Monday, March 11, 2019

Guest Post: Captain Marvel (2019)

This New Superhero Movie Is A Marvel

By Jonas Schwartz

Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU, is the first film in the Marvel universe to be led by a female character, co-written by women, and co-directed by a woman. All members of the creative team have done the character a great service, producing an intelligent film about a physically and emotionally empowered woman who finds her strength from within. Not bothering with a hackneyed love interest, Captain Marvel's main character is fueled by strong friendships and a reliance in her own abilities.

In a foreign galaxy, Kree warrior Vers (Brie Larson) and her team, including her mentor (Jude Law), are ambushed by combatant Skrull soldiers. They kidnap Vers to dig into her memories, a difficult task since Vers herself suffers from long-term memory loss. She escapes and falls from the skies into a Blockbuster Video in 1995 Los Angeles. 

Two young agents, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) for SHIELD, attempt to apprehend the girl, but discover that all is not earthly about their latest case. Fury and Ves work together to protect a government-sponsored device (a Hitchcockian McGuffin if there ever was one), as past memories begin to flood in for Vers and she discovers she has a more direct connection to that device and the doctor who invented it.

Marvel Studios welcomes a new team, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, to direct and co-write the script with Guardians of the Galaxy writer Geneva Robertson-Dworet.  Boden and Fleck bring an independent film sensibility. Their most notable film, Half Nelson, earned Ryan Gosling his first Oscar nom, as a drug addicted inner-city teacher. Nothing in their resume would hint that they could handle a blockbuster, yet they handle the action scenes with aplomb and ground all the characters with relatable motivations. Setting the film in the mid-90s, the directors create a tone with a soundtrack overflowing with grunge and indie rock bands like Nirvana, No Doubt, Garbage and Hole. The songs evoke the angst one feels having super human strength but no sense of her history or allegiances. There are genuine suspense scenes like one involving a hide out in a government library where rows of fluorescent lights trigger in the aisles, giving our heroes away to their enemies.

The script focuses on Vers’ frustrations while still keeping her an entertaining character. The script doesn’t get bogged down with its story consternations, still allowing the audience a fun movie, just with a bit more substance.  Vers surrounds herself with heroic men and women, however they always back her up, not the other way around. Women in the MCU movies often have strength and savvy, but they usually serve others, whether the family around Black Panther (Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong'o, Letitia Wright, and Danai Gurira) or Vers’ fellow Avengers Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Either because of, or in synchronicity with, DC’s success with Wonder Woman, MCU finally gave audiences a female protagonist to lead. The script also changes the character Mar-Vell to a female (Annette Bening) to give Vers another powerful ally. It also adds her best friend Maria (Lashana Lynch) as a kick-ass pilot.

Some of the script’s fake-outs may not stand up to scrutiny, but it’s obvious the writers are attempting something twisty for their audiences, something to keep them guessing instead of sitting back munching on popcorn, leaving their brains in the car.

The CGI de-aging of Jackson and Gregg is a bit visually murky but it looks less distracting than Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison’s face softening in DC’s Aquaman.

Larson and Jackson, who previously worked together in Kong: Skull Island, have fantastic chemistry together. They bounce jokes off each other and have each other’s backs like they’ve been starring together in buddy films for ages. In smaller roles, Jude Law and Annette Bening are wise as Vers’ Jiminy Crickets. As mother and daughter Lynch and young actress Akira Akbar have a palpable bond. As the lead antagonist, Ben Mendelsohn brings his usual reptilian presence.

Energetic and fresh, while still fitting well into the MCU, Captain Marvel introduces a major player in the Infinity Wars and one who deserves her place fighting on the front lines. 

Read Jonas's other reviews at: 

No comments:

Post a Comment

20 Years Ago: The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

“They are an army unlike any other, crusading across the stars toward a place called UnderVerse, their promised land, a constellation of dar...