Another glorious preview for “Captain Marvel” has dropped. Let’s all take a moment to soak in its marvelous glory. She’s destined to fly higher, farther, and faster than any hero before her. Thanos is fucked. Nuff said!
Another glorious preview for “Captain Marvel” has dropped. Let’s all take a moment to soak in its marvelous glory. She’s destined to fly higher, farther, and faster than any hero before her. Thanos is fucked. Nuff said!
I hope everyone has had a chance to catch their breath after the release of the “Captain Marvel” trailer. I certainly needed a day or two. It was one of those experiences in which it takes time to process every wondrous detail. I don’t know how many times I watched it. I just know that March 8, 2019 cannot get here fast enough.
The response to the trailer has been overwhelmingly positive, which has become the norm for all things affiliated with Marvel Studios. The bar for this movie is high, but matching and exceeding high bars is exactly what Carol Danvers does. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is already on an unprecedented win streak, both in terms of acclaim and box office. By all accounts, “Captain Marvel” is poised to continue that streak.
If I had to bet on it, I would place a hefty wager on “Captain Marvel” succeeding. Marvel Studios is riding such a huge wave of hype after “Avengers: Infinity War” that the idea of one of their movies failing seems unthinkable. However, it wasn’t that long ago that people felt the same way about “Star Wars.” Then, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” came along and shattered that notion with the force of a thousand Death Stars.
Like it or not, the law of averages dictates that Marvel Studios will fail at some point. Whether or not that happens with “Captain Marvel” remains to be seen. For the moment, that doesn’t seem likely, but the possibility is definitely there. I would go so far as to say that “Captain Marvel” is more vulnerable than previous Marvel movies and not just because the bar for success is so ridiculously high.
Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios, has gone on record as saying that Captain Marvel will be one of the most powerful characters in the MCU. Her presence will be a game-changer for the immediate and distant future. That means the margin for error is ridiculously small. Marvel Studios literally cannot afford for “Captain Marvel” to fail. That may end up being what makes this movie so vulnerable.
As a lifelong fan of superhero comics and a Captain Marvel fan, I feel like it’s worth contemplating this most distressing possibility. Never mind the implications for Marvel, Disney, and the entire superhero genre that may unfold in the event that “Captain Marvel” fails. How could a movie with so much going for it and an Oscar-winning actress in Brie Larson end up failing in the first place?
After watching the new trailer multiple times, reading multiple articles, and contemplating my previous comments on this movie, I’ve surmised a handful of concerns that I believe could derail this movie. Some of these concerns assume certain details that may very well be dead wrong by the time the movie comes out. I have no insight beyond the trailers I’ve seen and the details that have been made public.
I don’t expect everyone to share these concerns. Some may even have entirely difference concerns and I’d be happy to discuss them in the comics. For now, this is just me, as a fan of both Carol Danvers and superhero comics, contemplating what could go wrong for a movie that aspires to do so much.
Reason #1: Limiting The Extent Of Carol’s Agency (Inadvertently)
One of the biggest revelations from the second trailer had to do with an important plot point that was ripped directly from the comics. In the first minute, we find out that Carol’s memory has been erased and she’s caught up in the agenda of the Kree. Given how the only notable Kree character in the MCU to date has been Ronan the Accuser, this does not bode well for her.
This is a critical detail because in the comics, Carol lost both her memories and her powers at one point and had to effectively rebuild herself. That struggle helped establish how resilient she was, as a character. It also helped build her appeal. More importantly, though, it emphasized her struggle to regain her sense of agency.
Being mind-wiped is always a tricky plot point, as was nicely demonstrated in “Captain America: Civil War.” The biggest problem is being mind-wiped really hinders a character’s ability to make weighty choices. For Bucky Barnes, that isn’t too controversial. For Carol Danvers, a female hero in an era where female heroes have become fodder for identity politics, it could be an issue.
If, from the get-go, Carol is just a puppet of the Kree and her entire story revolves around her escaping their control, then that doesn’t just narrow the plot. It limits her agency because it makes her choices predictable. If, at any point in the story, she’s faced with a choice to follow the agenda of the Kree or go against them, it’s not going to surprise anyone when she chooses to go against the aliens trying to use her.
By making too much of the story about Carol re-asserting her agency, it makes the movie less about her fighting shape-shifting aliens and more about her regaining her independence. While that too can be a compelling story, and one in line with her history in the comics, it hinders the plot by making every choice obvious. When none of the choices in a story seem difficult, it can get boring fast.
Reason #2: Not Allowing Carol To Be Wrong
This is another factor that could make “Captain Marvel” too predictable and boring. Marvel Studios has made it clear that they want Carol Danvers to be the future of the MCU. Like Captain America, she’s poised to become the face of Marvel and their Disney overlords. For that very reason, it’s important that they allow her to be wrong.
To understand why, think back to “Wonder Woman,” the movie that set the gold standard for female superhero movies. In this movie, Wonder Woman doesn’t just make a fateful choice when she leaves Paradise Island. She also ends up being dead wrong about the identity of Ares. It made for a powerful moment that genuinely surprised me.
That moment didn’t just establish that Wonder Woman was fallible, despite being this overpowered badass warrior princess. It humanized her in a critical way. You could argue that this trait is more integral to Marvel’s heroes because they end up being wrong in a wide variety of ways. Tony Stark’s journey to becoming Iron Man started with him being wrong about something.
My concern for Carol is that making her this overpowered female hero who can defeat Thanos will take priority over everything else. The story won’t even give her a chance to be wrong or make a bad decision. That won’t just make the plot predictable and boring. It could earn Carol Danvers the dreaded “Mary Sue” label that has plagued characters like Rey.
That, more than anything, could derail Carol’s ascension to the upper echelons of the MCU. If she becomes a joke more than an icon, then she won’t be able to do carry out the bold plans that Marvel Studios has laid out for her. Part of what makes characters like Iron Man and Wonder Woman so popular is that they’re so easy to cheer for. Cheering for an annoyingly flawless character who is never wrong is much harder.
Reason #3: Not Effectively Explaining Carol’s Absence From The MCU
This is more a logistical concern than anything else. Before the first trailer ever dropped, it was established that “Captain Marvel” was going to take place in the 1990s. As a result, it would unfold within a world before the Avengers ever assembled and before superheroes ever became mainstream. It would also explore the origin of pre-eye patch Nick Fury, something that “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” only hinted at.
That’s an intriguing idea that digs into an unexplored aspect of the MCU. At the same time, it does raise a major question. If Carol has been Captain Marvel since the 1990s, where has she been? Why wasn’t she available when Loki or Ultron attacked? While it makes sense outside the movies in that a “Captain Marvel” movie wasn’t even scheduled before 2012, those questions are still relevant in the story.
The end of “Avengers: Infinity War” somewhat compounds this issue because Nick Fury reveals that he has had a way of contacting Carol all this time. A tie-in comic also hints at his past dealings with Carol, but is vague on why he chose not to summon her. Chances are “Captain Marvel” will try to answer that question more in depth, but that answer might not be adequate.
It’s not a trivial detail that can be glossed over. If Carol doesn’t have a good reason for not being on Earth during invasions from aliens and genocidal robots, then that makes it harder to get behind her as the most powerful hero in the MCU. It can’t come off as an excuse because Marvel Studios hadn’t planned that far ahead. Without a good reason, Carol just wouldn’t come off as heroic.
Reason #4: Making Her A Female Superhero BEFORE Making Her A Great Female Characters
This is where the stakes for “Captain Marvel” get frustratingly political. I’ve mentioned before how creating quality female characters has become mired in identity politics. This movie has already been affected somewhat by those corruptive forces. “Wonder Woman” managed to avoid it from a plot perspective and that’s the most “Captain Marvel” can do.
This means that before Carol Danvers becomes the super-powerful, high-flying badass we saw in the trailer, she needs to establish herself as a character, first. This is something I’ve seen movies, comics, and TV shows get completely backwards in recent years. There’s such an emphasis on making someone a “strong female character” that they forget the part where they’re a compelling character.
Carol Danvers has decades of character development in the comics. She’s someone who has deal with upheavals in her personal life, her superhero life, and everything in between. It’s hard to fit all of that into a two-and-a-half hour movie, but both “Wonder Woman” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” showed that it’s possible.
I can easily imagine Marvel Studios feeling tempted to make “Captain Marvel” the kind of cosmic spectacle we saw in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” I wouldn’t blame them for taking that approach, but having that without establishing the depths behind Carol Danvers would only be half a movie. Visual spectacles are great, but without quality characters, it’s just flashy images and nothing else.
Reason #5: Trying Too Hard To Make Carol Too Powerful
This issue is part logistics and part agenda. The events of “Avengers: Infinity War” were astonishing in terms of scope and scale. In the end, the collective might of dozens of Avengers could not stop Thanos. He was stronger than Thor, the Hulk, and the entire army of Wakanda. By default, taking him down requires a new level of power.
Carol Danvers promises to wield such power. Before the movie finished shooting, Kevin Feige dubbed her the most powerful Avengers in the MCU. That power may be necessary to defeat Thanos, but getting Carol that power could be tricky. Her power levels are already pretty extreme in the comics, but the MCU deals with different circumstances and scales.
The second trailer offers some clues as to how Carol gets her powers. Like the comics, they’re tied to her biology getting mixed up with that of the Kree. Beyond that, the scope and extent of her powers are vague. It’s not clear whether there’s something unique about her or the process that gives her so much power. At some point, she’ll have to level up and expanding powers in superhero media is always tricky.
When powers don’t have defined limits or are left vague, they tend to resolve every story in the spirit of a Deus Ex Machina trope. In short, there’s a supremely powerful threat. Then, by some contrived happenstance, the good guys gain access to power at or greater than the threat. It’s simple, but contrived. A DC movie may get a pass, but the bar for Marvel Studios is higher.
Again, I believe that “Captain Marvel” will be a great movie. Most of these concerns are just a byproduct of only knowing the movie through a couple of trailers. None of these reasons are inescapable. Given the impressive track record of Marvel Studios, there’s no reason to believe they won’t find a way to make it work and raise the bar even more.
One way or another, “Captain Marvel” is set to be a major turning point for the MCU. Whether it succeeds or fails, it will have a significant impact on the overall genre. However, it’s in the best interest for the MCU, Marvel, and superhero media, in general, that this movie succeeds.
The second “Captain Marvel” trailer has dropped. There’s a lot I’d love to talk about. For now, though, let’s just take a moment to marvel at what awaits us in March 2019.
It’s a sad fact of life in an overly flawed world. You hope for the best, but it’s rare that it ever actually happens. Even when it does, it’s not always as much fun as you hope. Ask anyone who lost their virginity during a dare or stood in line for hours to see the Star Wars prequels.
In my experience, it’s rarely feasible to build your anticipation around something for what it can be if everything goes flawlessly. In the real world, there’s no such thing as flawless. People make mistakes. Parties go horribly wrong. Hearts get broken. Michael Bay is given too much money, cocaine, and high explosives.
When it comes to superhero movies, though, it’s not possible to hit a home run at every turn. You can’t expect them to blow your mind and give you the kind of mental orgasm that takes a week to recover from. At best, you can just hope that it doesn’t suck. I love those kinds of orgasms as much as the next guy, but let’s face it. They’re rare and awesome for a reason.
Some movies come close to achieving that kind of cinematic bliss, though. “Wonder Woman” sure did, but as I pointed out in my review, it did have its shortcomings. They were still very minor and by nearly every measure, it is the most successful female superhero movie to date.
More importantly, “Wonder Woman” proved that female superhero movies can be successful. They don’t all have to be box office bombs like “Catwoman.” That opens the door for other female heroes to follow in Wonder Woman’s footsteps. At the moment, though, the only female solo movie besides the Wonder Woman sequel is “Captain Marvel.”
Marvel may have DC beat in almost every other aspect of its movie universe, but now there’s one area where it can’t say it dominates. Sure, it has a lot of strong female characters like Black Widow, Gamora, and the Scarlet Witch. However, they’ve largely been in supporting roles. They’ve never had a chance to shine like Wonder Woman did in her movie.
Captain Marvel will get that chance. She’s the closest hero Marvel has to Wonder Woman, thanks largely to the efforts of writers like Kelly Sue DeConnick. As much as Marvel has dominated DC at the box office, it now has a sub-perfect record. Given the amount of ego and cocaine in Hollywood, there’s no way that Marvel Studios will let that stand.
I don’t doubt that Kevin Feige and the powers that be at Marvel Studio will make every effort to ensure that “Captain Marvel” matches and exceeds “Wonder Woman.” They’ve already cast the beautiful and talented Brie Larson as Carol Danvers. They also announced some major details about the movie at the San Diego Comic Con.
On paper, it looks like this movie has what it takes to match “Wonder Woman.” Then again, on paper I’m sure “Batman and Robin” seemed like a good idea. While I have high hopes for this movie, just as I did with “Wonder Woman,” I’m not going to set my expectations too high. Between the two “Matrix” sequels and “Wolverine Origins,” I’ve been burned too many times.
With that in mind, I intend to do for “Captain Marvel” what I did for “X-men: Dark Phoenix.” I’m going to provide some tips that I’m sure Kevin Feige will never see on how to avoid screwing up the “Captain Marvel” movie.
“Wonder Woman” set the bar pretty damn high and looked dead sexy while doing it. It’s unreasonable to expect “Captain Marvel” to exceed it on every level. However, there are a few simple tips to ensure it doesn’t end up enduring the same infamy with “Catwoman.”
Tip #1: Let Carol Fly High (And Take The Audience With Her)
This is the most important tip, right up there with the Marvel Studios logo and Samuel L. Jackson dropping F-bombs, as only he can. Carol Danvers has a few defining traits beyond just looking awesome and kicking ass on a cosmic level. One of those traits is what makes her feel both distinctly human and someone we want to cheer for.
Throughout her history, Carol Danvers has been ambitious in a very particular way. Everybody, male or female, will look up at the stars at night and admire their beauty. Carol, however, doesn’t just want to admire. She wants to actually go there. She doesn’t want to shackle herself to this tiny little mud ball full of killer clowns, spiders, and the Kardashian family.
That’s why she joined the Air Force and fought to outperform everyone in her path. The fact she did that without a penis was secondary. Even before she got her powers, she aspired to go to the stars. Once she got those powers, she was determined to fly higher and go farther than anyone had ever dared, regardless of whether or not they had a penis.
Therein lies the key. Carol dares to venture out into the unknown and kick the ass of anyone or anything that tries to hold her back. That’s the kind of ambition people can get behind. That’s the kind of drive that people admire and want to follow.
It’s part of what makes Wonder Woman so endearing as a character to men and women alike. She has bold ambitions, but she isn’t an asshole about it. She doesn’t just seek to prove herself. She seeks to inspire others. That’s what Captain Marvel needs to do with her desire to go to go to the stars and carry the audience along for the ride.
Tip #2: Tie Carol’s Story Into That Of Mar-Vell’s
I get that there are times when it’s not possible to incorporate certain elements from the comics into a movie. That’s why we didn’t see any not-so-subtle BDSM themes in the “Wonder Woman” movie. However, the movie still made a concerted effort to capture some of the core details of Wonder Woman’s mythos, such as her iconic outfit and her relationship with Steve Trevor.
In the same way Wonder Woman needs her lasso and a desire to have sex with men who look like Chris Pine, there are some core elements to Carol Danvers’ story as a superhero that cannot and should not be glossed over. One of the most important elements involves her connection with Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel whose title Carol took on after his death.
Theirs is an unique connection, one with very different dynamics compared to Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. While there were some romantic overtones early on, their connection was more of a partnership rather than a romance. You can’t tell Carol’s story or get a feel for how she becomes a hero without telling Mar-Vell’s story as well.
That story doesn’t need to take up half the movie, but it does need to feel relevant. Mar-Vell’s story isn’t exactly boring either. He was an alien spy posing as a human on Earth on behalf of the Kree, a race that made it’s presence felt in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” There’s already some connections to build on. This movie just has to do it without a talking raccoon.
The key here is to use Mar-Vell’s story as an alien spy who grows fond of a beautiful Earth woman to supplement Carol’s story. That story is part of how Carol becomes Captain Marvel. That’s why when Kelly Sue DeConnick had Carol take on that title, it had a lot dramatic weight to it. That kind of drama is key for any successful movie, regardless of whether or not it has a talking raccoon.
Tip #3: Give Carol An Attitude (And Make It One To Rally Around)
One of Wonder Woman’s most defining traits, on top of being a beautiful warrior princess, is her capacity for love and empathy. Sure, she’ll fight with all her heart against demons, monsters, aliens, gods, and whatever asshole decided that “Ant Man” should get a movie before her. It’s that heart that makes her personality so endearing.
I point that out because Carol Danvers is not like that. Carol has an attitude and it’s not Wonder Woman. Just because Wonder Woman made a successful movie doesn’t mean Carol has to be too much like her because, in nearly every part of her 40-year history, she’s not like that.
Carol Danvers is a tough, hard-nosed woman who always pushes herself a little farther than anyone dares. That’s to be expected because she’s no princess. She’s a pilot in the United States Air Force. You need to have some attitude to make it there. There are real women who have succeeded in that effort. Let those women be the template.
The key is to do it in a way that doesn’t make her an arrogant bitch. I don’t doubt that’s going to be a challenge because the line between assertive and bitch is exceedingly blurred, more so for women than men. It’s an unfair double standards that people love to whine about, but never do anything to fix. Some argue it can’t be fixed.
That’s not an issue that “Captain Marvel” can hope to resolve over the course of a single movie. As such, it’s important that she walk that fine line in crafting her attitude. Again, Kelly Sue DeConnick struck the perfect balance when she took over Carol’s story in 2012.
She gave her a personality that was tough, but welcoming. She made her someone you want to hug, but don’t want to fuck with. Carol Danvers is ambitious and tough, but also has a strong sense of duty. Being a soldier, a pilot, and a hero, she sees that as part of her mission. It’s what makes her so likable as both a character and a hero.
She can have an edge, but she doesn’t have to be an asshole about it. Being an asshole is one of those traits that knows no gender. Brie Larson is a great actress who has proven that she can play tough, balanced roles. Let her do that and look sexy as hell in the process. That’ll help any movie.
Tip #4: Acknowledge Carol’s Faults And Let Her Bear Burdens
In addition to her attitude, Carol Danvers does has faults. Again, and it’s worth repeating, she is not Wonder Woman. She’s not some demigod princess whose beauty and strength were forged by gods. She’s an ordinary American woman who got her powers because she ended up working with an alien spy. She a fallible, mortal human being with tangible flaws. Any movie about her shouldn’t hide those flaws.
Some of those flaws are more obvious than others and I’m not just talking about the unpleasantness surrounding the plot with Marcus Immortus. Despite being ambitious and determined, Carol tends to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie and is prone to take stupid risks. This has gotten her into trouble before and quite recently in the comics.
With that in mind, it shouldn’t be too surprising that she’s also an alcoholic. However, it’s not the kind of alcoholism that we see with Iron Man. His brand of alcoholism is largely a product of irresponsibility and poor coping skills. Carol’s alcoholism is more about escaping her problems.
In the context of her character, that makes sense. She grew up looking at the stars and wanting to actually go there. She’s always pushing herself to fly a little higher and faster. When she’s unable to do that, she looks for an escape.
For her, accepting limitations is not easy. That’s how her alcoholism got so destructive in the comics, so much so that even Iron Man noticed it. When Iron Man says you have a drinking problem, you can skip the intervention.
That doesn’t mean that Carol has to be a total drunk in the movie. It doesn’t even have to be overtly stated. The reason why Carol drinks is more important than her actually drinking. Accepting limits is difficult for her. It’s a key part of her story and her personality. Let her endure those burdens. Let her confront those flaws. She doesn’t have to be Wonder Woman. Let her be human, with or without her powers.
Tip #5: Make The Kree/Skull War As Epic As Possible
This is somewhat indirect of Carol’s story, but one that’s vital if “Captain Marvel” is to be a fitting addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Beyond just being one of Marvel’s most powerful female characters, her movie also has to expand the overall mythos of the MCU. “Wonder Woman” did that too with DC, albeit on a very limited scale.
In this case, though, that scale needs to be turned up to eleven and given an unlimited supply of crack. That’s because it was announced at the San Diego Comic Con that the “Captain Marvel” movie would introduce the world to the Kree/Skrull war. Talk to any long-time Marvel Comics fan, like yours truly, and they’ll tell you two things. One, She-Hulk is uncomfortably sexy. Two, the Kree/Skrull war is insanely epic.
We like to think we humans are pretty damn good at war. We’ve fought so many of them over our history. Compared to the Kree/Skrull war in the comics, though, we might as well be a bunch of two-year olds playing with melted action figures.
This war is beyond anything Stephen Spielberg or Christopher Nolan could ever capture. For one, this war is on a galactic scale. It’s not just about warring tribes who don’t agree on how many goats to sacrifice during the summer solstice. These are two very different species with very different visions for the galaxy. As big as the galaxy is, it’s just not big enough for them to co-exist.
This massive war has influenced many areas of the Marvel Universe within the comics. It’s usually inevitable that the Avengers, X-men, or any major superhero team from Earth gets caught up in it whenever they dare to leave the planet for more than five minutes. It’s a huge part of the cosmic elements to Marvel, which “Guardians of the Galaxy” just started exploring.
Given the success of those movies, “Captain Marvel” has plenty to build on. Carol Danvers is a soldier. Putting her in the middle of an epic war the likes of which few humans can even fathom will help bring out the best in that soldier. That’s why the Kree/Skrull war has to be as epic as a galactic-level war deserves to be. It’ll bring out the best and worst in all those involved.
There are a lot more tips I can give, but these are the big ones. Unlike “Wonder Woman,” Captain Marvel doesn’t have the burden of proving that female superheroes can hold their own. That has already been proven, so much so that even Ryan Reynolds from “Deadpool” acknowledged it.
More than anything else, “Captain Marvel” must show that Carol Danvers is someone who deserves to be in the same league as Wonder Woman. She’s not the same icon that Wonder Woman is, but she has the potential to be. This movie could finally help realize that potential. It could also be a “Catwoman” level screw-up and no character, male or female, deserves that.