Guest article by Christopher Estrada
I am no Marvel Cinematic Universe newbie. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all but one MCU film to date — that one being 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. We were thrown into the middle of Dr. Banner’s story with little in the way of actual origin story. Maybe Marvel was leaning a bit on the other Hulk movie released not long before the MCU version. Or maybe they just didn’t want to get bogged down with the cinematic birth of The Hulk. Whatever the case, I wasn’t, and am still not impressed, with the big green guy’s first MCU outing.
All of this is to say that I went into Captain Marvel with apprehensive expectations. Which actually was disappointing for me. Immediately following Avengers: Infinity War, I was excited for the first female-led MCU movie. I wanted to learn about the Captain trademarked by the comic book company.
Can A White Man Review Feminist Films?
Then Brie Larson made headlines that were…off-putting…with talk of the movie being very feminist…and not wanting white males crowding the press tour…and then we had Brie’s speech at the Oscars.
I mean, I get it. This is 2019 and a highly politicized era. The world is pushing for more representation of people of color, and of women. That is all admirable and great things to work towards. But it’s not really the fault that white men today — and film critics and reporters — are white males. It could be argued that news organizations and film review publishers are at fault. It could also be argued there simply aren’t as many women and people of color that want to be film critics and reporters. Not that there shouldn’t be: just that it is up to the individuals to want to do that job, and to be good enough to get the job.
Despite my Hispanic surname, I am a white male. It’s yet to be decided if I am good enough at writing and critiquing to be doing it. (This is my second attempt in the area. The first being my thoughts on the first trailer for Avengers: Endgame. And while this review may be published, I could very well be uninvited or ignored in the future.) But is it my fault that I’m not a person of color? That I would have an opinion on entertainment? That the RunPee Family noticed a theory of mine in a discussion on their Facebook page?
My point is that it really shouldn’t matter what ethnicity or gender a person is. What should matter is whether what they have to say is worthy of publication. People of color are just as capable as any white man of having thoughts on any subject. The question is how many of them practice the craft, and pursue a job or freelance work in that field. The more of them that do so, the more of them there will be in the field. It takes time.
So, I was less excited about going to see the movie than I was just a few months ago. But I still wanted to see it. I still wanted to add more MCU canon to my brain. I wanted to give the movie a chance.
A Captain Marvel Review (with mild spoilers)
The origin story is fleshed out through the movie. Sometimes in jarring, unexpected flashbacks. Other times, in ways that make perfect sense for the flow of the movie.
There is some decent comedy sprinkled throughout. The best of which came from Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D Nick Fury, and his interactions with Goose, the brilliant ginger cat that steals every scene s/he purrs into.
Likewise, the seeming antagonistic Skrulls were a good source of humor. The titular hero, on the other hand…Brie’s acting in the comedic bits was…unconvincing. She seemed kind of stiff when it came to cracking puns back at her co-stars. I’m not saying I didn’t get her jokes, or that I didn’t laugh. I did. It was just a bit delayed in comparison with the other funny parts. I think the exception is when she crashes to Earth near the beginning of the film. The stiff acting actually made sense, and made for decent humor when she asked if the human security officer understood her. When she asks for a communication source and he points at Radio Shack — here it worked.
The action is typical Marvel quality with good choreography and CGI special effects. The overwhelming powers Carol Danvers wields is made crystal clear when she breaks free of the Kree binds, and confronts her former team.
I was somewhat disappointed that she didn’t fight and overcome Jude Law’s character in a non-powered exhibition at the end. She basically pulls an Indiana Jones pistol shot, on the bad guy with a sword in the courtyard in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was worth a short chuckle. But it would have been awesome to see her best him in the hand to hand combat they were practicing early on. Then Ronan’s reaction when Carol blasts her way through one of the enemy ships was also a chuckle-worthy bit. It was all fairly anti-climactic in my estimation, though.
The CGI to make Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg look younger is a tough cookie. Fury looked pretty good — maybe a little plastic or rubbery. But Coulson…he just looked weird and inconsistent. The facial CGI is still a technology that needs to improve. Forward and backward in age…
The film was touted as being a very feminist movie. Everyone from Larson to Kevin Feige made a point to advertise it as the first female MCU hero movie. The trailers etched the tag line in our heads. “Her” flashing into, “A Hero”.
Then we saw the mantra heavily repeated during the Super Bowl Captain Marvel trailer saying “Higher, Further, Faster.” And the flashbacks of authority figures telling the younger Carol what she should, and shouldn’t — or can’t be doing — and her exclamation of “I’m kind of done with you telling me what I can’t do.” The theme isn’t bad. In fact it’s a great theme that should help uplift girls and women everywhere. Sadly, I think the film falls short of that message overall.
There are flashbacks to Carol’s time as a human child, teen, and young adult, where we see her father and other authorities telling her negative things: what was shown in that Superbowl trailer, but sprinkled throughout the film. Then we see all of those flashbacks at once, just before she realizes her full power.
But the theme wasn’t played up enough to amount to anything more that this one person saying that, yes, she can. Carol never sits down and tells little Monica to never let anyone hold her back. That Monica, and by extension all girls, can do what they want if they put their minds to it. If they push past their own limits and do what others say they can’t: this is a missed opportunity in my opinion.
Women Superhero Films Today
This missed opportunity kind of negates the leftist politics and feminist push from the PR campaign before the film released. The politics aren’t in your face. That makes this a fairly typical Marvel movie.
It’s actually an interesting comparison with Wonder Woman. Ultimately both films center on each franchise’s first female-hero led film. Both show awesome, bad-ass women kicking butt and proving that women make excellent warriors. Both are origin stories. Both are prequels to a larger universe. But they both left me in different places. We knew more or less what was next for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, because what was next was actually shown to us before, in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
What’s next for Captain Marvel is a bit of a mystery still. We know she will be in next month’s Avengers: Endgame. But since we haven’t seen that movie yet, and we expect her in it, this story feels incomplete to me. Yes, she completed her objective for this movie. But we’re left wanting more in a different way than Wonder Woman. I think part of this is because of the mid-credits scene which shows us a flash-forward to the post-Thanos-Snap world. It leaves us by teasing us.
Another difference between the two comics movies is the pre-release marketing. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall Wonder Woman being pushed as a feminist film. Gal Gadot certainly didn’t politicize the press tour. The film quite simply introduced us to a strong female hero that didn’t dwell on her peers telling her she cant do this or that. She rolls her eyes and puts on the trench coat to cover her armored body. She hears the entrenched soldiers saying they can’t push forward, and picks up her shield, climbs the ladder and says “Follow me!” She just did it.
DC didn’t push the film as an empowerment story for women in the way that Marvel did with Captain Marvel. They both ultimately present that theme successfully. But one alienated a large portion — possibly a majority — of the fan-base. The other didn’t. That only hurts the film early on, because, again, I am a part of that portion of the fan-base that was targeted and putt-off, and I ended up enjoying the movie.
My Captain Marvel Movie Grade
On a 1-10 scale, I’d give Captain Marvel an 8/10 or a B grade.
Much of Brie Larson’s acting just seemed stiff and un-involved. Some of this could be the idea that she’s on an unknown, forgotten world, and as an alien she doesn’t know how to behave around humans. But that idea slips away with her relative comfort working with Fury, where she still seems like she has a board strapped to her back. (Maybe its the costume? But no; she’s in normal human clothes for a lot of this bit.)
Overall, I’d say this movie is worth a theatrical viewing. Boycotting a box office ticket for it because of the recent politics is only keeping you from adding to the Avengers canon. The movie isn’t blatantly political or anti-white male. I might go see it in theater again, in a few weeks, when the theater isn’t packed with other people…before Endgame.
Christopher Estrada: “Take a look at my first e-book An Abducted Date. The book is available for free in all e-book formats. So anyone using a Kindle, Ipad, Tablet, Sony Reader, Nook, or Kobo e-reading device can enjoy. Also available as PDF format for reading on a computer! Read and Review!”