Captain Marvel (2019)
Written by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman & Meg LeFauve
Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Vers is a confused member of the Kree Empire, mentored by Yon-Rogg and member of the elite Starforce that seeks out the Skrull menace for elimination. A mission to a planet in the Kree’s vast empire ends up with Vers taken by the Skrull, and her memories probed for information on a woman whose identity is unknown to Vers. A series of memories are reactivated, and Vers realizes her destiny awaits her on planet Earth. After a rough crash landing, Vers meets SHIELD agent Nick Fury and the two team up to help the alien visitor learn more about the mystery woman in her past and who Vers truly is.
I think I may be done with the Marvel movies at this point, but I can’t say I was ever 100% on board. I am a longtime comics reader and wonder what my viewpoint would be if I were a child while these movies are coming out. I think I knew I was over the current superhero movie boom when the Shazam movie was announced, and I was wasn’t excited. Having been a ravenous Shazam fan in my youth, I found myself numb to the idea of a movie. I still read comic books and I enjoy that medium, but I feel very picky about these works being adapted to the screen. Even the critically-acclaimed movies like your Dark Knights and Logans feel like weaker versions of better films that don’t use comics as their source material.
Marvel films have been very hit or miss for me. I dislike all three Iron Man movies, the first two Thors, and the first Captain America. I never got the love for Guardians of the Galaxy; those movies are okay — not a fan of the two Ant-Man films. Spider-Man Homecoming worked for me because it was more a high school comedy than a superhero movie. Thor Ragnarok was fun. I feel like I’m going to watch Avengers Endgame out of an obligation to finish what I started and I think the Marvel films will become like the DC fare at that point, nothing I actively seek out.
I feel like a broken record in my perspective that the current wave of superhero movies lack a real thematic nuance. There always comes a scene that has the main character or their mentor figure expositing some hackneyed variation on “with great power comes great responsibility.” As far as movies aimed at kids I think these pictures are fine but what annoys me is the rabid, dogmatic fervor grown adults adopt when they come up in conversation. What’s worse is the politicization that you can almost guarantee will arise when the trailers get released. I find the MRA nonsense surrounding Marvel annoying, but also the weird corporate “girl power” cheers ring very hollowly to me. It’s troubling to see people attach their political ideologies to a product being mass produced by one of the most reprehensible corporations on the planet, Disney.
I greatly enjoyed Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s previous film Mississippi Grind. It felt like an honest throwback to very character driven downbeat films of the 1970s. That film manages to subvert many of my expectations and felt very much like a nod to Altman’s California Split. The emphasis was on characters and their relationships instead of plot beats and building tension around them. The interpersonal tension was enough to fuel the movie. I was hoping some of these elements would find their way into Captain Marvel, never naive enough to think Disney would allow these directors to make a film but that they would essentially be delivering Disney’s pre-packaged latest installment in their money-making machine.
It doesn’t help that Captain Marvel isn’t the compelling of characters to center a single film around. In the comics, Carol Danvers has been an enigma that conformed to whatever the writer at the time needed her to be and has suffered through numerous identity crises. If I had to pick a favorite version, I’d probably say the Marvel from Kurt Busiek’s late 1990s Avengers run, but she wouldn’t be the character I’d have made this film about if I wanted to spotlight a female hero. I think better characters would have been She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, or Spider-Woman. However, this is what we got, and it’s not the worst thing ever made, just precisely what you’d expect. I suppose there is a big market for feeding people what they anticipate; nostalgia has been fueled by this to a successful degree. It just doesn’t make for exciting movies.
Captain Marvel is okay. Kids will like it I guess. It doesn’t manage to do anything unexpected or surprising, so I think it is a good adaptation of most Marvel comic books at this point. Spider-Verse is still the best superhero film of the last twelve months because it wasn’t afraid to surprise the audience.