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Take Two

Last week’s review wasn't the last word


On March 13, we published Dan Hudak’s tepid review of Captain Marvel. Then I had the chance to see the movie myself, and I decided we should offer another perspective on a fine film.

To his credit, Hudak avoided the kinds of contentious, culture-war polemics that have raged on internet comment boards since before the movie was even screened. Yes, its hero is—gasp!—a woman. That fact alone has led a certain segment of the online commentariat to conclude that the film is so much cuck propaganda.

Hudak, of course, did not see a Soros-funded conspiracy on screen. But he wasn’t a fan, either. And that’s fine. Still, I disagree with his basic premise: Captain Marvel is “an origin story told in a convoluted way.” Yes, the narrative relies on flashbacks and, yes, these flashback scenes seem fairly random at first. But then, at the film’s climax, our hero, Carol Danvers, works her way up to total recall. And it’s not really all that convoluted, is it?

The genius of the story, though, is in the blending of elements in a way that allows everyone to get behind Carol’s story. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck made a compassionate, fundamentally antiwar film whose hero is a proud USAF pilot. They humanized refugees even though they’re aliens (and “bad guys”). And they literally universalized Carol’s feminist struggle for respect and equality by identifying it with the cosmic underdog—humanity—and its rebel instinct to stand up after being knocked down.

Hudak wrote that Captain Marvel was most satisfying not as a stand-alone but as a prelude—a “mediocre appetizer”—to the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, next month’s Avengers: Endgame. I felt quite the opposite, that the film’s biggest weakness was its rushed and forced insertion into a franchise that had long ago begun its endgame.

While it’s the fourth installment of the Avengers series, Endgame is actually the product of some 20 interrelated feature films—give or take, depending on how many early Hulk flicks you consider canon. These story arcs have been building slowly for more than a decade; the main players are so well established that even not-so-recent additions like Doctor Strange (2016), Spider-Man (’17) and Black Panther (’18) seem like afterthoughts. But at least they had a chance to earn their place in a universe that essentially revolves around Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Chris Evans’ Captain America. And they succeeded ... to varying degrees. (Yes, Doctor Strange is basically a tie-dyed Iron Man, but his role became clear in Avengers: Infinity War. Tom Holland’s vulnerable, young Peter Parker, on the other hand, quickly filled a void in Stark’s emotional life. In the process, Marvel Studios gave us a Spidey seen in none of the Sony reboots.)

Coming into Endgame, Carol Danvers has interacted with only Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, and he’s as dead as Mace Windu in these end times. Captain Marvel’s mid-credit scene teases the hero’s brusque introduction to the post-Infinity War Avengers. Hilarity is sure to ensue. But that’s not on Boden and Fleck, who created a fun and, yes, uplifting episode in Marvel’s ongoing cinematic saga.

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