Mac Review: Captain Marvel: the movie

Just in time to be very late for the BluRay release, I thought I’d do my own review of Captain Marvel: The Movie. (That’s the Carol Danvers Marvel Captain Marvel, not the Billy Batson DC Captain Marvel, which is called Shazam! and is actually pretty good.) (I’ll try to keep this spoiler-free. I’ll fail.)

I’ll start with an aside: a lot of people seem to wonder what year exactly it’s set, or if it’s even stated. At one point, Nick Fury says that a plane crash “happened 6 years ago in 1989”. I’ll leave the maths to you.

The major theme of the movie is deception; it’s a running idea throughout, not just because the villains are shapeshifters. Maybe the villains are shapeshifters to suit the theme? Most of the problems are solved through deception; most are caused by it.

There’s also some ‘don’t trust the government’ in there, which ties into the deception theme.

The Good

 

There is a lot to enjoy in this movie.

Captain Marvel builds suspense well, and gives you a mystery to hook onto: what is Carol’s backstory? You keep seeing snippets, so you know there is one, but you never quite get it all until the movie wants you to.

There’s a scene towards the beginning (you see the start of this in the trailer) where she starts beating up on an old lady on a train. (Those who saw the trailer without knowing what Skrulls are probably wondered what was going on.) In the movie, the men on the train started to help this poor little old lady. I always like when supehero movies show ordinary people being heroic (even if it was misguided in this case).

Similarly, towards the end, there’s a most triumphant scene where the Kree tell her she’s only human; but she doesn’t forget her second wind. It’s very stirring.

I love Carol’s banter throughout. The way she talks to Fury is great; for example, when she tricks him (deception!) into revealing a personal secret (and start years of conspiracy theories about the MCU), and he says “You didn’t need that, did you?” Carol answers with a wry smile and a “No, but I enjoyed it.”

I keep wondering if it’s an Easter egg when Fury says “I know a rogue soldier when I see one.” Is that a reference to Rogue, who absorbed Carol in the comics? Maybe?

One of the most common super in comics is blasts of energy from the hands.

Is this really a first for CBMs?Thing is, for something so common, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done in a live-action theatrical movie before. Is this the first? If so, it’s very late in the game. I think The Ray used them in DC’s Crisis On Earth-X, but I don’t remember them on the big screen.

Comics Accuracy

The Skrulls are handled decently (with a couple of odd twists), but there are some weird changes from the comics: Goose was named Chewie in the comics; why the change? (Carol’s in the Air Force in the comics, too.) It’s not like they were worried about copyright. And Mar-Vell is completely different to his/her comics incarnation.

 

This can actually be made to look cook, though, guys.
The Supreme Intelligence is the Big Giant Head.

The Supreme Intelligence in the comics, where is a big green head. This version isn’t bad, even if it’s something we’ve seen done before, but I think they could’ve realised the ‘right’ one on screen, and done it well. Though it does add to the deceptiveness, and gives a clue to Carol’s past.

When they reveal Yon-Rogg’s vision of the  Supreme Intelligence (why don’t they tell each other who it looks like?), it’s a cute idea that will resonate with fans of Red Dwarf. Unfortunately, it was relegated to the deleted scenes.

Skrulls

Skrulls
Skrulls.

The Skrulls look pretty good; they’re fairly comics-accurate, though they’ve been embellished. The chin-grooves could probably be more enhanced, but no complaints.

The first time you see them shapeshift into humans, their voices don’t change. I thought that was weird (and would make them terrible shapeshifters), but then I realised: they were imitating people whose voices they’d never heard. Suddenly, it made some sense.

When I did hear them speak, though, I was shocked. All this time, all those appearances of Talos I have (well, one), and I never knew: the Skrulls are from Australia?

It wasn’t just surprising; it made me nervous. I first saw Captain Marvel in a tiny monoplex theatre in a small town in Colorado. As probably the only Australian there, I was worried I’d get accused of being a Skrull.

Again.

The Not-So-Good

So far, I’ve been talking a lot about what’s good. Not everything is:

Sometimes they’re inconsistent with how they handle things like alien cultures. At one point, Talos says: “That’s not a cat, it’s a flerkin.” Not very long after, the very same Talos says: “What’s a cat?”

Worse, there’s a scene where Nick asks Carol: “Are you familiar with the phrase ‘welcome wagon’?” Carol answers: “No.” Maybe five minutes later, in the same scene, Carol says: “I didn’t want to steal your thunder.” What idioms is she familiar with? Or get translated? (Some of the pure also Kree use English idioms.) These aren’t major plot holes or anything, but they make it inconsistent.

The inconsistencies aren’t just internal, I think. In Captain Marvel, the Kree use guns willy-nilly; but there are characters in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 who I could swear were Kree who hate the idea of guns: they think ranged weapons are dishonourable. Or am I confused? Were those not Kree? Were they the only Kree who feel that way?

Captain Marvel has a faux-hawk, but no mirror.
Did this ever look good? Ever?

The Mohawk helmet looks no better on screen than in the comics, but I like the rest of the Captain Marvel costume. (She’s never actually called that in the movie, by the way.)

Sometimes the movie tries too hard sometimes to be Guardians Of The Galaxy; mostly when Goose lifts a scene straight from Groot, then they follow up with a battle to a pop song. (Though using a similar ship design for the Kree in both movies makes a lot of sense.)

Sometimes the CG doesn’t work – most scenes with the cat in CG, and almost all of Carol’s flying scenes look a little off.

Christian Representation

There is no Christian representation in Captain Marvel. To an extent, that makes sense, since most of the characters are aliens and wouldn’t have the cultural background, but there are enough Earthicans that they could’ve slipped some in there.

Soundtrack

This is what the score to Captain Marvel looks like. Complete with hand blasts.
This is not a CD cover.

The score is decent. Neither really good nor really bad; a lot of Marvel’s scores are like that, though they’ve been getting better lately.

One of my weird habits is, when I buy a movie or TV show on home media, I always buy the soundtrack if possible; preferably on CD.

The soundtrack to Captain Marvel was only available through iTunes – at the same price as a CD. That was really frustrating. Why did we make the switch to digital again? (My copy was a gift.)

And why was there no pop song soundtrack? They could’ve made a great album, with all the songs from the movie.

In Summary

The MCU has made better movies, they’ve made worse. The good things are very good; the bad things aren’t too bad. It’s fun to watch, though it takes some liberties with the comics. There aren’t enough of those to tear it down, and no more than other Marvel movies.

Overall, a solid entry into the MCU.

12 Comments

  1. Alaric

    Nice review, and I basically agree with what you said. The movie was a lot of fun, but it didn’t quite blow me away. I’ve loved most of the MCU films- the only one that really disappointed me was Spider-Man: Homecoming (I enjoyed the sequel, though)- but there are a few that stand out for me above the rest. This wasn’t one of those, but easily fit in among most of the rest (which, as I said, I love). And I love how unashamedly superhero-ey the later part of the movie was (I do wish someone had called her “Captain Marvel”, though- I wish these movies were a bit less shy about using code names…). Have to disagree with you on one (minor) point, though- I don’t see any inconsistency in the “That’s not a cat, it’s a flerkin” and “What’s a cat?” remarks. If I was walking down the street eating a sandwich, and someone pointed at my sandwich and said “Is that a blarb?” I’d probably say, “no, it’s a sandwich”- despite having no idea what a “blarb” was.

  2. Hal

    Nice and to-the-point review, Le Messor. I have but one observation, not a criticism as such more of a “why is that there?” or a “one of these things is not like the others”. You are, of course, a Christian and one seriously concerned to see Christianity featured in pop culture more (or so it would seem – and “positive” representations at that) but isn’t the “Christian Representation” bullet point somewhat irrelevant to Captain Marvel? I’m genuinely curious about your thinking here, I suppose others could add their own bullet points titled “Jewish Representation”, “Muslim Representation”, or “Atheist Representation” and it would seem to me precisely as irrelevant to the film because those things are not what the film is *about*. The puzzle for me is that you say ” they could have slipped some in their”. The question that occurs to me is “why?”, one could say the same about *explicitly* Atheist or Jewish people or I don’t know “Furries” (little bit of facetiousness there but just a little, after all representation is representation). It’s a SF Action movie, it wouldn’t seem to make sense to shoehorn in a reference to someone being a Christian as it wouldn’t really be germane to this particular story or type of film. I note that you write “slip *some* in”, now I’m arguably being too much of a close or attentive reader but this suggests you would have liked to have seen a group (?) of explicitly Christian people, if that is so how would that be achieved? It’s a serious question as I can’t see how the writers/makers could do that without distorting the story with an irrelevancy. Now with Captain America it *would* have been interesting to see how Steve Rogers, who would certainly have been a Christian, dealt with his faith after finding himself flash-frozen; one scene like that would have been intriguing and relevant but I can’t see any reason for explicit references to a characters’ religions – Christian or otherwise – in C.M. I do wonder if you have a rebuttal to my pondering. Still, apart from that niggle neat review.

    1. Le Messor

      Hi Hal,

      My logic (if you’ll indulge me in calling it that) goes something like this:
      I’ve been asked on this very site why I think Christians are not well-represented in pop culture. While I can come up with many, many negative examples of our portrayals off the top of my head, I actually think it runs deeper than that.
      Meanwhile, in this country, roughly 66% of people call themselves some kind of Christian; it’s supposed to be much higher in the USA, where most of these things are produced and where most of their target audiences live.
      I’ve noticed that every time a new movie or comic or whatever gets announced, people start asking ‘where is the gay community’s representation?’.
      Somebody I know once commented that any article on a new comic will talk about how it treats the gay community within the first couple of paragraphs – even if that isn’t accurate, it’s pretty close. Other friends have talked about how every new show has positive gay representation in it.

      This is everywhere, even on sites that, as far as I know, have absolutely nothing to do with gay issues.

      From all that I’ve heard, gay people are in the minority (I usually read the figure at around 5% of the population, but I’ve seen it as high as 10%. Real figures on either gay people or Christians are, of course, impossible to determine.)
      I figure, if the gay community gets to ask for representation in every single pop culture artefact, even though they’re in the minority and already have a lot of positive representation, why shouldn’t Christians, when we’re (allegedly at least) in the majority and have as close to zero as makes no difference?

      So I’ve decided to start putting that section in all my reviews going forward. I want to point out how under-represented Christians actually are in popular media.

      Atheists or Jewish people or furries are absolutely welcome to do the same, of course.

      1. Hal

        Thanks for your response, Le Messor. I can’t say I’ve noticed much mention of Gay representation in the reviews of new comic books, although that could be due to looking in the wrong places(!). I come from a Christian background but am an Agnostic so I’m coming from a different place (literally also!); I’m not Gay either but I think it worth considering that among the many characters in the Marvel movies not a one (I *think* I’m right in saying) are explicitly Gay. Disregarding percentages- which are not I feel ever a useful way of determining whether something has more right to be portrayed than something else – it would I think *mean* more for a primary character to be Gay for example rather than Christian purely because Christian people are not under threat in the USA whilst even in these “enlightened” (*hollow laugh*) there are plenty of places in the US where just being Gay can be dangerous. For decades US pop culture was implicitly Christian (and protestant Christian at that), take for instance the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, the characters in that were explicitly Christian even though series creator Phil Rosenthal was/is Jewish and the Barones are in many ways a Jewish family in disguise. One main reason for this was that series star Ray Romano is Italian American – and I guess Christian – but still I think it highly unlikely that if he hadn’t been that the characters could have been as explicitly Jewish. Look at George Costanza in Seinfeld, he and his family couldn’t have been more Jewish if they tried but in the series…Italian American and implicitly *not Jewish*. Take a look at family-based shows such as The Waltons, Little House On The Prairie, and Seventh Heaven (I would NOT recommend seeing that last one – it was El Stinko!) or the various “angel” shows such as Highway to Heaven or Touched By An Angel (“show me on the doll the “angel” touched you, Molly…” Ouch!), Christianity has not lacked for representation in American television and film, in fact it’s the non-Christian or non-hetero or non-White or physically-impaired who have. Even in many TV shows or movies in which the characters are not explicitly Christian it was implicit that they *were*. The most popular television show ever? The Simpsons. What are they? Christian. You might argue that Homer and Co. are not positive representations – but I am not going to make assumptions! – yet in that they are recognizably human beings with all attendant flaws I would respectfully but strenuously disagree.
        I think that where we would disagree is over non-positive portrayals, sometimes negative portrayals perform an important function. In days gone by it was extremely difficult to show bad priests or the Church (whichever Church that might be) because the Church(es) power was too great, the result was that a false image was maintained while in real life child abuse and the repulsive treatment of unmarried mothers was over-looked or concealed. It is important that Art reflect reality rather than a facade that supports vileness; this means that if the benign elements of the Church(es) and their followers (and I include ALL religions in this) are to be represented then so must the dreadful.
        As an addendum and this even more than the rest of this philosophical hugger mugger strays afield, I think it worth looking at the treatment of abortion in American features, comics, and TV, although abortion has been legal for decades, most films or shows wouldn’t even consider it as an option for a character no matter how realistic that might be, that’s why the ’70s sitcom Maude was so important for having the lead actually have an abortion and *not* be demonized even though hardline fundamentalist Christians were furious. Too long television and to a lesser extent film were aiming not to offend the most fundamentalist of Christians (who share a lot in common with the fundamentalists of other religions who they would otherwise abominate. Irony) while liberal Christians and non-Christians were ignored. So, even when there was not direct representation of Christianity, the beliefs of the most hardline were represented over everybody else. The point I am trying (failing?!) to make is that things are much more complex than merely a question of explicit representation.
        I don’t offer this to argue with you or to – impossibly – change your views but simply to try to articulate my beliefs.
        Sincerely,
        Long-winded Hal

        1. square

          You’ve stated things politely and clearly. One thing to add is that even if Christianity isn’t the foundation of a show or film like the examples you’ve given, there is the ubiquitous Christmas episode. Just wait till December, see all the characters who celebrate Christmas, then you can feel warm and cozy throughout the year knowing those folks are Christians and are representing.

        2. Le Messor

          Hi Hal,
          You said it yourself: “It is important that Art reflect reality”. (Which is why I brought up the numbers; not because I think one group ‘deserves’ representation more than another.)
          Back in the 70s and 80s, there was a problem that black people were always portrayed as drugged up junkies, pimps, muggers, etc… Now, of course, there were a few TV shows and movies that were all about black people (my copy of the original Shaft score was delivered just on Friday); but it was still a big complaint at the time.
          I’m pretty sure that black drugged up junkies, pimps, muggers, etc… all existed – though I cannot name a single one. I don’t think anybody is even trying to deny that they existed.
          The problem is, that’s pretty much all that was portrayed, all over the place.
          And that affected how people saw black people.
          Very, very few real-life black people did (or do) anything like those street crimes. They mostly just want to live their lives in peace, and see a few people like them on screen, maybe, as good guys.
          People listened to Jimi and to Marvin and Aretha and to Motown; but they still saw black people as dangerous criminals. Because that’s all they saw on TV or in movies. (I remember a black comedian – I don’t remember who – saying “In New York, they’re very superstitious; they think it’s bad luck to have some black cat follow you.”)
          I never liked it when that happened to them. I don’t want it happening to me; but I can’t have a conversation about how Christians are portrayed without people bringing up paedophile priests – which I’m not denying happened, and I’m not saying is good or right (it’s horrible) – as if I should accept hateful portrayals as the norm. Most Christians just want to worship and honour and love and obey God in peace.
          Yes, we would love it if you would join us; we do even think it would be best for you in the long run.
          But we’re not trying to slay everyone who disagrees. Most of us aren’t out to hurt anybody.
          This is NOT reflected in the usual media portrayals; and I simply want to ask for something different, or at least point out when I’m not getting it.
          When I come across a positive or balanced portrayal, I’ll comment on that, too.
          ~ Mik

  3. “Goose was named Chewie in the comics; why the change? … It’s not like they were worried about copyright.”

    No, they were worried about trademark. Chewie is a trademark of Lucasfilm, owned by Disney, which is licensed to a wide variety of product manufacturers. Disney cannot then allow another of their subsidiaries to create an entirely different character with the same name, especially not one they expect to be hugely popular and sell a lot of merchandise. “Chewie the cat” would be a direct violation of hundreds of licensing contracts around the world.

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