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'Captain Marvel' marvels Marvel Fans, but fails to win over Super Zeroes

The only movie ticket in town for the past two weeks has been Marvel Studios' latest addition to the MCU family - Captain Marvel. The long-awaited superheroine origin story premiered on March 8, 2019 (coincidentally also International Women's Day). It took 11 years and 21 films, but Marvel has finally entrusted their immense universe, reputation, and franchise to a female lead... sort of. (We'll dive more into this later.)

Captain Marvel debuted at number one - virtually unopposed. By now, film studios have learned not to compete with Marvel or female superhero films. The film opened with $153m on its first weekend, placing it as the 7th biggest opening weekend out of the entire MCU. By all measures, Captain Marvel is a smash-hit that you can tally in the 'victory' column - however, some pockets of the Internet might suggest otherwise.

I think it's fair to say that I have a penchant for films with strong female protagonists. I've been a staunch advocate for female-led films that have been severely overlooked in years past: Joy, Molly's Game, I, Tonya, The Breadwinner, etc. However, due to the low performing box office results, I'm led to believe that many people disagree with me. I don't know what my preference says about me, but I know what it says about everyone else; stories of a woman showcasing her strengths does not resonate with them.

And life truly imitates art, because when Larson displayed strength against early critics, her strength dismayed Internet trolls. Not long after Brie Larson made her debut as 'Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel' in the first official trailer, there came a slew of suggestions and criticism that Larson needs to smile more. This prompted Larson to respond with a series of Instagram posts featuring smiles doctored onto the solemn Marvel posters to illustrate the double-standard. This small act of defiance was enough to incite those trolls to begin actively campaign against Larson and the film.

This battle escalated until the dividing lines were clearly drawn between feminists and white men with Larson and Captain Marvel caught in the middle. For those that would like to learn more about this controversy, it is heavily documented on countless blogs and videos. (Some people are actually building careers off of attacking Brie Larson's character.) If you were to search "Brie Larson" on Google or YouTube, the 5th suggested keyword would respectively be "feminist quote" and "white men" -- preceding "Captain Marvel" and co-star "Samuel L Jackson" (We'll also dive more into this later.)

I wish I didn't have to explain the backlash and hate preceding this film as I do not agree with it and I do not want it to taint my thoughts on the film. I take no issue with Brie Larson as an actress or an activist. However, I am only human and this situation has influenced my perception of the film. I support Larson's decision as an artist to not acquiesce or concern herself with the opinions of critics and commenters. Because of this, I was expecting Captain Marvel to pack a stronger punch against the naysayers. And while there are many great things about this film that worked for me, there were a few that did not.

That said, Captain Marvel is not without flaws and it still lacking certain characteristics that make it a true female-led superhero movie. I'll be comparing and contrasting Captain Marvel with Black Panther and Wonder Woman. There WILL be spoilers for BP, WW, and other previously released Marvel films, but I will not include any revealing details about CM.


Not a Truly a Solo film

Just as Guardians of the Galaxy introduced audiences to space and Ant-Man heralded the quantum realm, Captain Marvel provides exposition and insight into several new expansions of the Marvel Universe. Our origin story of Carol Danvers is muddled with the intergalactic Kree-Skrull conflict as well as the origin of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury. So we do not get the pure Captain Marvel story that we were promised.

This is not a new move for Marvel. While established stars like Chadwick Bosemen and Benedict Cumberbatch are given the independence to head their own character origins and film franchises, a fresh face like Tom Holland has to be tethered to MCU alum Robert Downey Jr. to secure acceptance and relevance of Spider-Man - one of the most significant characters in comic book history. Academy-Winning actress Brie Larson is far from a fresh face, yet she shares a majority of her screen time with the ever-present Samuel L. Jackson.

This shared spotlight extends past the screen as well. After the hullaballoo of negativity surrounding Larson's interview statements, most of her media appearances were paired with Jackson. So much so that search engines suggests his name whenever you attempt to look up "Brie Larson." A success for Marvel's SEO strategists, but a step backward for our would-be heroine. Could you imagine seeing "Chris Pine" being affixed to Gal Gadot's search results? Not even Hillary Clinton has to live with being leashed to her more prestigious and presidential husband.

Maneuvers like these only convey one thing - apprehension. While it is great to explore more facets of the galaxy and get to know Nick Fury more deeply, I think that could be accomplished independently so as to not conflate their first attempt at a female superhero.

Unreliable Narrator

Like Black Panther, this film starts en media res (in the middle of the action). But whereas we get something of an introduction to T'Challa in Captain America: Civil War, we don't really get to know Vers aka Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel until the 3rd act. We know she has powers. She has a green suit. She has a team. The rest is a mystery that is painfully unveiled slowly. Because like the audience, she inconveniently doesn't even know her own identity. And it's hard to relate to or root for someone who doesn't know themselves.

An hour into Captain Marvel, I still didn't even know what planet she's from.

Where Wonder Woman succeeds is firmly establishing who Diana Prince is. She provides a consistency and reliability that allows the audience to laugh at some of the absurdities of her character. When Prince is walking around New York with large sword and shield, it's comedic because we know she has a code of honor and would never harm an innocent person. When Captain Marvel fires off her photon blast in the streets of LA, it's deathly silent because she dangerous in an unknown/unstable way.

Although mystery and twists can be fun, I will say that I found the lack to exposition to be disorienting as an audience member. I'm not a comic book aficionado so I was introduced to Black Panther and Doctor Strange from their respective films. I understood who they were within the first 20 minutes. I need to know the character before I can be on their side. Otherwise, hat's how you end up with dictators.

Unlimited Power

This last topic, I am very conflicted on. As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy strong female characters. I think it is very good thing for girls and women of all ages to see her triumph over all adversity. From my own experience, I can attest that representation plays a big part on mindset and attitude. So I am not arguing against Captain Marvel's use of her unfettered power.

The thing that bothers me is that it is so ubiquitous that I never felt any sense of danger or suspense. I had the same criticism of Wonder Woman. When you are quite literally invulnerable, you might as well just fast-forward to the end of the movie because every struggle or conflict along the way is inconsequential. In fact, it serves to negate their heroics because if you are that strong and capable, why does it take 2 hours to achieve your goal? It's like in Lord of the Rings - why don't you just fly to Mordor, you fools?!

Of course there are too many layers and complications along the way. I would simply request that some of these complications be character-building/testing and that the eventual power-up be earned. Spider-Man had to earn the suit, Thor had to earn "Stormbreaker," Doctor Strange had to earn the "Eye of Agamotto." Captain Marvel just has powers. And then she just gets MORE powerful. She's the same person at the beginning as she was in the end. It's fine, it's just unsatisfying.

Side note: I know it's not about me. I know my satisfaction doesn't matter. She's got nothing to prove to me. Please don't shoot me with a photon blast. It's all badass and I love that message.

(It's just very "Vegeta" of her, that's all I'm saying. Goku goes through all that training with King Kai... he loses a childhood friend... he is fighting to save an entire planet... he EARNS that Super Saiyan. Vegeta is just born a badass and an asshole and he is able to turn into a Super Saiyan by just being a bigger badasshole. It's fucked up and I'm sorry.)


Captain Marvel is a good movie. It was really close to being a great movie. In fact, I would dare say that if it weren't for all of the controversy preceding it, I would have been immensely joyful about it. But unfortunately, the social climate compelled me to want more out of it. Not only did I want it to be A superheroine movie; I needed it to be THE superheroine movie - the paragon, the new standard.

That's too much pressure to put on one movie and one character. So I will check myself before I wreck myself and say that Captain Marvel is a marvelous movie and I hope there will be even better ones to come.

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