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A month before the (one hopes) glorious end to The Avengers movie series, one that needs to be satisfying and not a reset button, comes a film that may have a significant bearing on its narrative. Camus has seen CAPTAIN MARVEL's female empowerment before...
 
  "It was during a meeting with Feige that the creative intention of Captain Marvel came into focus," said Fleck. "We were banging our heads against the wall and we had all the comic-book art on the wall and Kevin gets up and he points to one particular image of a little girl in a Captain Marvel costume flying, with a ginormous smile on her face. He says, 'This is what we need this movie to be.'"
  Jen Yamato, L.A. Times*

 

I wasn't going to review this one. It's already made half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office after just over one weekend so needs no help from us at Outsider. But I felt that there were things in it that were worth celebrating, albeit more briefly than we usually do. First off the Marvel logo, stuffed to the gills with Stan Lee's cameos was a beautiful and genuinely moving tribute to the man who certainly saved Hollywood's ass as well as inspiring so many of us of a certain age. The 'Thank You Stan' at the start of the film was also welcome. Watching Captain Marvel (never liked that name and it's never mentioned in the actual film and it's two syllables purists note, Mar Vel, ahem). I was reminded of the little girl statue on Wall Street. The hands on hips 'screw you', "I am what I am," celebration of female power, a statue once adorned with Wonder Woman's tiara. For better or worse, Captain Marvel is consumed by its female-empowerment ethos. There are many images of the main character falling to Earth after over-exerting herself as a Marine, a baseball batter, a go-kart racer. From this early montage, you can feel a shorter one has been unsubtly Fed-ex'ed to the climax, shots of Carol Danvers getting back up again. They're in the trailer for God's sake. The film dutifully delivers and the origin of these pleasing "Go, girl!" moments, despite the creative pedigree of directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, has to rest at the feet of the man who helmed the first billion-dollar Marvel movie, Josh Whedon. Surely, fellow Buffy fans, all this played out in Buffy's final episode as Willow gripped the scythe and with an act of superior magic made all the potential slayers, actual slayers. The look on those girl's faces said everything and more.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel is a curious character whose origin story is slyly played out in reverse. If you're not familiar with the character (she was certainly after my time, comics-wise) then I won't spoil anything but I will say given her eventual success in her own narrative, there's a strong 'white knight on a charger' aspect to the character that I hope stirs things up in Avengers End Game but not as a girl-ex-machina and not also as a chess move born of the Queen's superior mobility and power up against Thanos' King, one square at a time. The new End Game trailer just dropped into cyberspace (who even uses that term these days? Quite clearly one of us does). Apart from the spoiler that Tony Stark does not die in the loneliness of outer space (duh), there are the closing shots where Brie Larson as Captain Marvel stands resolute as Thor summons his new, ostentatiously ridiculous hammer right past her left ear. There's wind whipped hair displacement but that's nothing compared to the small smile she gives him. His "I like this one," is a knowing moment. Captain Marvel is going to own Thanos... Isn't that obvious? By the way I do not mind one bit being wrong about anything but would rather not be wrong any second longer than I have to be.

Some quarters have had pot shots at both Larson and Jackson. There is a very subtle form of humour that is difficult to pull off and be universally accepted. The word is 'dry'. Larson does dry in her sleep. And remember that we are talking about a character that shoulders the burden of becoming essentially (spoiler alert) Superwoman in the Marvel universe. Actually, some shots in the trailer show this aspect of her character so spoiler de-alert. I never truly accepted Superman as a valid character even knowing there was something in the universe that could bring him down. Apart from loving the Donner classic and somewhat enjoying Snyder's Man of Steel, there's something inherently defeatist about a fictional character who is essentially all-powerful. Drama is conflict (and Superman tends to win those) and what is interesting about characters is more often than not their flaws and frailties. Jackson's de-aging CG is breathtaking and I found the young upstart Fury engaging and of course suitably cocky. The relationship he has with 'Vers' (as in the partial dog tag name with the 'Carol Dan' part blackened out) is charming and great fun to watch. There's something at the core of that bond that plays very differently from boy meets girl. It's not at all romantic but trusting and that trumps a great deal of the more basic human needs in a relationship. Carol's rediscovery of her past is a potent scene and it's here we see why Larson is an Oscar winner. Subtle but powerful.

Brie Larson will inevitably be compared to Wonder Woman's Gal Gadot. This is unfair and reductionist. It's chalk and cheese... well, Brie specifically. In terms of characters, one's a Goddess born of Zeus and the other is an alien-human hybrid with a skill set off the chart. You can't get more different than that. And yet... There is more than enough room for a hundred female led super hero movies and it's somewhat sad that we are celebrating the baby steps of what really should be a level playing field. But there have to be pioneers in every genre. I'm just glad audiences are wrenching apart the standard male models and embracing female-led narratives. Not a classic by any means but Captian Marvel is a solid super hero entry that paves the way for a change in our big screen entertainment. Keep it up, Marvel (and DC).

 


* https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-ca-mn-captain-marvel-directors-20190228-story.html

Captain Marvel poster
Captain Marvel

USA 2019
123 mins
directed by
Anna Boden
Ryan Fleck
produced by
Kevin Feige
written by
Anna Boden
Ryan Fleck
Geneva Robertson-Dworet
stort by
Nicole Perlman
Meg LeFauve
Anna Boden
Ryan Fleck
Geneva Robertson-Dworet
cinematography
Ben Davis
editing
Debbie Berman
Elliot Graham
music
Pinar Toprak
production design
Andy Nicholson
starring
Brie Larson
Samuel L. Jackson
Ben Mendelsohn
Jude Law
Annette Bening
Lashana Lynch
Clark Gregg

UK distributor
Walt Disney UK
UK release date
8 March 2019
review posted
21 March 2019

See all of Camus' reviews