“Thank you, Stan” – Pre-title dedication
No dialogue quote this time, as I felt that as this is the first Marvel Studios film to be released since the passing of the legendary Stan Lee, his dedication was the most poignant quote I could use.
I might as well get it out of the way early – I really haven’t read much at all of Captain Marvel. The one in next month’s Shazam, yes, I’ve read – but he’s a totally different character, and to find out the whys and the wherefores of that situation, you’ll have to buy the latest copy of Starburst, where I’ve put it all in an article titled “Will the REAL Captain Marvel please stand up?”
But Marvel’s Captain Marvel was one that I never got around to. I read a couple of issues here and there – I remember when he looked like this.
I remember getting frustrated because I couldn’t draw his costume properly when I was about ten. I could never get the helmet or that chest symbol right. (Yet, I spent hours getting the webbing on my drawings of Spider-Man dead on perfect with a pretty good success rate.)
Later, I remember a long-gone issue of either Captain Marvel (with a different costume and a different identity) or Avengers, where I saw Thanos for the first time, and the all-powerful Cosmic Cube (what, in the Marvel Movies they now call the Tesseract). I think he died somewhere along the line and there was another change in civilian identity, this time to Carol Danvers, who for a while was Ms Marvel – but that’s about all I know, in a nutshell. Part of the problem also is that it’s nigh impossible to find a jumping in spot for the character. Ideally, I like to start at the beginning and work my way along so I get to see pretty much everything. That may also be a rampant case of OCD on my behalf. But anyhow, the last time I saw Captain Marvel, he looked like this... (Handily, this page also shows the original Cosmic Cube I mentioned)
So, when Captain Marvel was announced as a movie, I was pretty excited, seeing this as the ideal long overdue introduction to the character in her present incarnation. I was even more thrilled when it was announced that she’d be facing the Skrulls.
Okay – for those of you who don’t read comics, the Skrulls are an alien race of shape shifters, first introduced in Fantastic Four #2 way back in 1960. Basically, they can imitate anybody. As the years rolled on, they were at war with Captain Marvel’s race, the Kree (who were introduced in the movies in Guardians of the Galaxy).
Captain Marvel is, of course the person Nick Fury was calling in the sting of last year’s Infinity War before he became dust. So, this film is a prequel, not only to Infinity War, but to the whole Marvel Movie Universe. Back in time we go to 1995. (If it seems odd to have a prequel to a film series now in its eleventh year, and have it precede the big finale to that eleven-year epic, then you’ll have to trust, as I did, in Marvel Films to know what they’re doing. It really does make a lot of sense having it here at this stage.)
For big, epic tentpole films like this, wherever possible, I like to attend the first possible screening. All the better if it’s a midnight showing, because (not to sound like a snob) those are attended by the real die-hard fans rather than the casual filmgoer. So, you can relax with a capacity crowd who just want to absorb every single second of the film as it unspools. There’s no chatter, no noisy eating, no phones, no incessant walking across your field of view to get more snacks or use the toilets. Better yet, everybody remains seated until the last frame of the end credits because they know there are stings. Why the mainstream masses haven’t learned this yet is beyond me.
As the film starts, there is an incredibly moving tribute to Stan Lee, which damn near brought a tear even to MY jaded eye. This is in addition to the traditional cameo which occurs later in the film.
I have to admit that the first fifteen minutes or so of the movie left me more than a little bit confused. I found it hard to follow and was wondering if perhaps a reel had been missed (until I realised that they don’t come on reels any more for crying out loud – but I did attend a film once where that actually happened.
As soon as Captain Marvel comes crashing to Earth through the roof of a Blockbuster, the film really takes off and neither we in the audience, or the characters on the screen have a chance to look back or catch our breath.
Okay – so we’ve established that Captain Marvel is female. That was established in the comics and became canon a long time ago. With this is mind, I can’t understand the lunatic hate campaign that occurred online in the days leading up to the film’s release. People took to review websites, posting bad reviews of a film they had never seen, just to try and sabotage the opening box office numbers. There were comments about the star Brie Larson and her campaign to help disadvantaged women – as if what she was doing was a bad thing. None of it makes sense to me. So, to make it clear, I’ll just state here once and for all, I don’t subscribe to this current trend of toxic fandom. If I don’t like a film, I’ll say so and give a reason why. If I find a film unappealing, I’ll give a reason why. If I give a film a negative review, it’s always backed up. If the review is glowing – same applies. Do I shudder or feel my masculinity shrivelling at the thought of a female superhero? No that’s just plain stupid. I think Wonder Woman is the strongest film out of DC yet, marginally ahead of Aquaman. I watch Supergirl regularly, Black Widow is one of the most interesting Avengers and I’m eager to see a film about her backstory, enlarging on what we saw in Civil War (though I think that Red Sparrow is the closes we’ll get to that film). Likewise, I don’t care if a hero is gay, black, Hispanic, striped… whatever. Just as long as the story is strong and the creative decisions, if they differ from the source material, are strong and well-reasoned.
Brie Larson makes an appealing and fun lead. The bantering dialogue between her and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is free flowing, natural and carries the right amount of brevity and humour to keep the film’s pace moving along nicely.
Jackson appears to be having fun as a twenty fours years younger version of his Nick Fury character. The digital face-lift his character has been given, plus hair, is entirely one hundred percent convincing. Sadly, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) isn’t as convincing.
So, set back in 1995, we find SHIELD in its infancy, and Fury’s encounter with Marvel and the Skrull is his first contact with aliens and beings with super powers. It’s what happens in this film that gives the final momentum for SHIELD to become the huge, well funded organisation it was back in 2008, when Fury approached Tony Stark with his plans for an Avengers Initiative at the end of Iron Man. Fury knows from this film that they’re out there and inevitably more will come. As the Tesseracht plays into this film as well, it becomes clear how Fury was as well informed as he was.
I’m not going to give away plot points here, but a whole lot of things that might have appeared as plot holes back at the beginning make a lot more sense now. Captain Marvel sets the whole Marvel Movie universe into motion. It also explains why Fury calls her in at the end of Infinity War, due to their unique partnership.
Uniquely, as well as providing a satisfying and timely origin/prelude to the arc of films we’ve watched since 2008, it also nicely sets up Avengers: Endgame which is released in April. Anticipation for the final instalment of this saga has been revving up since last year’s Infinity War. The stings in Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel only serve to fan those flames even higher. Now, we’re at the stage where everybody’s where they need to be, I guess and somehow the Mighty Marvel Movie Machine will draw all these disparate elements together into a cohesive whole and come next month, we’ll be leaving the multiplexes both stunned and satisfied.
I have one small fanboy-ish theory. (Don’t knock it – I called the ending of Ant-Man and the Wasp accurately before its release). As they’ve now introduced the Skrull with their shape shifting abilities, might not some of the victims of the click have been Skrull? Would that be a way of bringing a few back? If not, then I hope we at least get a future film that gives us the Secret Invasion storyline, where the Skrull had infiltrated all walks of life, kidnapping their targets, many of the Marvel superheroes and imitating them for their own purposes.
We know that Captain Marvel appears in Endgame, and I’m looking forward to seeing her again, but beyond that – I’m REALLY looking forward to see where they take her character next, in a full-blown standalone sequel.
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