Home » Years » 2019 » Captain Marvel ••••

Captain Marvel ••••

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn
Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Screenplay: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 123 minutes
Release Date: March 8, 2019


Scott, it looks like it’s time to review the latest Marvel movie, Captain Marvel.

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

I’m curious how Marvel-ous this flick is. Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to Vers (Brie Larson) who is a humanoid alien woman training with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) on their home planet of Kree. Yon-Rogg is trying to get Vers to trust her fists rather than her super-energy powers. They get a mission to fight the Skrull where Vers is taken captive and subjected to a brain scan. She escapes from the ship and falls through space into the planet Earth and through the roof of a Blockbuster Video store. BTW: It’s apparently 1995.

SHIELD agents Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Coulson (Clark Gregg) arrive on the seen just in time to witness a Skrull attack on Vers. Using her extracted memories, Fury and Vers go to a secret underground Air Force base where an experimental light-speed aircraft was tested six years earlier by Dr. Wendy Lawson. The Skrull arrive at the base and Vers learns how the Kree have oppressed the Skrull. To escape the base, she and Fury steal a jet and soon Vers taps into her superpowers and becomes Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel is the long-awaited film from Marvel Studios featuring their first female lead superhero. Overall, it was an entertaining romp. Most origin stories are bifurcated by the emergence of the hero in the first half and the dispatching of the villain in the second half. Here, Vers has amnesia and doesn’t clearly remember her life as human Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. Only through a series of traumatic events does she come to realize who she truly is. This re-emergence is interlaced with the action such that Captain Marvel emerges triumphant at the end of the story, rather than in the middle.

Brie Larson is well-known for her dramatic roles (Room) and I hear that she hesitated to take on a superhero role. Such roles require a lot of training not to mention a long-term association with the character that can be hard to shake. But she delivers a stellar performance here as a young woman who has grown up in a time where women didn’t play sports or fly jets.

There’s a beautiful moment when Vers/Danvers has been beaten and looks like she’s down for the count – but she has a flashback montage of herself as a young girl scraping her knee, falling off her bike, falling down in baseball, and falling down in basic training. Then in each case getting back up again until we see Danvers finally rising as Captain Marvel and putting down the villain proclaiming “I have nothing to prove to you.” Echos of the phrase “It’s not how often you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up” came to my mind in this scene. And for a woman to defeat her villain with such a proclamation is empowering regardless of your gender.

There’s also some very slick CGI at play here as Samuel L. Jackson is “youthenized” back to his 1990’s glory. I’ve seen many “DeepFakes” in Marvel films (Iron Man) and have even created a few myself. These are usually a few seconds of film where the lead character is digitally enhanced to look younger. However, this is the first time a major character has been de-aged for the entire film. It was seamless and very impressive.

Greg, I agree with you. I really enjoyed this latest Marvel Universe offering, for several reasons. First, we have a Marvel film that is an actual superhero movie rather than a comedy dressed up as a superhero movie. Yes, there are a few humorous moments sprinkled here and there, but these moments add spice to the drama rather than replace the drama. At its core this movie represents a solid and serious dramatic portrayal of Captain Marvel’s origin story and her rise to greatness. Note to Marvel executives: More of this, please.

Another reason to relish this movie is found in its take-home message about the foolhardy and morally problematic act of oppressing and underestimating women. At first, Yon-Rogg is seen as mentoring Captain Marvel when in reality he is doing to her what men have been doing to women for millennia, namely, convincing her that she is less than what she really is. He admonishes her for being emotional and we learn later that harnessing her emotions are her key to unleashing her superpowers.

Captain Marvel also takes the ancient theme of the hero’s search for identity to a new level by extending it to include the crucially important theme of discovering the true identity of one’s friends and enemies. Our hero is initially led to believe that the Kree are the good guys and the Skrull are the bad guys, when in fact the reverse is true. Captain Marvel discovers this fact by pausing to question the effect of Kree actions on Skrull families. It is this epiphany, borne of compassion, that changes everything.

Captain Marvel is a wonderful achievement for the Marvel universe and comes a close second to Wonder Woman in terms of quality and story. We’re seeing a cascade of movies featuring women and minorities in lead roles these days. And the results are spectacular. Marvel was chastised by the internet for having posters of Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel not smiling. This led to a bevy of Photoshopped legacy posters of other male superheroes sporting big smiles while bashing in the heads of bad guys as a reminder that women don’t always have to look cute. The point is – we’re still hampered by our biases about what makes a great female hero. I give Captain Marvel 4 out of 5 Reels.

As a hero, Carol Danvers has it all. She’s amazingly competent as a warrior and a pilot. She’s very ethical as demonstrated by her realization that she was fighting for the wrong side. Finally, she’s incredibly resilient as the girl/woman who kept getting up. I give Captain Marvel 5 out of 5 Heroes.

And as messages go… I’ve already said it. It’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get up. Captain Marvel gets 4 out of 5 Message points from me.

Movie: Message: Heroes:

Captain Marvel is a Marvel masterpiece in carving out a worthy place for women in the superhero universe. I give Brie Larson great credit in giving us a woman hero who balances steely strength with reasoned compassion. I believe that Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel are superheroes who can teach their male counterparts an important lesson about superheroism involving more than just flexing muscle and brawn. Captain Marvel also deserves credit for giving Stan Lee a posthumous cameo appearance, and for giving Samuel L. Jackson yet another opportunity to yell out “motherfucker” in a movie. I give this film 4 Reels out of 5.

Our hero is simply brilliant, and I’ve already explained why. She’s the real deal of heroism, demonstrating all the qualities we look for in our best heroes:  strength, wisdom, charisma, compassion, selflessness, and resilience. I look forward to the development of her character in future Captain Marvel franchise installments. Like you, Greg, I award her 5 Hero points out of 5.

Greg, I agree that the message is the resilient one of never giving up, but there’s also the additional take-home lesson of being careful about categorizing people as enemies before we know their full story. The transposition of heroes and villains between Kree and Skrull is very striking in this film, and the lesson about not pre-judging is a powerful one that’s relevant for our planet today. I give this message 5 Message points out of 5.

Movie: Message: Heroes:

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