that kid just LIT UP when Carol finally called her that again was a joy to behold.
Annette Benning, the actress doing double duty as Lawson/Mar-Vell and the Supreme Intelligence, was also splendid. With the first, she got to be a supportive older mentor to Carol. With the latter, she got to be the entity that leads an empire and the primary antagonist of the film, and she was clearly relishing that role.
I don’t have enough comics background to know whether the Kree are considered villains there or not. But I was not terribly surprised that they’re more villainous here. The OHNOEZ I WAS WORKING FOR THE BAD GUYS ALL THIS TIME trope is familiar (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power comes to mind as a recent example), but well-executed.
Jude Law is fun as Yon-Rogg. I was intrigued by his decision to kidnap Carol after the core explodes all over her. And of course the whole “FIGHT ME AND PROVE YOURSELF” confrontation he has with Carol at the end, where she promptly photon-blasts him and says “I have nothing to prove to you”, was gold.
I’ve read as per her current backstory in the comics, Carol is half-Kree. The movie does not explicitly call this out. But Yon-Rogg does tell Carol she had a transfusion of his blood–and Dara says this is pretty strong evidence that she had the genetic capability to do so.
The Skrulls, I’m given to understand, are more typical antagonists in the comics. Here, I very much liked the reveal that they’re actually a persecuted race. Their character design, green and bald with their pointed ears, certainly says “goblin” to me. But I really liked that the lead Skrull, Talos, quickly became a sympathetic character. The scene he has with Fury in the autopsy room, when he kneels down and whispers a pained farewell to his dead comrade on the table, is nice.
I liked his family, too, and that Monica takes well to his daughter and even asks her mother about giving them shelter.
Last but not least, Carol herself.
Like I said: she is magnificent.
From the first frame of this movie to the last, she has no time for anyone else’s bullshit. She is forceful, tough, and funny. I loved the character in what I’ve seen of her comics, and Larson absolutely does her justice here.
And I’ll say straight out: when she breaks out of the Kree’s control and comes into the full strength of her power, I started tearing up with tears of Happy. Some reviews I’ve seen talk about how she takes such huge JOY in realizing what she can do. Those reviews are not wrong. Watching her figure out she can fly is utterly delightful.
Watching her figure out she can destroy an entire incoming missile barrage from Ronan the Accuser’s battleship, and then fly up to meet it face to face, is even BETTER. She exchanges no dialogue with Ronin, but she doesn’t need to. The whole “Are you done? Because I can do this ALL THE GODDAMN DAY” message of her floating before his bridge, aglow with fire, is all the dialogue she needs. 😀
Since we get to see her answering Fury’s page in the mid-credits scene, too, I cannot WAIT to see what she’ll be bringing in Avengers: Endgame.
But I really also hope we’ll get more standalone Captain Marvel as well. Now that she’s sent her ultimatum to the Supreme Intelligence, I so very, very much want to see her show up to make good on her promise.
Till that happens, I WILL be seeing this movie again in the theaters.
Editing to Add
Some things I forgot to mention!
- The All-Stan-Lee opening Marvel montage was a beautiful touch. The audience at our showing burst into applause at it. A lovely note to start the movie on. <3
- Even though I know the Kree were calling Carol “Vers” the whole time, because of that fragment of her dogtag, it was weird to hear them keep pronouncing it “Veers”. Because that kept reminding me of The Empire Strikes Back, and I kept hearing Darth Vader in my head bellowing “GENERAL VEERS, DEPLOY YOUR MEN.”
- I did really rather like that the Skrulls (is the plural Skrull or Skrulls? I don’t know!) doing the memory probe on Carol was the narrative device through which we glimpsed her background. That was, I think, a clever little way to pull that off.
- Typo fixed in the ALL HAIL OUR FLERKEN OVERLOAD section. Thanks, Becky!