By: Felix Felicis (Three Beers) –
Get your dollar bills rolled up and ready to freebase some pure, uncut 1990’s goodness while you watch Brie Larson and Captain Marvel send your earthbound expectations surrounding female-fronted box-office blockbusters (especially superheros) higher, further, faster than they’ve ever gone in the MCU before (currently Marvel’s sixth best box office debut with a domestic take of $153 million – just behind Black Panther‘s $202 million – with a global take of $455 million opening weekend). DC’s Wonder Woman paved the way in 2017, proving that audiences (even typically male-centric comic book audiences) would turn out and turn up for heroes that represent more than 2% of the human population [pause for zero shock to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock since the dial-up internet Captain Marvel uses as a punchline was invented]. My expectations were somewhere in the exosphere (the highest layer of earth’s atmosphere) going into Captain Marvel and I was (mostly) rewarded for my shitventure time before last – through the sewage canal of cinema (Alita: Battle Angel) – so life could be wors- *stage whisper* what? You mean I have to cover Five Feet Apart in return for scoring this silverscreen snack?
Captain Marvel follows accidental Kree-Human Hybrid, Carol Danvers aka “Vers”, as she and sexy, ambiguously ethical Dumbledore (Jude Law’s Kree “Yon-Rogg”) try and train the impulsive independence out of her so she can be the Kree-est Kree there ever could be. As you can imagine, this fails on a spectacularly cosmic level as Carol chases her past down a rabbit hole of misconceptions, miscommunications, a little retrograde amnesia, a pretty intense identity crisis, and quite a bit of unintentional genocide-by-association.
Carol Danvers has come to kick ass, take names, and punch sweet old ladies in the face while riding the bus, stopping a cosmic conflict from spilling over onto our Terran turf – for now – and, while she’s at it, figuring out what’s behind the blank etch-a-sketch of the past six years of her life. Not to mention giving us one of the best BFF pairings Marvel has ever seen: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and supermodel cat, Goose (Chewy) in this wham-bam-save-Earth-ma’am movie. Please note: Beer Three will contain SPOILERS.
Captain Marvel is, admittedly, a lottle late to the box office party after DC’s Wonder Woman (a stellar FUBU for women) hit theater screens, but fighter-pilot-turned-demi-Kree, Carol Danvers, is bringing flannel grunge back to party hardy in the MCU making it well worth the wait for anyone who’s a fan of fuzzy kittehs and/or equal representation/gender equality in cinema. Chock full of genuine, Grade A kickassery and heart, Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers carries the weight of responsibility that is bringing the MCU’s first female-led superhero origin story to audiences worldwide with wit and irreverent charm galore.
Much like Neil Armstrong’s moon landing, Captain Marvel is a small step in the right direction for the MCU… and a giant leap in the right direction for film. No movie gets an automatic pass just because it gives a wider focus to gender equality and cultural inclusivity, though – I still judge a film on its own holistic merits – because, no matter what (in this case worthy) cause is being championed, studios still have to make a good film to get a good review. That said, Captain Marvel holds up to a solid amount of the hype as well as being a visual treat.
I won’t lie, it hit me a little in the feels to cover Captain Marvel (and screen it) this past International Women’s Day because there’s no woman more international than our very own Earth-Girl-Isn’t-Easy/demi-Kree in this birth-of-the Avengers prelude to Endgame than Carol Danvers. Brie Larson’s Danvers reminds me a lot of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang (Ant-Man); the duality of irrepressible humor and steely resolve in the face of adversity are hallmarks of both characters (though Danvers has a touch more of Captain America’s “for the good of all” gravitas than Lang does).
Captain Marvel ultimately serves up a fun box office treat that has a refreshing core emotional narrative (that bucks the usual tropes) surrounding the depths of friendship that spans galaxies, retrograde amnesia, and time itself to reunite (and reaffirm) that the bonds which tie us together as a species don’t always have to be (stereotypically) romantic ones. Love of family and/or friends can easily serve as a lodestone significant enough to pull someone home. There’s a time and a place for tortured romance and star-crossed lovers (if you haven’t seen A Discovery Of Witches yet, I highly recommend it) but it’s not here (for once) and it’s (thankfully) not now.
Captain Marvel uses the 1990’s as pitch-perfect set dressing and it pays off in style. From the massive audience laughs when BLOCKBUSTER, PAY PHONES, DIAL-UP INTERNET, BEEPERS, and more meet the eye all synced to a stellar soundtrack designed to enhance some well-thought-out action sequences; it’s just, *chefs kiss*, perfection in nostalgia form for anyone old enough to remember the nineties (I made my debut in 1986) so all of this was like having a yesteryear tuning fork smacked straight-upside my forehead. The finale fight set to Gwen Stefani’s “Just A Girl” was so on point, lasers quit their day jobs and outsourced all of their work to this scene… Sorry not sorry NASA (there’s good chance I don’t understand what NASA does on a daily basis which, coincidentally, makes me a PERFECT candidate for this administration’s “Space Force”).
Audiences also finally discover what happened to Director Fury’s eye and expurrience (pun intended) one of the greatest Marvel BFF pairings since Rocket and Groot: Fury and Goose (Chewy). You honestly haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed Samuel L. Jackson making cute-kitty cooing noises continually for like two hours while on the lam from several sets of assorted dickwads. Plus inquiring minds finally learn what would happen nine months after Garfield and Cthulhu (hypothetically) banged one out, so there’s that second act payoff to look forward to for cepholopod enthusiasts.
Okay so I wrote a good part of this review a teeny, tiny, lotta bit looped out on muscle relaxers and Xanax and here’s why: don’t grow up – IT’S A TRAP (welcome to your thirties, you have a stress-related pinched nerve in your neck now) and I’m definitely not drooling a little bit as I dive into Beer Two. I told you that to tell you this: Imagine you’re baking chocolate chip muffins. You *aggressively* love muffins, you’re fucking *psyched* about chocolate chips and you get SO EXCITED about the end result being a goddamn delicious chocolate chip muffin that you forget to mix all of the ingredients in evenly and just panic when the oven is done preheating (because you were thinking about muffins) and frantically ricochet a handful of chocolate chips at the muffin pan as you’re sliding it onto the oven rack. Make a cinnamon sacrifice to the muffin gods at your nearest Crossroads Shrine to Convection Heat for they are the only ones who can bestow mercy on you now, ’cause there’s a good chance muffin gods are real (and you can’t risk offending them, at least not until your muffins are done).
Did I just write a paragraph about muffins to build a metaphor in order to illustrate a point about Captain Marvel? Yes, yes I did and here’s why: you can combine two great things (the MCU and its first female-led superhero origin story) into another great thing, a good thing, or a terrible thing. It all depends on how you put them together. Captain Marvel, while a really fun, entertaining, inspirational, and enjoyable entry in the MCU, is unevenly balanced and really doesn’t pick up until the second act, spending its first spinning empty narrative wheels introducing (and/or re-introducing depending on how dialed in you are to the franchise) characters, etc. that the audience already knew about.
I know I spend a lot of time in my reviews talking about how filmmakers can’t assume a base level of an audience’s topical familiarity on any given subject – and have to spend a little time on narrative development in each film (*cough* Alita: Battle Angel *cough*), but as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has basically informed an entire generation’s pop culture zeitgeist almost single-handedly, I think the MCU could be the exception to my “rule”. Get to the point and give me a well-balanced movie-muffin or you might as well be serving me a *dry scone shaped like a middle-finger (*dealer’s choice DC flick excepting Wonder Woman). No one likes scones. Except Satan. Pretty sure he’s a scone guy.
Captain Marvel was also peppered with small plot holes and inconsistencies that, though its status as a prequel largely frees the film from the weight of MCU canon, simultaneously caused it to struggle while attempting to bridge the gap between Carol Danvers’ origin story and the Endgame of Phase 3.
Please allow me to shower you with a few of my filmic thought bubbles:
Okay so the lightspeed engine blows up and fuses Kree DNA with our girl Carol over here, but how? Mar Vell is nowhere near the direct line of fire from the lightspeed engine to Carol. Simple physics would concur that there’s no way someone behind both you AND and explosion could cause their DNA to swim upstream like a mutating salmon against the tide of that kind of blow back just to infuse your mitochondria with super juice.
This could be me not knowing much about Kree social dynamics but you’re telling me ZERO PERCENT of the team Carol worked with for the past six years is conflicted in even the slightest way when the jig, as the kids say, is up, and they’re tasked with bringing her back to Hala- dead or alive?! NOT EVEN SEXY DUMBLEDORE IS WILLING TO DEFECT?! Either Carol gives super shitty Secret Santa gifts at the annual office non-denominational holiday gathering, or I’m smelling a distinct lack of character depth and/or development here.
Man they are COASTING on an ever so slightly patronizing, gender-forward storyline if Marvel thinks they can get away with this cut-and-paste, lackluster non-effort to round out Carol as a character by having her ethical and moral compass set (unwaveringly) to true north one hundo percent of the time with no tension or turmoil between leaving her old Kree life for a new demi-human one (once the cloud of retrograde amnesia has cleared and all the plot cards have been revealed).
The experiences and ties Carol spent the last six years building on Hala apparently just disappear when she recovers her memories; regardless of which side is right or wrong there should be an evolving dimensionality to any good story (whereas, instead, Captain Marvel is the equivalent of an emotional Flat Stanley) and OH MY GOD IT WAS HARDER FOR “BELLA” IN A DOG’S WAY HOME TO LEAVE THE NICE “ROOMMATES” WHO ADOPTED HER THAN IT WAS FOR CAROL TO PEACE OUT FROM TEAM KREE. This cheapens the development of not only her character, but those around her, and limits how much room Captain Marvel is given to stretch its legs with, origin-story-wise. The cut-and-dry lack of complexity doesn’t make Captain Marvel any less enjoyable to watch, I’m just not *that* emotionally invested in the outcome.
Captain Marvel thrills, chills, and visually kills. A must-see for kids of the nineties as well as MCU enthusiasts.
Stay tuned for two post-credits stingers. The first is a teaser for Endgame and the other is post-film fluff (but worth a watch for Flerkin aficionados).
Captain Marvel (2019) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every memory flashback Carol experiences.
Take a Sip: anytime Captain Marvel unleashes her proton cannon fists of fury.
Take a Drink: for every Fury/Goose interaction. Take Two: if you d’awwwd.
Take a Shot: every time you *think* Fury’s gonna lose the eye (but doesn’t). Take Two: when he thinks his eye is fine and it’s *not*.
Take a Drink: for everything/technology which no longer exists mainstream since the nineties (dial-up, beepers, etc).
Shotgun Your Beer: when Captain Marvel shreds Ronan’s forces like a P90X machine in the Big Boss Finale Fight.