This is a tricky one.
As a superhero movie, Captain Marvel is a goodie; there are cool action scenes, the leading heroine is engaging, the banter is fun and the scope of some of the space scenes are seriously impressive. The dialogue is a little strained at times and there are some minor plot inconsistencies, but overall, it’s a comic book movie and those sorts of things can be forgiven. But there is a blatant and obvious agenda promoted throughout this movie and for me it did so to the detriment of the end product.
Before I get railed as a sexist, I get vexed with the blatant pushing of any agenda in a movie. A film has every right to deal with underlying themes of female empowerment and there are some incredible movies that do just that. The thing is, those movies, like Whale Rider, Erin Brockovich for example, are effective because their themes are integrated organically in the characters, plot and ultimately reach their audiences through the power of the story, rather than movies that try to do that through annoying sub text, self indulgence and clunky one liners. What’s frustrating about this movie is that it somehow does both!
Brie Larson stars as Vers, an ambitious “Kree” soldier (Kree is another planet I’m pretty sure) who has recurring flashbacks of a life that she doesn’t identify with or understand, and when a mission goes wrong and she crashes down to Earth in the year 1995, she sets off to piece it all together and discovers that she is actually Carol Danvers, an air force pilot. The fact that this was set in the 1990s was a clever move, and allows for a sense of nostalgia and some fun 90s references that scored easy laughs with my cinema. Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as SHIELD agent Nick Fury, and brings the needed comedy to the buddy adventure, because as talented as Larson is, she’s not a great comedic actress. It’s not too dark or gritty, there are some cool shape shifting aliens, Samuel L Jackson is Samuel L Jackson, Larson has some impressive combat scenes and there’s a fun 90s soundtrack.
They almost nailed it.
But they don’t, and here is why I think that is.
Audiences don’t like being treated like idiots. We’re perfectly capable of watching the lead actress fly around, ju jitsu the bad guys, shoot energy balls out of her fists, pilot jets and defeat the baddies and figure out that she’s a strong woman by ourselves. The fact that director Anna Boden deliberately and unapologetically has to beat us over the head with stupid one liners and metaphors with no hint of subtlety suggests instead that the audience is either too stupid or too sexist to come to their own conclusions.
When Danvers falls through the roof of a Blockbuster video and blasts the head off of an Arnold Schwarzenegger “True Lies” cardboard cutout while Jamie Lee Curtis’ head is left perfectly intact, I winced and a woman sitting behind me in the cinema audibly groaned. There are constant and cringeworthy flashbacks of Carol as a little girl being pushed down by boys, Carol being laughed at by chauvinist males in airforce training and Carol as a young pilot being taunted by her male associates, (“There’s a reason it’s called a cockpit”).
Towards the end of the film when she discovers the strength to unlock her true inner power, the flashbacks appear again, this time instead showing her getting back up each time. Did Carol Danvers go through her own personal struggles and triumphs and experiences as an individual? We don’t know, because the film tells us that the only adversities that we as an audience should care about are those that Carol experiences as a woman.
Captain Marvel is a good, fun superhero movie and Brie Larson is a commanding and commendable lead. I didn’t think that because she was a woman or because of the metaphors and subtext throughout the film, I thought it because she was a commanding and commendable lead.
That should be enough.
By Jock Lehman