Captain Marvel (2019): A Compelling World and Greater Point

     “Captain Marvel” is a film that is draped in controversy. The more I’ve read about it the more I don’t understand it. Brie Larsen talked about diversity in media (https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/movies/brie-larson-calls-more-diversity-film-criticism-following-usc-study-n88314), which is a pretty basic moral good. Having more perspectives at the table is a positive. There has been a reaction to this that has been pretty toxic, all one has to do is look up Brie Larsen and youtube to see just how bad it became. That is all I’m going to say on this as I came for the story and further exploration of Marvel Cosmic, which this film delivered on. Without going into details, I’m all the more pumped for “Avengers: Endgame.”

     The film was directed by Ana Boden and Ryan Fleck who also wrote the screenplay along with Geneva Roberston-Dworet.

The story follows Vers (Brie Larsen) a Kree Warrior who can’t remember her past but is pulled towards it when she is captured by the Kree’s shape-shifting enemies known as the Skrull. Their infiltration of her mind points her to memories of Earth and when she escapes to while Skrull forces arrive as well, seeking what she knows. From here she must work with Fury to discover her past and the truth of who she is.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Marvel Cosmic Universe – This is a movie that has a lot of lore on both the Kree and Skrull. This is Marvel Cosmic in the same way “Thor” films sometimes too and “Guardians of the Galaxy” always has. This film fits comfortably in those and is definitely better than the first 2 “Thor Films,” though for me the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films keep getting better with each rewatch, so it definitely isn’t that level. In this film you learn about the Supreme Intelligence who rules the Kree (in this film appearing as what person matters most to the individual interacting with it). This was my main reason for coming since as a sci. fi. nerd I love a well developed Cosmic Universe, which the MCU have done a good job of doing.

Fury – Samuel L. Jackson is Agent Fury in this and ends up being Vers’s partner as they seek her past. He starts out antagonistic as he’s had no experience with aliens and it is the events that happen in this film that shape his more cynical world view of the Fury we meet later. In this we see him before he became cynical and I appreciated how warm he was. This was a man who had fought as special forces in countless wars but had found a way to live. I hope we see him get more development in later films as this film still leaves so much open in regards to what he was doing before the first “Iron Man” and what he was doing before this film.

Goose – Goose is Mar-Vell’s Flerken, an alien cat capable of consuming anything. Goose is awesome and when our heroes are facing down enemy forces at the end, Goose eats them, saving both Fury and the refugees they are helping. Fury ends up keeping the Flerken too even though it takes out his eye over the course of the movie. I would not mind seeing this cat again, especially if it is taking out enemy soldiers once more.

The Kree-Skrull War – The main conflict is the Kree-Skrull War. This is war where we don’t know who started it (it implies it was probably the Kree) and now has become a one-sided war. The Skrull have largely gone into hiding with only their strong forces taking on the best of the Kree, which leads to their capture of Vers and where we learn however long the war has been going on, what the Kree are doing has become unjust. They have been doing extermination lead by Ronin by this point in the conflict and it is Mar-Vell who is trying to rescue them and help them find a new world before she is taken out by Kree special forces lead by Yon-Rogg. It is only Carol Danvers (Vers true name) who stops the Kree from getting the super-engine she’s crafted from the Tesseract energy and from here Danvers becomes the hammer of the Kree against the Skrull. By the end of the film Carol Danvers, having come into her full power once more returns to face Kree leadership to end the war and help the Skrull’s find a new home safe from the Kree. Where this war is in the modern timeline is up in the air but there is so much history in this film that I found it all fascinating. Kree distrust of the Skrull’s is so great that on their homeworld they have announcements of days since the last Skrull attack and everyone asks questions of each other to make sure they are Skrull infiltrators. The main leaders in the conflict are Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) who leads the refugee Skrull and leads Skrull Intelligence and the Great Intelligence of the Kree whose commanders are Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

Vers / Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel – Brie Larsen does a great job as Captain Marvel. She doesn’t know who she is so what she can do is limited at first, but once she arrives on Earth and starts putting her past together she really comes into her own. This is a character dealing with being brainwashed and gaslit by the Kree and her freeing herself from that, and in turn freeing the Skrull refugees who the Kree hunt is a powerful story. Throughout the story her commander Yon-Rogg is telling her not to feel and to repress herself, while his people repress her abilities. It is toxic and we see how her abusive father was the same way. Throughout the movie is her dealing with this, as she discovers the truth of what was done to her and from that what she chooses to fight and to stand-up for herself and others.

Talos – This is my favorite Ben Mendelsohn character. Talos leads Skrull Intelligence based off what we see in the beginning as he was the one responsible for planning the trap that captures Vers. We see that his aims are noble though. He is tired of the war and just wants to protect the Skrull refugees and his family. Seeing this reveal as he goes from enemy to friend is powerful and I’m glad he survives the film. This is a character I’d like to see again as he is morally complicated which gives so much potential for what he may choose to do in the future. I also think he is only one of the Skrull leaders and I want to see his relationship to the others.

The Themes – The main themes of the film are those of gaslighting, feminism and the plight of the refugee. Gaslighting is explored in what the Kree are doing to Vers (having her suppress her power, emotion, etc.) and it is only after she stops, fights it and accepts her own power that she flies and is able to defeat the enemy forces. Feminism is a theme in that women fighting for equality is a huge part of the film. Both Carol Danvers and her friend are pilots and the only ones in their unit besides the Scientist on the base. This is also shown in the gender swap of Mar-Vell who is played by Annette Bening. This fit the theme as much of Kree leadership is male as well and Mar-Vell’s push against it mirrors Carol Danvers’s later fight against the Kree. The final theme is the plight of the refugee as in the end Mar-Vell was trying to invent a super engine in order to help the Skrull refugees she was protecting on her secret base. The refugees aren’t the soldiers and we see the vulnerable people who are affected by wars.

Okay:

The Kree Team – Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg is the most compelling member of the team, sadly we don’t get to know the others all that much. Their dynamic with Vers is good in the beginning. I couldn’t really describe who they are to you beyond Korath’s distrust of Vers. I wish we’d gotten more time with them, ideally not in conflict so we can see their dynamic and how they work as a team.

Cameos – Coulsen makes a cameo, Ronan makes a cameo and Korath is on the Kree Team. This was another time where I wish we’d gotten more time with them. These are all intriguing characters but they aren’t given the time to be developed like they deserved.

The Cons:

Amnesia Story – Rather than amnesia I wish Carol being lied to had been primary story. We see how her memory was played with where a Skrull is put in the place of Yon-Rogg killing Mar-Vell but that is all that really pays off at the end. If there had been a running theme of the lying and her still knowing bits of her history we would have had the chance to know her more as a character. She could have been pushing against the Kree and their ways more, knowing she was being lied to. I wanted to see her make more choices as Carol and as Vers. Amnesia stories are hard to tell and this was one time where it did hurt the story. I wanted to know Carol but I felt the only time I truly did was when she came into her own at the end. She was the character with a mission, which was fine but I wanted more. Still a great character but an origin story mixed with an amnesia story is a hard thing for any writer to pull off.

What are Captain Marvel’s Limits aka the Superman Problem – Captain Marvel is destroying Kree Cruisers at the end. She is so incredibly powerful that no one around her has the chance to even injure her. This was empowering but it also leads me to the Superman problem. Why do we need the Avengers if Captain Marvel is powerful enough to solve the problem on her own? This is something the Justice League constantly runs into by having a character as powerful as Superman on the team. Kevin Feige said they’ll be dealing with this in “Endgame,” so I’m curious about what the solution will be.

I really liked this film and I hope that we see a sequel or at least see more of the Kree an Skrull, as so many stories have been born out of their relationship to our heroes. I also want to see more Captain Marvel. I wanted more time with her having all her memories as the amnesia story was definitely the weakest part of the film. This was a film that is a solid origin story that further expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel Cosmic. If you have liked the other MCU films, chances are you will really like this too. I’m really curious to see where they take Carol Danvers from here.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): A Masterpiece of Sci. Fi., Action and Comedy Gold

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I really want to see more of James Gunn’s movies after this. I haven’t seen any of his other stuff, but it has been a while since three things (sci. fi., action and comedy) have gone so well together. Marvel Studios you have done it again, and what a spectacular way to end the “Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure,” at least until “Ant-Man” and “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron,” later.

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” follows the story of Quill after he watches his mother die of cancer and he is kidnapped by aliens. In the future he has become an outlaw dubbing himself Star-Lord, from here he finds a device that a buyer has promised him a lot for which brings Gamora (one of the daughters of Thanos) and Rocket the Raccoon and Groot trying to capture the device. They all end up in prison where Drax’s attempt to kill Gamora allies them together to take out the main baddy Ronan who works for Thanos and wants to destroy Xandar, home of the Nova Corps. From here the story unfolds as their personalities collide.

Warning – Spoilers ahead

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: Drax – Who would have thought a professional wrestler would end up being an amazing actor. Dave Bautista owns this role and has a lot of comedic moments as his character doesn’t understand figurative expressions. He is the one who brings the team together too besides Rocket and Groot protecting Star-Lord because they want what he has. Drax is the most reckless of the group and more than a little insane. He also has a heart, that we get to see in the end and we know why he is the way he is since Ronan slaughtered his wife and child. Can’t wait to see what they do with this guy in the sequel. After Gamora saves his life she becomes part of the team to him too.

Rocket – Bradley Cooper is fantastic as the snarky, sarcastic raccoon with a major chip on his shoulder. His character is an inventor and was experimented on to become the creature he is today. This becomes a plot point when he gets really drunk in the outlaw hideaway Knowhere and Quill and the others finally understand what he is going through. There sticking up for him leads to him eventually them as family. He has a touching scene with Drax after Groot is gone and we see his humanity in a plant in a pot carries at the end.

Groot – “We are Groot,” is one of the best lines in the film and it is when Groot sacrifices his body so that the Guardians of the Galaxy will survive. He is the heart of the group and the one who acts for the best in any situation. Vin Diesel’s voice acting gives a lot to this role given for most of the film Groot can only say, “I am Groot,” in different inflections to get his point across.

Gamora – I want to know more about her relationship with Thanos given Thanos kidnapped her and destroyed her family in order to make her a weapon. Her sister Nebula I believe went through something similar. She is great as the guarded assassin but shows a lot of humanity. She is the one who reminds Quill that there is more to the galaxy than money, and teaches him the meaning of honor. They have a great complex friendship/romance and her friendship with the rest of the team, especially Drax who first sees her as an enemy, is a pleasure to watch. Zoe Saldana is once again fantastic in sci. fi.

The Collector and Knowhere – First Nowhere is a fantastic location. A Titan’s head made into a city as the organics are processed from it is a masterful idea. It makes sense the Collector would make this his home. He is creepy as always and shows us the device is a purple infinite stone of which there are six. When they are distracted his slave destroys everything having him finally face some accountability for treating people like objects. Knowhere is where Ronan arrives with Nebula and his army after Drax gives them a call. The Collector has a funny scene at the end too.

Nova Corps – Nova Corps is a like a futuristic military made up of mostly humans or humanlike aliens. Glenn Close plays Nova Prime and John Reilly plays Corpsmen Dey her unspoken second in command. When Ronan attacks having consumed an infinite stone (He is a Kree Zealot who sees the Xandar’s as needing to be cleansed). She risks everything including trusting the Guardians of the Galaxy to protect them from Ronan using the Infinite Stone to consume their world.

Nebula – Karen Gillian has a lot of range. I loved her as Amy Pond on Doctor Who and as Nebula…one of Thanos’s daughters who hates her sister Gamora and Thanos…she makes a complex baddy. She can also regenerate her body and escapes during the last battle managing to survive. We don’t know where her loyalties are, and I love that.

The Comedy – From Drax’s inability to understand language expressions, to Quill’s sarcasm, or Gamora’s obliviousness or Groot’s Grootness…contrasted by Rocket’s crazyness creates some great moments of comedy. Better comedy than “The Avengers,” for sure, which didn’t always know what tone it wanted.

The Final Battle – The final battle is fantastic and has a cost. Groot loses his body, the Nova Corps is decimated, and their capital is at least partially in ruins. There is the moment of awesome too when Drax, Quill, Gamora and Rocket use the power of friendship to contain the infinity stone and use it to destroy Ronan.

Quill / Star-Lord – This guy is wonderful. He starts out as the scoundrel and becomes the accidental hero. There is not a moment this guy is unfunny though. I love his arc in becoming a hero too since we do see much of his motivation is money. I really want to see Chris Pratt in other things now. Not much more to say, beyond his hero journey is fun and in the end he isn’t a total hero as he plans to do a little bit of good and a little bit of bad with the team.

The Music – Using the mixed tape that Quill’s mother gave him when she was alive we get some amazing 80’s music throughout the film, all the songs work perfectly and also contribute to the comedy too as Quill embraces every song so fully. I loved the soundtrack and plan on using it for writing inspiration.

Okay/Good – Ronan – Nebula is the Loki of this movie…Ronan is the Malekith. We know he’s a religously fanatical Kree who follows Thanos, but we don’t know what his religion fully intends. He hams it up perfectly though and is a great threat, since unlike Loki in “The Avengers,” this guy can actually succeed, and he nearly does.

Thanos – He is just a shadow in the background and doesn’t feel like a threat yet. We know he’s a powerful manipulator…but so is Loki. What sets him apart from Loki besides number of followers in the MCU? That is one thing I hope we learn as the Infinite Arc unfolds. He wasn’t bad, but he seemed powerless to do anything about Ronan’s betrayal, which was a shame…I was hoping he would come to Xandar to take the infinite stone himself and shut down his subordinate for the betrayal.

This is one of my favorite movies of the year, and in many ways on par with “Winter Soldier,” the only reason I can’t give it a ten is because within the Marvel Cinematic Universe H.Y.D.R.A. now feels like a much greater threat than Thanos. I would like that to change, since this guy is a destroyer of worlds. We’ll see what happens. Character, action and humorwise this film did everything it needed to do and I very highly recommend it.

My final score is 9.8 / 10. One of my new favorite films.