Captain Marvel: Because women need power-punching role models, too?
  • Captain Marvel: Because women need power-punching role models, too?
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I was bored watching Captain Marvel. For a while, I thought it was because this particular Marvel movie wasn’t meant for me. The spiritually inclined had already had their outing with Dr. Strange, the same way dadless Dudebros had theirs with Guardians of the Galaxy, or idealistic patriots had theirs with Captain America, or unsure young’uns had theirs with Spider-Man, or Chris Hemsworth fans had theirs with Thor, etc. Maybe Captain Marvel was for women — in particular, women who had been told all their lives that being a woman meant they weren’t good enough, weren’t strong enough, weren’t fast enough, etc. — and so its journey of self-discovery through self-recovery was not designed, executed, and polished to a high sheen for my particular benefit.

I mean, I wasn’t bored like this during the superheroine movie Wonder Woman. And I certainly wasn’t bored like this during the much weirder superheroine movie Border, which shares an awful lot of themes with Captain Marvel. But those were films that didn’t feel like object lessons in empowerment through self-affirmation. So maybe that was it.

Or maybe the problem was Captain Marvel herself, as portrayed by Brie Larson. Brie Larson can act; I’ve known that since Short Term 12. But here, she seemed a little…bored. Consider the opening scene, wherein she wakes from a mysterious and disturbing dream — though you’d never know it was disturbing to look at her. She goes to visit her mentor/trainer Yon-Rogg (a buffed and polished Jude Law) and asks if he wants to fight, since she can’t sleep. He reminds her that there are tabs she can take that will help her sleep, and she replies, “Yeah, but then I’d be asleep.” The line is meant to convey just how harrowing that dream was, but it takes a second to register, because Larson doesn’t register as upset, or haunted, or haggard, or…much of anything. The film may be about women breaking their shackles, but the lead actress feels kept in check for much of the picture. Humor winds up being provided by Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury, heart by Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau, and pathos by…well, I don’t want to spoil anything. But it ain’t Larson or her character.

That’s all the stranger given Law’s Voice of the Patriarchy speech to her as they spar. “Nothing is more dangerous than emotion,” he warns her. “Doubt makes you vulnerable. Anger serves the enemy. Control your impulses. I want you to be the best version of yourself.” (Oof.) I guess emotion is here signified by the release of cool force bolts from her hands, as opposed to, you know, words, expressions, or anything ordinary like that. (A note of praise here amid the doldrums: much love has been lavished on the Captain’s visible manifestation of power, and it is indeed wondrous to behold.)Never mind that she doesn’t seem particularly doubtful, angry, or emotional during the fight —or much of anywhere else. (Here and elsewhere, I felt like maybe the film was actually bored with itself.)

So, the story: when we meet Larson, she’s Vers, a Kree warrior working to defend her people against the expansion-minded, shape-shifting Skrulls. A botched mission lands her on Earth (“A real shithole” in Kree estimation) — but hey hey, not in the present day. In the ‘90s! Because of the jump back in time, Mr. Jackson has to act through a CGI mask of himself, which I found considerably less enjoyable than watching Ben Mendelsohn act through the wrinkly green mask of a Skrull. Also because of the jump back in time, there will be good-time oldies from Garbage and No Doubt on the soundtrack. Also, outdated stuff: herewith, a list of ‘90s things that get played for yuks, because passage of time (avert your eyes if you want to preserve the wonder): Blockbuster Video, Radio Shack, pay phones with long-distance carriers, dial-up internet, pagers, slow computers. There are probably more; I got a little bored keeping track. (The film is also good for a bunch of Top Gun references, which is more of an ‘80s thing, but useful if you want to go after cocky machismo.) While on earth, Vers begins to uncover the mystery behind those supposedly upsetting dreams she’s always having.

What follows is deeply sloppy in the plotting department, with the film’s prequel status dictating the eventual resolution of events to a much greater degree than anything inherent in the story at hand. But then, the plot is not the point. The point is expressed by the cool-kid daughter of a single mom/jet pilot, who tells her mother that she’ll set a better example if she takes on a dangerous mission (and risks leaving her an orphan) than if she stays home and watches Fresh Prince with her kid.

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Comments

mbenjell10 March 8, 2019 @ 12:41 p.m.

Dude if you don't like Marvel, DC or Disney movies then you have no right to critic this movie, and it looks you just don't like Brie Larson.

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Matthew Lickona March 8, 2019 @ 1:21 p.m.

It does? I specifically noted that I know Larson can act; I loved her in Short Term 12, and while I didn't love Room, she was the best thing about it. And I like plenty of Marvel movies, so much so that DC fanboys have accused me of being unfairly biased toward them.

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mbenjell10 March 10, 2019 @ 4:31 p.m.

Is that why you always give Marvel movies a 2 stars rating!! Either you are biased or you have problem with super hero movies. Captain Marvel has humor, action, twists, surprise, emotion and everything you ask for any good movie, and yet you decided to give it 1/5 and describing it like it was the worst movie you ever saw. Come on man at least be honest with yourself.

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Scott Marks March 10, 2019 @ 5:22 p.m.

Gee, could it be that for the most part comic book films are formulaic crap geared for the lowest common denominator?

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Scott Marks March 11, 2019 @ 9:24 p.m.

Where is it written than only comic book fans should be allowed to review comic book movies? The nerve of some people! Does that mean only cross-dressers should be allowed to critique "Madea" pictures? You don't want criticism, you want press releases. And not since Halle Berry traded in her Oscar for a litter box has a performer been so quick to succumb to the lure of comic book gold.

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mbenjell10 March 13, 2019 @ 12:11 p.m.

when your buddy is biased and don't like Comic movies then your criticism is invalid.

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Ponzi March 8, 2019 @ 6:10 p.m.

Just. Grow. Up. Millennials.

This super hero infatuation is creepy, weird and boring.

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dwbat March 16, 2019 @ 12:59 p.m.

It isn't just today's millennials. Read "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" - a book by Joseph Campbell. It explains the archetypal hero, going back to ancient history. It's not "creepy" at all. Of course, we cannot be superheroes, but they inspire us, and encourage us to be better people, and fight for the greater good.

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Ponzi March 17, 2019 @ 6:06 p.m.

Perhaps creepy was a bad selection. How I feel is that the "super hero" comic book regurgitation of characters over the past 10 years is getting old. How about some new and original material? I enjoy cinema that features stories that are not predictable and maybe even end in ways that one would not expect. I know from the first minute I take my seat that "good will prevail over evil." It's just how much CGI and Dolby woofer shock do I have to endure and was it worth the 2 hours of my time.

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dwbat March 17, 2019 @ 9:46 p.m.

Yes, it sure has gotten repetitious. I don't watch them. The last two movies I enjoyed were "La La Land" and "The Big Sick."

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beetv March 9, 2019 @ 10:22 p.m.

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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MattyEvas March 13, 2019 @ 4:29 a.m.

Great movie! I really like Marvel and I wasn`t disappointed with that movie.

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Agooo March 16, 2019 @ 12:01 p.m.

I wholeheartedly agree with this review. I think the director instructed Brie Larson -who seems like a warm and likable person in real life- not to show emotion, so that the "patriarchy/Jude Law character" accusations of women being "too emotional" wouldn't stick. The result was disastrous. Her character came across as detached, aloof, uninteresting and the whole movie was bland. I specifically like the reviewer's point regarding the daughter. It is not natural for a child with one parent to encourage said parent to unnecessarily risk her life and abandon the child.

I am puzzled at the harshness of the comments of those who oppose the author's review. Most humans go to movies to be entertained, not to participate in a social engineering campaign. How does "if you didn't like this movie then you are a horrible person" help the feminist cause, or any cause for that matter? Why does Rotten Tomatoes keep deleting my review? Does the first amendment still apply in the US?

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dwbat March 16, 2019 @ 1:05 p.m.

The First Amendment does NOT apply to whether they use a review or not. Publications/websites can print what they want. They are under no law that says they can't delete your review, not print your letter-to-the-editor (or edit it), reject a proposed article, etc. You totally misunderstand the First Amendment.

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Agooo March 16, 2019 @ 4:02 p.m.

dwbat: I am not saying that the First Amendment can or should force rotten tomatoes or any site to post a review. However, if a review does not violate the site's standards, and the site claims that they are open to all reviews being posted, and that an average grade is given to a movie based on the reviews posted, then they go ahead and delete reviews just because they disagree with their own opinion, and misrepresent the collective audience grade, then this action violates the spirit of the First Amendment, namely freedom of expression, not to mention being disingenuous and manipulative. I mean, what is the purpose of the warring factions here? To force someone to like a movie or at least to silence them if they don't like it by calling them names and trying to intimidate them? Does that promote freedom? A person should be free to find a movie boring without being exposed to ridicule and verbal violence for expressing his/her opinion.

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dwbat March 16, 2019 @ 8:19 p.m.

I agree with your last 3 statements. But once again, Rotten Tomatoes, San Diego Union-Tribune, TIME Magazine, Vanity Fair, etc. are businesses who run their organizations as they want. They set their rules, not those who contribute to them. The 1st Amendment protects freedom of the press, not your right to have your review accepted by a corporate publishing entity. You are totally free to start your own magazine, blog, website, etc., and speak your mind.

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