I went and saw Captain Marvel last night.
This is NOT a spoiler-free review! If you haven’t seen the movie, best to avoid this review until you’ve watched it yourself.
The theater was sold out for the showing before the one I went to and there weren’t that many seats left for the showing I actually went to, which meant I wound up in the very front row. Not ideal, but the new remodel of the theater with reclining chairs helped not hurt my head or neck.
Why am I typing menial things about the theater? To make sure that a casual opening of this won’t result in spoilers for those who don’t wish to see them.
I’m going to say again that this is NOT a spoiler free review.
Okay. Now for the actual review.
First of all, I liked the movie a lot. It’s one of those movies that I thought about on my drive home. And one that I want to see again so that I can experience it, especially the space parts, again.
The movie throws the audience directly into the life of the Kree soldier “noble warrior hero” Vers. Not only did it introduce Vers/Carol Danvers first as a soldier in a war, it’s a war we know nothing about. We don’t know who is fighting, what the stakes are, why they’re fighting, nothing. While this bothers some people, the truth is that we don’t need to know anything about the war. Both sides in the Kree/Skrull conflict are not exactly heroes fighting for justice. War is a horrible thing and those who order war are rarely those who pay for it. I remember reading about the Kree/Skrull conflict when I read the X-Men titles in my youth and I keenly remember not particularly liking either side.
This movie felt like it was made for me and for people like me. There was not a single scene in this entire movie where any women showed any boobs, cleavage, scantily clad sex-poses or anything even remotely sexy at all. The women all wore attire that made sense for their environment. Space suits that covered the entire skin, including force shields over the mouth and eye areas, instead of the comic book version of Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel (the two pictures). I have actually seen males online complaining that the movie didn’t use either of the sexualized versions of the Ms. Marvel outfit for the movie. This was the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that did not sexualize the woman from the very first encounter. She never caters to the male gaze and absolutely does not do anything to make herself funny, sexy, or flirty. She is unapologetically who she is and I think a lot of the male audience who disliked this movie might have disliked it because absolutely nothing she did had anything to do with them. She didn’t wear appropriately revealing clothing, she didn’t make sexy quips, she didn’t flirt with anyone.
People who thought the movie lacked characterization probably don’t understand everything that wasn’t said. What would being a woman in the Air Force have been like back in the 1990s? How hard would you have to work to even remotely be allowed to fly? Just because women experience sexual harassment on a daily basis doesn’t mean that’s all we ever talk about (though, if you listen to some males these days, that’s what you might think, but they don’t listen to us when we do talk about it anyway, so there’s that). So because the movie doesn’t go around shoving the audience’s face with sexy quips about “being a woman in times like this” or some other crap, it lacks characterization? Most males don’t seem to have issues with the dialogue in action movies, so long as the stars of those action movies are male. But when the action is centered around women who exist without white male savior heroes? “The movie falls flat”. Carol Danvers even escapes capture and beats up twenty or so Skrulls with her hands confined and lacking her powers but she’s considered by some of the males to be no more or less powerful than any of her other (male) Avengers.
Here’s a screenshot of a review I saw today, just for reference.
What really gets me is that the author of this review is a really good guy. But I don’t think he understands the dual-standard he is even now supporting with his comments. He says that Carol Danvers isn’t a character because she doesn’t have any hobbies or interests or friends? But what about hobbies or interests for Thor? Steve Rogers? Bruce Banner? Do they have hobbies, interests, or friends? Thor is a prince and a warrior, right? Doesn’t he spend his free time getting drunk and partying with his friends? At least, that’s what was shown in the Thor franchise movies. Is that why you consider him more a worthy hero than Carol Danvers? What about Bruce? He’s a scientist first, but everyone actually loves him more as the Hulk, and one of the guys I worked with many years ago specifically liked him because the angrier he gets in the comic books, the bigger and more unstoppable he gets. Power trip, much? So what’s the issue with someone like Carol Danvers being a warrior? Or a pilot? Being a pilot takes up a lot of time and work, as does being a warrior. Carol Danvers is clearly very tech-savvy, in that she can use parts found in a Radio Shack to piece together a cross-galaxy communication device through a pay phone. How is being a prince and a warrior viable hobbies for Thor, Bruce being a scientist, and Tony being a technological genius enough of hobbies for them, but Carol being a warrior and incredibly intelligent not enough for her to be a real character? What, you need her to wear sexy clothes and run the bake sale, too? Honestly, I think that a lot of the “flatness” some males might feel from Carol Danvers’ character comes from the fact that Carol Danvers does not need them. There is no place in Carol Danvers’ world for a “white knight” hero who will come in and save the day at the last second. No romance, no fluttering eyelashes or puckered up lips. Carol Danvers exists in a world where dickhead machoism just gets in the way of saving the world and it kind of gets to me that all the male superheroes get a free card when it comes to personality and characterization.
Honestly? Right now, I am having problems thinking up any male hero with hobbies, interests, or friends. Those that do have hobbies have hobbies related to their role as a hero. So why do women have to be perfect in everything we do in order to be viable? Why can’t women focus their time on being better warriors or better pilots or better techies? It’s good enough for the males but not enough characterization for women? Even now, women have to work five times as hard to be considered half as good, and usually we’re far better than our male counterparts.
I really liked Maria and Carol’s friendship in the movie. Carol’s fragmented karaoke memories and young Monica’s assistance going through the memory box showed us Carol as an Air Force pilot before she became a Kree warrior. Carol was very much a part of Maria and Monica’s lives. They spent holidays together and Carol’s gifts from the pictures were thoughtful and fun. They showed Carol as a dedicated and loyal friend and someone who took the time and effort to be a supremely supportive part of Maria and Monica’s lives. So what were things like for women pilots back in the 1990s? Carol and Maria’s relationship, regardless of whether that friendship was a friendship or something else, would have likely always caused them professional issues, but Carol stood up for Maria and they challenged each other in the best ways, competing over who got to fly first, or who was the better pilot. I imagine that they spent a good part of their professional careers never really saying, but still knowing, the things that mattered most. That’s why the scenes with Carol and Maria were so powerful. They didn’t have to say the thousands of thoughts in each of their heads because they trusted each other to know. Emotions exist whether people talk about them or not and those emotions were very much displayed in Carol, Maria, and Monica’s interactions.
Or maybe those emotions were just obvious to those who have experienced powerful emotions like that ourselves, especially in situations where you can’t exactly say what you’re really feeling and thinking. When you have to put more important things in front of whatever you might be feeling in order to do what’s right or not lose your job.
There were two scenes in the movie that I thought for sure were going to be used as outside savior moments that were not and it made me happy. The first was in the aerial dogfight at the end, when Maria is flying through the canyons. She was an amazing pilot but it honestly would have been so cliché if someone else had come in and saved the day instead of Maria outflying the Kree pilot. I smiled so much when Maria showed how awesome of a pilot she was and succeeded in the flight back to earth. The second time I thought the movie was going to be typical and predictable was when Carol and Yon-Ragg are facing off in individual, face-to-face combat at the end of the movie and Yon-Ragg tries to get her to face him without her powers. He tries to goad her into proving to him that she isn’t anything without her powers and she just blasts him into the rocks. I was so happy the movie didn’t do the “look at me, I’m proving I’m as good as the guys” thing that is so common in these types of situations. Those two scenes showed to me that women can be awesome and amazing without having to prove ourselves.
[Updated thoughts, as now I’ve seen the movie multiple times]
You know what else really struck me? People refer to Yon-Ragg as Carol’s mentor and in the beginning of the movie, it appears as though he is functioning as exactly that. But the more times I watched the movie and the more of their interactions I watched, the more I realized that he’s not a mentor at all. He’s her captor. He shot her plane out of space, was responsible for killing her actual mentor, and then he kidnapped her, erased her memories, and worked to build her into a weapon for someone else’s war. They couldn’t take the power core itself, so he decided they would own and control her. Referring to Yon-Ragg as Carol’s mentor is exactly the mentality preventing women in our current society from being anything other than property or a tool for the male character’s development. Even referring to Yon-Ragg as Carol’s mentor is toxic.
Overall, I liked this movie quite a lot, ranking it as a low four or a high three on my rating scale. I intend on seeing it again in theaters and will happily buy it when it comes out on Blu-ray and dvd.