GASP!!!!! I OH MY GOD WHAT YEAR IS IT!?!?! Somebody help me I was in a coma for months when am I? Jokes aside to the couple of people who check in here I didn’t die or totally abandon the blog. After my last post my final semester of uni kicked into high gear and I felt it would be best to focus my time on that before returning to the blog after. I’ve made it a 2019 goal to update regularly and consistently. So expect more content coming up, I promise. As for today’s post, I’m going to talk a little bit about Captain Marvel (yes, I like Marvel). The rankings for Marvel villains will be coming up later as that’s going to be a big post. I’d like to come back with something a little more approachable and relevant. Here we go.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, I’m concerned about Captain Marvel. I like to consider myself a critic and someone objective about reviewing stories in all mediums. I’m not a fanboy and I won’t defend a Marvel product I don’t like just because it’s Marvel while bashing a DC movie even though deep down I know I liked it (like everyone claiming not to like Aquaman, which was really fun). I call a spade a spade and give credit and criticism where it’s do. So with Captain Marvel, like a number of fans out there, I’m worried.
For anyone not aware, Captain Marvel is set in the 90’s and stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, a former fighter pilot turned into a superhero by an alien race called the Kree (who were the main antagonists in Guardians of the Galaxy 1). She has energy powers which to most non-comic book readers are poorly defined and has amnesia about her past life. When she crash lands of Earth she teams up with a younger two-eyed Nick Fury to take on a race of shape-shifting Aliens called Skrulls who have infiltrated human society. She has to rediscover her past too. The movie has great actors like Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and features a younger Phil Coulson too. It’s going to have huge battles on Earth and in space and it’s going to introduce us to a character who is very likely to be the leader of the next generation of Avengers after Endgame.
So WHY am I worried? In spite of all those things I just mentioned, nothing about the trailer really gripped me. Brie Larson (an amazing Oscar-winning actress) seems too stoic and emotionless, like to a fault. Nothing about her scenes in the trailer so far really captivate me, dare I say it the actress almost looks bored in the role. The character of Carol Danvers doesn’t really compel me either. What’s her conflict? Does she seek healing and enlightenment in order to bring purpose back to her life like Doctor Strange? Does she have her ideals challenged in the face of a flawed world like Captain America? Does she have to atone for her families mistakes like Black Panther? Does she need to overcome past trauma and find a family like the Guardians? If there is a conflict like this the trailer doesn’t do a good job of showing it. Maybe the movie will show that and maybe it’s a huge spoiler to reveal it now but currently, I’m not too interested in Danvers. Her being powerful doesn’t make her interesting, her personal growth makes her interesting.
Secondly, the plot itself strikes me as… off. Why do the Kree convert Carol into a superhero soldier to fight for them? Don’t they have enough soldiers on their own? If they can turn regular humans into superheroes on a whim while erasing there memory, why not kidnap millions of lesser people and convert them into slave soldiers in order to conquer the universe? It’s not like the Kree would be above that based on Ronan. Why doesn’t Ronan have those powers? Why bother saving Carol in the first place? Seriously why? If they saved her out of charity why not return her to her home where she belongs? If they are ruthless enough to kidnap slave-soldiers they would have no need of a wounded fighter pilot. Why does most of the movie take place on Earth? Haven’t we seen enough of Earth? Wouldn’t be cooler to have the movie be a serious sci fi epic with grand space battles rivalling Star Wars (yes Guardians is a sci fi too but that’s a comedy, I’m talking about a dramatic sci fi here)? If Captain Marvel is out there saving the galaxy after the movie just waiting for Nick Fury to emergency ping her, why in all that time hasn’t she tracked down Thanos? He’s a warlord allied with a terrorist from her own race so it’s not like she doesn’t know about him. If she was imprisoned somewhere or in hibernation why would Nick Fury call to her? She wouldn’t be able to answer his call wouldn’t she? Too many questions like that arise when I consider the logic behind the movie.
Thirdly, is the villain going to be good? It’s obviously going to be Ben Mendelsohn playing the leader of the Skrulls but they’re going to have to really surprise us in order to make that kind of villain interesting. Ever since Civil War Marvel has been killing it with their villains. They listened to the criticism and tried to make their villains more complex that just “I’m bad and want to kill everyone because I’m evil!” In place of Malekith, Ronan and Yellowjacket we started getting Zemo, Vulture, Hela, Killmonger and Thanos. But with Captain Marvel’s villain, the leader of a shapeshifting race called Skrulls? I’m not convinced. Marvel fans deserve a better class of villain. I hope this movie proves me wrong. In fact, I hope Jude Law turns out to be the villain, he’s playing Carol’s Kree mentor and the original Captain Marvel. At least there we would see some drama and character conflict.
Thirdly, there’s the dialogue. In the trailer we have lines like this:
Nick Fury: “So the Kree are a race of noble warriors?”
Carol Danvers: “HEROES. Noble warrior heroes.”
Carol Danvers: “I’m not gonna fight your war, I’m gonna end it.”
Carol Danvers: “Something in my past is the key to all of this.”
Ben Mendelsohn: “Would you like to know what you really are?”
Ben Mendelsohn: “This war is just the beginning!”
My point here is that the dialogue is either basic, cringey or completely unimaginative. “Noble warrior heroes”? That’s best line the screenwriter could come up with? It’s cringey and formulaic. It tells instead of showing. We don’t see Kree warriors do anything in this trailer to warrant that title. It also makes Carol seem a bit conceited. Most superheroes don’t like to bask in how heroic they are (unless it’s part of their character’s personality like Iron Man or Thor to some extent), they tend to be humble and only claim to be doing their duty like Captain America, Spider-Man or Black Panther. They give credit to people around them so others can be inspired to do good deeds like them. But Carol intentionally saying she’s not just a noble warrior but a noble warrior HERO is just strange to hear when comparing her to other heroes. How about instead Nick Fury says; “So the Kree are a race of warriors?” and she says “Yeah, but noble ones. Least I try to be.” As she gazes down for split second remembering how evil Ronan is. That would show doubt, internal conflict, humility and personal conviction. Her being brave enough to acknowledge her people’s faults while sticking to her convictions SHOWS her to be heroic and makes me want her to succeed like Captain America.
How about her saying she’s not going fight a war but she’s going to end it? That makes no sense. In order to end a conflict you need to choose a side and fight till you win. She’s not a diplomat or anything, she’s not going to outsmart the bad guys into ending their conquest like Doctor Strange, she’s a blunt instrument. “Something in my past is the key to all of this?” and “Would you like to know who you really are?” Those lines are just so basic and vanilla, there is no personality to them. You could super-impose that line onto any character with a mysterious backstory and it would fit just fine. They communicate to the audience only the most necessary and obvious thing. I expect better. Even so, the trailer already shows us she’s was a human fighter pilot in her last life, so I already know who she really is. There is no mystery to get me into the theatre.
“This war is just the beginning!” Could you think of a more cliche villain line? “I will destroy you!” “You are pathetic!” “Join me or die!” Blah, blah, blah. Those bland villains wanting to blow up the world and be evil don’t cut it for today’s audiences. Now we expect our villain to have more going on under the surface. Villains like Thanos, Loki, Zemo, Joker, Killmonger, Hela, Ego, Vulture, Ocean Master (from Aquaman), etc are examples of this. They can still be evil yeah but they need to have more going on under the surface than just being evil, they need to have a strong (but flawed) argument for their evil.
We need to empathise with them not necessarily support them (or else they would be the real hero). Killmonger wants to start a war not because he’s pure evil or he loves conquering but because he was subjected to racial injustice from the Western powers and was wronged by Wakanda’s isolationism. He wants to repay real historic injustice so the conflict is relevant and poignant. Thanos wants to kill half the universe but not because he’s evil, he thinks by killing half of all life right now he is saving all life for ALL time because of overpopulation. In his twisted mind he’s the hero of this story. Vulture is a criminal but he just wants to provide for his family, he was a hard worker and a law-abiding citizen until Stark Industries put him and his employees out of a job. He was cheated by the system and thus rejects it. See the pattern? An evil shape-shifting villain who wants to invade Earth because reasons isn’t good enough anymore. It provides no opportunities for drama either, Danvers can’t learn much about herself and undergo personal growth in her conflict with a villain like that.
You know what would be more a interesting story? If Captain Marvel isn’t a human at all, she is in fact a natural Kree from birth. I’ve never really minded when they change things from the comics in the movies if it makes for a better story (god knows it made Thanos the best comic book villain of all time). Carol being a Kree opens up so many possibilities. What if in the beginning she was a fanatical, jingoistic, alien space nazi who fights for an oppressive regime? What if in every definition of the word, she started the movie as the villain of the story? Instead, upon crashing down to Earth she learns to respect and value the lives of people she was taught are inferior. What if the villain wasn’t the Skrulls but her very own people? That’s a moral dilemma good enough to make any character compelling. Is it justifiable to betray the people that raised you and kill your own kin if they are morally wrong? What if Carol teamed up with Xandar and led their armies in the defence of Earth, culminating in a climactic battle for the VALUES Carol and the audience truly care about? That would explain why in Guardians 1 Ronan hates Xandar so much and why in Iron Man 1 Nick Fury is so dead set on creating the Avengers to defend them from otherworldly threats. You wouldn’t have to sacrifice the crowd-pleasing spectacle and epic space battles in this idea either so it’s a win-win! Would you have the courage to turn your back on your family, friends, nation, livelihood and career for your beliefs? This would be a movie about redemption, empathy, conviction, bravery and challenging one’s views. Now THAT would be a movie I’d wanna see and a character I’d want to root for!
Lastly, I’m worried that Marvel will try too hard to have us accept Captain Marvel as the new leader of the Avengers. I’m worried that SHE is going to get the honour of defeating Thanos, reviving half the universe and saving the day as opposed to the original six. NO. Danvers is going to have plenty of movies going forward to shine. Avengers: Endgame is the last time we’ll get to see the original six Avengers we’ve grown to love save the day on the big screen. They deserve that honour, they need to have that last hurrah. She can be in the movie sure but I hope they don’t make it HER movie, trying to force her down our throats when we really want to see Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye get their glorious send-off.
I hope Marvel (the company) doesn’t get the idea that because Wonder Woman did well that all we want is a female superhero. It has NOTHING to do with gender, Wonder Woman did well because she was a compelling, inspiring character in a compelling, inspiring movie. Representation is important, but if we could only identify with someone based how similar they are to us nobody would identify with anybody because we are all unique in some way. We identify with characters because of their journey, values, goals, hopes, dreams, fears, failings, sacrifices and triumphs. Right now, I don’t get much of that from Captain Marvel, and that is why I’m worried about it. I hope to god I’m proven wrong.