Review: Captain Marvel

I took the kids to see a movie last night. Normally I take them, drop them off, and come back later to get them. But this time they really wanted me to go, too. It’s a Marvel movie, which they know I appreciate, and as I told the Junior Mad Scientist later, the time approaches when one or more is moving out, and I don’t think there will be many more opportunities to do this with them. So even though the initial takes on this movie varied from dubious to downright ‘Oh, Marvel, no!” I wanted to be there for my kids. And a healthy serving of curiosity about the movie. 

I feel like I should preface this review, before I get into the spoiler bits, with a comment on my film geekery. It is almost non-existent. I rarely if ever watch TV these days, and then when I do, it’s not SFF. It’s either cooking shows, or it’s mysteries (and specifically British mysteries). While I’m familiar with the tropes and culture surrounding, say, Star Trek, or Dr Who, I watched TOS, and that’s about it. The Marvel movies have been a rare exception for me, and as with this last one, they were started with my kids. But something about the Avengers enchanted me, and the geek in me came home, wrote on the book of faces ‘hey, where do I find the books behind this?’ 

That’s the other thing. I was never a comic book fan. I learned to read early, and was a sophisticated reader almost from the beginning. I don’t mean I had upper crust or literary tastes. Far from it. I read well, and I read a lot. I consumed books like water. Comic books were hard to come by and short. It was impossible to get the whole story in one or two random issues I might be able to get my hands on. All this is pertinent to my movie review, I’m not just rambling, I promise! In my early reading I came across pulp action adventure stories, like ER Burroughs, EE ‘Doc’ Smith, and many others. The Avengers movies, when I encountered them as an adult, were throwbacks to that golden age of pulp fiction for me. And now we come to Captain Marvel. 

I think in movies, as in books, you are coming into the experience with a lot of expectations, usually. And a certain amount of what you take away is part of what you brought into the movie theater with you. Unfortunately, there was a concerted effort before this movie’s release to make it into something it wasn’t. I expected one thing going in, because of the pre-release press. I walked out with a different impression, a sense of huge amusement at how that expectation had been subverted, and feeling very happy with the real takeaway in the story. I’m not a fan of message fiction. This is not message fiction, but like Captain America, there’s a moral in the story. Unlike one of Aesop’s fables, it’s not spelled out for you, and it’s not what you might think it’s going to be. Go see Captain Marvel and watch for the trick near the end that turns it all on it’s ear… 

And now, the spoilery part. Read no further if you want to be surprised. 

I’m serious! 

Despite all the chicks, this is not a chick flick. This is a Human Wave movie, as most of the Avenger’s arc has been.

So what I walked in afraid of was that this was going to be a vehicle for third-wave feminism, which is a subversive movement that erodes the initial intent of feminists to establish women as equal to any other human beings. The main actress has certainly been running her mouth saying it is. The main actress, to be kind, couldn’t find the point with both hands. 

Early on in the film, it’s obvious that the heroine has major issues. Ok, the plot has major issues. Don’t walk in expecting to be surprised by the big reveal at the end. I wasn’t, and I doubt you will be either. And if that reveal hadn’t happened, I would have been done, done, done with the Avengers. If I’m not a fan of 3WF (third wave feminists is too long to keep typing) I’m even less a fan of the current statist movement. I’m all about human rights, independence, and Liberty! or death. So far, the Avengers had satisfied this side of me with the wonderful Captain America arc. So when you see the Kree set up as this superhuman race of warrior heroes (that’s actually a line in the movie) who are ruled utterly by the Supreme Intelligence AI, my first thought was ‘they’re really the bad guys’ and they are. But you don’t know that until much later in the film. And here’s where the feminism thing came in. We get to see Vers (later, Captain Marvel) conflicted over memories, or whatever they are, in which she is knocked down, belittled, and told she’s a girl, a failure, and so on. We’re supposed to feel badly that men were awful to her. Um. I can see where the actress was all ‘look, men are awful but the girlz rule!’ 

Except that’s not what the ending does to those ‘memories.’ During the fight scene with the Supreme Intelligence, it’s revealed that the memories were selected and used to control the woman who could become Captain Marvel. Her focus on how she’d been beaten down, scolded, and so forth… was a tool the AI was using in part to keep control over her. When she stopped focusing on the feminism ‘done me wrong’ mantra, and instead remembered how she had gotten up, tried again, been given second chances, been given the opportunity to fly experimental jets, had proved her humanity by being resilient and DOING not just lying down and whining about how men wouldn’t let her get up… that’s when she was able to tap into her true power and win the fight. Captain Marvel isn’t about girl power. It’s about humans. It’s specifically and blatantly about humanity and how we don’t give up. We dust ourselves off, wipe the blood out of our eye, square our shoulders, and walk right back into the affray, only this time to win. 

So yes, in spite of the silly special effects, the over-the-top comic book tropes, the media portrayal of ‘girlz rule!’ I really enjoyed this movie, and I can recommend it if you enjoy that sort of thing. Human wave, baby. Ride it to the stars! 

(oh, and the cat. You really, really want to watch it for the cat. I promise you, it will not disappoint). 


8 responses to “Review: Captain Marvel”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard Avatar
    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    While I don’t go to movies that much, your review is good news. 😀

  2. Margaret Ball Avatar
    Margaret Ball

    Oh, great. Now the cat wants me to take him to see it. Trying to explain that he’ll have to wait till it comes out on CD…

    1. Lol. It will give the cat ideas. You should pre-screen it before showing him.

  3. Julie Pascal Avatar
    Julie Pascal

    I was hoping that it would be good, or at least watchable. I’m glad to hear a contrary opinion to what I’ve been hearing most of.

  4. Bill Machado Avatar
    Bill Machado

    Already knew the Kree were baddiez. Ronan the Accuser was the big bad of Gaurdians remember, which said Kree were bad news four or five years ago. And read up on Goose. Interesting species, that one….

  5. Ted Hall Avatar
    Ted Hall

    Total reversal of what I’d heard…. Now I gotta see it

  6. I agree… BEST CAT EVAR!!!

    Actually, I agree with your whole review. I was a little worried about Message Fic, but had determined to ignore it. Oddly enough, I practically had to drag my 14 yo. daughter kicking and screaming to the movie (we went as a family), because she HATES HATES HATES “girl power” message fic. We were both pleasantly surprised. I didn’t have to ignore anything, and she enjoyed the whole movie.

    Sure, (some of THOSE) people will cry about the “memory flashbacks” and the pointing out that women weren’t allowed to fly in combat roles as “message fic”, but it sure didn’t come across to me like that. (re: no women in combat roles… it’s not msg-fic if it’s the unvarnished, un-enhanced truth in my book.)

    I will admit, I was a little worried about the re-gendering of an existing character. Face it, in the past comic book companies have SUCKED at making main-stream female characters work. They gave us LAME-CRAP like She-Hulk and Bat-Girl, who were mostly just dumb knock-offs of existing characters, and little real effort was made in making them awesome (well, ok. Bat Girl wasn’t totally horrible, but she never got past being completely derivative). So OF COURSE those comics didn’t have the readership, and those female heroes didn’t get the fan following. So I think I can be excused for being worried that this new female Captain Marvel was going to be lame. Good news! She wasn’t! She was awesome, AND that awesome didn’t rely on the stupid prop of “grrl pwr”.

    I think (hope) that this is going to be a trend, and so far I think it might be. Spider-verse was also a pretty fun movie, and a couple of the Spider-characters were girls. Spider-Gwen and Peni Parker (Sp//dr) were both fun, interesting characters in their own right, that didn’t seem to suffer from the whole “Copy/paste hero… stick on some boobs (BIG ones, because adolescent 40 old men are our target audience)… ???…. Profit!!!” scheme that has made previous female comic book characters so horrible.

  7. I saw it yesterday, and I agree with you. After reading several early reviews panning it as feminist propaganda I was ready either to be disappointed or pleasantly surprised, and it turned out much closer to the latter. The people who wrote the script probably saw themselves as preaching a viewpoint, but the movie they turned out doesn’t demand assent to any dogma to deliver enjoyment.

    I did feel the central character’s personality was a major weak point. Why was she fighting for the Kree in the first place? What personality traits does she have, other than sarcastic wit and patriarchy-imposed insecurities? I didn’t feel the personal empathy for Captain Marvel that I did for, say, Wonder Woman, Thor, Captain America, or Aquaman. Still, the action was good, the plot made enough sense, and it was pleasant to see a lot of the Marvel universe threads getting tied up. I’ll watch it again.