Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (2019)
The Marvel Universe’s latest installment actually prompted the online review site RottenTomatoes.com to shut down and purge early audience reviews of Captain Marvel because an overwhelming number of trolls were savaging the film before its release date, whipped into a frenzy by alt-right propagandist and conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec who had begun a campaign against the film in response to what he claimed were anti-male comments by the film’s star Brie Larson—not incidentally the first female lead in the 21-film Marvel Universe. Among other things, Posobiec started the “Alita Challenge” on Twitter, calling for his followers to boycott Captain Marvel and to go to James Cameron’s Alita: Battle Angel instead. This past weekend, Captain Marvel opened with $153 million in domestic receipts. Alitatook in $3 million. So, how’s that boycott working out?
Larson first stomped on those sensitive masculine toes in June of 2018 when, in comments about the film A Wrinkle in Time at the Crystal and Lucy Awards, that she was most interested in hearing how the film was received by its intended audience, rather than from typical movie critics: “I don’t need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work about A Wrinkle in Time. It wasn’t made for him! I want to know what it meant to women of color, biracial women, to teen women of color.” Now, no matter what gender or color or age you are, you can probably agree that A Wrinkle in Time sucked, but that’s not the point. Posobic and his minions apparently read that statement as “male bashing,” perhaps because they believe that everything was made for them. In any case, the feud worsened when, at the beginning of her promotional tour for Captain Marvel, Larson, having spoken to a number of reporters who were women or people of color, agreed that these journalists were not getting the same opportunities for access to interviews, and made it a policy to allow equal access to reporters, giving her first interview to a handicapped woman of color. This, of course, was like waving a red flag in front of a white social media bull, since equal access apparently means that white men are victims. Just as, apparently, the fact that the film’s plot involves a battle against an oppressive regime bent on subduing anyone who resists its hegemony is “leftist propaganda,” according to Posobiec. It’s hard to imagine any superhero movie in which the hero supports the suppression of people by a military dictatorship, which I guess makes the entire Marvel universe a front for left wing politics.
No help in the DC universe either, since Wonder Woman, for example, tends to be pretty harsh on fascists. And the success of Wonder Woman, of course, was very likely a large stimulus for Marvel, not to be outdone, to get off its keester and create a film with a female super-hero lead. Larson may not be Gal Gadot, and her Oscar-winning performance in Room might have looked like the direct opposite of a super-hero role, but in that role she did embody someone who, despite being virtually completely dominated by a psychotic tormentor, never gave up and ultimately triumphed. And those are two qualities that Larson brings to Carol Danvers, the Captain Marvel of this film.
We first see her in what looks like a scene on some desert world where she has crash landed in a spacecraft. She’s badly injured and is with another woman who we later find out is a Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening), who seems to be her mentor, and they are trying to fight off an approaching enemy soldier. We also notice that the blood coming from Larson’s nose is blue.
If this is confusing, it’s supposed to be. As the film progresses, we realize this is a memory, just about the only one that our heroine has. Like us, she must find out about her past as the film goes along. When we next see her, she is being trained in hand-to-hand combat by a military mentor named Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). We learn that her name is Vers, and she is a part of the extraterrestrial race known as the Kree. Yon-Rogg is training her to be a part of a team he calls Starforce, whose task it is to act as an elite warrior force in a long, intergalactic war that the Krees are waging against the Skrulls, a race of green-skinned pointy-eared shapeshifters led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn of DarkestHour). Oh, and by the way, Vers seems to have superpowers—like, electric bolt-shooting fists—which the Kree have convinced her they have given her. And since she’s lost her memory, she has no reason to doubt them.
The Skrull, Vers is convinced, are a race of terrorists, and must be destroyed. But she is captured by Talos and interrogated in some sort of space station, from which she escapes and ends up falling onto a strange planet known as C-53—right into a Blockbuster video store. Yes, C-53 is Earth, folks, and Vers has dropped into Los Angeles in the year 1995. Here she meets a young government agent named Nick Fury (yes, thatNick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, wrinkle free and 29 again with the help of CGI magic). He doesn’t believe her story of alien shapeshifting terrorists—until he sees one himself, and then joins team Vers. Vers also comes to realize that C-53 is her home planet and reconnects with an old fellow air-force pilot named Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch from TV’s Bulletproof). In her discussions with Rambeau, Danvers begins to get back some of her memories. In particular she begins to recall just what she and Dr. Lawson were doing ae site of that crash, and how she really got her super powers. But you’ll get no spoilers from me.
The trolls, of course, have now been spreading their venom undisturbed now that the film has opened, so that Rotten Tomatoes shows a 60 percent audience rating for the film—20 points lower than the 80 percent rating from critics. It’s easy to tell who the trolls are when you look at the audience responses, though, not only because of their abominable spelling and grammar, but also because they all zero in on Larson and say the film fails because she is such a terrible actress. This criticism is patently absurd. As virtually every professional critic (yes, even the 40-year-old white dudes) agrees, she strikes the perfect note of confused amnesiac and gung-ho fighter for what she believes is the right cause until she is humanized further by her reacquaintance with her past, especially in her scenes with Lynch, who is terrific in her supporting role. She does, it should be said, everything she can with the role that is written for her—by co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (TV’s Billions) and a bevy of other writers.
This is the chief flaw of the film: The large committee of writers makes for a script with little unifying sense other than the Marvel formula, and that gives us less of Carol Danvers’ character than it does a backstory and launching pad for the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, in which Captain Marvel is due to play a leading role. In particular, the ending of the film, where most of the kick-ass fighting occurs, seems overly burdened with a whole lot of stuff that’s going on, which happens quickly and not all that clearly. I suppose all will be clarified on April 26, when Endgamecomes to theaters, no doubt to the noise of more trollish vitriol.
But the movie has other virtues to recommend it, not the least of which is the youthened Samuel L. Jackson. Soon after Vers’s landing on earth, we come to realize that this film gives us the secret origin not only of Captain Marvel, but also of Nick Fury. We are treated to Jackson a la PulpFiction(which came out a year before this film is set), and we learn how he got involved in the whole Avengers enterprise. Fury has two eyes in the film, by the way, which allows the filmmakers to tease the audience a bit with the question of how he got that left eyepatch of his. Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn do admirable jobs as the yin and yang of Vers’s universe. And there is also a handsome blonde cat named Goose who steals every scene he is in
If the name “Goose” recalls Top Gun, so does Danvers and Rambeau’s history as fighter pilots, and those references do give the film the period feel of a quarter century past—a feel that is underscored by the popular ’90s tracks that form much of the background of the film, including Nirvana’s “Come as You Are,” R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon,” Heart’s “Crazy on You,” and Salt-N-Pepa’s “Connection.”
CaptainMarvelis fun, exciting and worth a good bucket of popcorn. Three Tennysons for this one.
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When Sir Galahad arrives in Camelot to fulfill his destiny, the presence of Lancelot’s illegitimate son disturbs Queen Guinevere. But the young knight’s vision of the Holy Grail at Pentecost inspires the entire fellowship of the Round Table to rush off in quest of Christendom’s most holy relic. But as the quest gets under way, Sir Gawain and Sir Ywain are both seriously wounded, and Sir Safer and Sir Ironside are killed by a mysterious White Knight, who claims to impose rules upon the quest. And this is just the beginning. When knight after knight turns up dead or gravely wounded, sometimes at the hands of their fellow knights, Gildas and Merlin begin to suspect some sinister force behind the Grail madness, bent on nothing less than the destruction of Arthur and his table. They begin their own quest: to find the conspirator or conspirators behind the deaths of Arthur’s good knights. Is it the king’s enigmatic sister Morgan la Fay? Could it be Arthur’s own bastard Sir Mordred, hoping to seize the throne for himself? Or is it some darker, older grievance against the king that cries out for vengeance? Before Merlin and Gildas are through, they are destined to lose a number of close comrades, and Gildas finds himself finally forced to prove his worth as a potential knight, facing down an armed and mounted enemy with nothing less than the lives of Merlin and his master Sir Gareth at stake.
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