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March 8th, 2019

And, In Conclusion -- Captain Marvel

So I just saw Captain Marvel, and it was half of a good movie and half of a boring one.

There's really not much more to say.  It's a Disney factory movie.  It isn't informed by art or expression, simply by a mandate to sell toys, spin-offs, and create a blue ocean market.  A lot of people complaining about the whole "feminist propaganda" thing overlook the fact that Disney spends enough money to feed Africa for a decade because they see the potential to make money.  This means that it doesn't matter how many or the size of your contingent, what matters is how much money your group spends.  You want fewer movies like Captain Marvel?  Start buying more Punisher merch.  Make it a billion dollar franchise, and I guarantee The Mouse will start affirming your biases as well.  Okay, rant over.

Like I said, this is a Disney factory movie, calculated within an inch of its life.  In these situations, the best you can hope for is just to be entertained and not feel like you wasted your money.  And in this regard, Captain Marvel does, in fact, succeed.

Eventually.

And not in the way it was calculated to.

Let me explain.

Disney has selected Plot-O-Matic Product 14.  Vers (Brie Larson) is an elite Kree warrior with no memory of her past.  Usually, when there is some sort of ambiguity to the noble organization the central character belongs to, you can bet your retirement fund and parlay it that the noble organization will turn out to be corrupt and cruel and the central character must rise up and fight them, including a battle to best the mentor and facing their past.  The movie is much more coy about this than most other films, with no little winks to the audience that say, "Oh, brother, is THIS asshole in for a surprise!", staying within its generic "run from the bad guys" parameters.  But at about the halfway point, it is indeed revealed.

Now, the first half of the movie is pretty dull.  There's really nothing here you haven't seen before.  They even have the kinds of bullshit moments that made Infinity War such a dumpster fire, but not enough to completely derail things.  Just before the halfway mark, Marvel and Fury attempt to escape from a top secret military base via the airplane hangar while the bad guys are stalking them.  They have been ordered to kill if necessary.  Sure enough, once they get eyes on the duo, the bad guys START FIRING LIVE ROUNDS IN AN ENVIRONMENT FULL OF BOMBS.  During the climax, apparently nobody thinks to re-engage the cloaking system (Sisko would shove his boot up their ass for that).  Early in the film, Marvel steals a motorcycle and heads for a desert bar she used to hang out at, but somehow Fury knows exactly which bar she's going to and gets there first (who needs lightspeed when you have the Vorhees Unreality Engine from the Friday The 13th movies?).  There was one moment I did like, and that was when Marvel takes a cheap shot at Fury for plastering the logo of the covert SHIELD organization on things like ballcaps that he just happens to keep in his car.  Some people may find that too cutesy, but I've made the same comment while watching Agents Of SHIELD, so I just raised my cup of tea to Marvel and said, "Cheers, mate."

Now, I did say the movie eventually becomes good, but in doing so, it also illustrates a fundamental problem with the character of Captain Marvel.  Up until the halfway point, the movie is pretty standard, with characters doing what they are supposed to to move the plot along.  Once the halfway point hits, however, Marvel is confronted by Talos, and the secrets of her past are revealed.  And at this moment, suddenly, most of the characters come alive.  Up until now, the only great character beats were between Marvel and Fury (seeing Sam Jackson start talking cute to a cat is especially hilarious, and can cause some cognetive dissonance if you mostly associate him with the whole "bad motherfucker" thing).  But at that moment, Fury settles into just rolling with things, Talos reveals himself to being a decent guy, and there's some great humor thrown around (Talos' frustration with "the science guy" just about reduced me to hysterics).  But weirdly enough, Marvel doesn't get such moments.  Like a lot of generic protagonists, she is kept carefully neutral.  This happens a lot because, the more powerful a character is, the less you want them to seem like a general threat so you don't lose the faith and trust of the audience.  This is how we got Hagrid saying Harry Potter's last line from the book at the end of The Sorceror's Stone movie instead of Harry -- oh, sure, he's powerful and can kill and destroy, but he'd NEVER do that, he's a good boy!  With Captain Marvel being positioned as the most powerful character in the MCU, she has to be blanded down for the sake of audience trust.

The result is a sort of empty space in scenes, as everyone moves and interacts around her and she waits for the course of action to be decided.  It's kind of like Paris Hilton's music CD -- the individual who is supposed to be the star and attraction to the project is pushed as far to the background as possible while everyone around her does the heavy lifting.  The result is a central character who isn't quite there.  You swap out any of the other characters with someone else, and things change, from the dynamics to the actions taken to the ultimate goal of the story (think the end of X-Men 2, where the final goal kept changing depending on who got to Xavier and influenced him).  But Marvel?  She is completely interchangable and has no real bearing on what happens other than being pointed in a direction and moving out.

Which is a shame.  There was so much potential to Marvel.  How many of you played the original Star Wars -- Rogue Squadron?  For those who didn't, you play as a character named Kasan Moor, an Imperial TIE fighter pilot from Alderan who sees her planet blown to shit and switches sides to the Rebel Alliance.  Her arc is incredible as she has to deal with her shifting sense of priorities, morals, and duties while also dealing with distrust from her new allies that she might actually be a spy.  So much about Moor's arc could be applied to Marvel and resulted in a much much better movie from a story perspective.  But it gets tossed in favor of a bog-standard conspiracy arc.

There is one other factor that will determine whether or not you enjoy the second half of the movie.  Here's the problem -- Captain Marvel is an empathic tale.  I have noticed that a lot of people reject movies when the conflict doesn't stem from if (!condition) then {take action}Ant Man, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2, Deadpool 2, all have stories that aren't driven by personal greed and desire, but by broken people and damaged emotions (especially Deadpool 2 -- how much you enjoy the movie depends on how interested you are in him trying to stop someone from becoming a villain instead of simply beating one).  And that's Captain Marvel.  The "big twist" revealing the truth about the Kree and the Skrulls is based entirely on empathy.  If you are bored or can't be bothered with that fundamental piece of the film's foundation, you're not going to be engaged and you're not going to enjoy the movie.

Ultimately, Captain Marvel tries to introduce us to a major player in Endgame but doesn't really give us enough.  Like I said, the second half is enjoyable and I was entertained and didn't feel like I wasted my money.  But I think it's safe to say I'm not going to really be bothering to watch it again.

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