The Marvelous Mrs. Marvel
by Jeff Bowles
(For more on Captain Marvel, be sure to check out my full video review)
As far as Marvel movies go, Captain Marvel feels refreshing, if a bit familiar. It carries with it little of the eccentric energy found in other recent Marvel flicks like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but it also requires less of audiences who have yet to drink the Marvel Kool-Aid. Much like 2018’s box office behemoth Black Panther, the hero in question is not a white male, and as the star of a major Hollywood production released in the #MeToo era, that makes all the difference.
Which isn’t to suggest Marvel Studios’ latest doesn’t give plenty of nods to what has come before, and perhaps in a more lucrative vein, to what’s still headed our way. We finally learn how Nick Fury lost his eye, for instance, but filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are also thrilled to butter us up for that big late-April showdown called Avengers: Endgame (check your calendars, kids. Don’t forget to pre-order all the toys, and oh yeah, maybe a movie ticket or five).
If superhero tropes and comic-isms are as indecipherable to you as Kree battle language, odds are good the scope and scale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe rings hollow. Some of us have been on board since we were kids, leafing through our favorite monthly Marvel comics like little back-issue hording zealots. But if your speed is less Captain America and more … well, any other movie ever made, really—it’s safe to take heart. Captain Marvel is a pretty good jumping on point.
Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is an Air Force fighter pilot with super-powered amnesia. A strange event in her past wiped her memories clean and granted her incredible abilities, the sum total of which she’s dutifully employed freedom-fighting for a race of intergalactic warriors known as the Kree (best personified by her squad leader, Yon-Rogg—played by master geek-movie thespian, Jude Law). When the Kree’s deadliest enemies, a race of green shapeshifters known as the Skrulls, capture Carol and bring her back to Earth, the nascent Captain Marvel must team up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (an impressively de-aged Samuel L. Jackson) to discover the secret behind the pivotal accident. Plus, you know, she’ll get to rock out to an unquestionably righteous and eclectic 90s soundtrack.
The fact that this movie takes place in 1995 only adds to its charm. There are era-specific nods and in-jokes aplenty, including a fun Stan Lee cameo that’ll tug at your sense of nostalgia. The film’s setting also means that most of the super-heroic hi-jinks found in the other 20 MCU movies have yet to occur. It’s a prequel more than anything else. Rounding out the cast are an unexpectedly funny Ben Mendelsohn as Skrull commander Keller, Lashana Lynch as Carol’s best friend, Maria Rambeau, and a de-aged Clark Gregg, happy to take a break from playing Agent Coulson on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to play … a younger-looking version of the exact same character.
Additional highlights include a cute but vicious orange cat named Goose, though I won’t spoil the big reveal here, and the marvelously named Air Force marvel, Mar-Vell (a somewhat spaced out and liminal Annette Bening). For the most part, Captain Marvel gets by on its charm. It’s best described as an above average superhero origin story, but unfortunately, there remains a certain amount of roughness in its narrative. Big chunks of exposition get belted out from behind scads of green creature makeup, and the grand finale carries enough logic gaps you may find yourself wondering, “She was just fighting that guy. So now who are these people?”
A lot of early buzz surrounding this movie included controversial comments made by Larson herself, but really, if a storytelling medium largely created by boys for boys can’t come to grips with a few girls getting in on the action whenever they damn well please, there’s less hope for this world than any of us could have ever imagined. Captain Marvel as a character has been blasting across the universe since the late sixties, but it was only in recent years that a woman donned the suit. And Larson does a fantastic job portraying Danvers on film. She is cocky, self-assured, funny, compassionate, caring, and once her full powers get unleashed, wonderfully formidable. A certain kinship evolves between her and Samuel Jackson’s Agent Fury, and moments spent in the Louisiana home of her best friend Maria prove that an intergalactic badass can be all about family, too.
Audiences are likely to get more out of the experience if they possess a running mental lexicon of all things Marvel, but unlike last year’s Avengers: Infinity War and the forthcoming Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel is likely to be a fun time no matter what prior knowledge you have going in. If you’re burned out on films featuring god-like people beating the holy Skrull out of each other, you may be better entertained elsewhere. But as Thor Odinson once famously declared to the world-eating demon Surtur, “That’s what heroes do.”
It’s a very geeky multiverse we live in, people.
Jeff’s Movie Reviews gives Captain Marvel an 8 out of 10.
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Although the Harry Potter movies were geared toward a young audience, adults enjoyed them as well. But as Harry Potter grew older throughout the series, so did the main viewers. The 2016 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them expands J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World for an older audience, leaving Harry and his friends waiting in the England of the future. Even if you haven’t seen any of the Harry Potter movies, you can easily follow the events of this movie, as it easily stands on its own merit.
The creatures in this movie are fantastic example of creativity, and the imaging is awesome. The story is crafted in a way that draws you into the story subtly. You’re so involved with the fish out of water story of Newt Scamander and his suitcase full of marvelous creatures in 1926 New York, that the A story line almost escapes notice in the background until Newt solves the mystery of what kind of beast is terrorizing the city.
I found Fantasic Beasts and Where to Find Them to be thoroughly entertaining; a fresh take on a fascinating and beloved world. I give it four quills.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PPZ) takes a classic piece of literature and gives it a modern horror twist by adding zombies to the story. While the 2016 movie is based on the 2009 book written by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, the result is an entirely different thing.
The book plot is essentially the same as the original Pride and Prejudice. The Bennett sisters are single women in want of husbands, and their mother is determined to find them each one. When the eldest sister, Jane, meets the well-to-do Mr. Bingley, she’s immediately smitten and so is he. The sparks between Jane’s sister, Elizabeth, and Bingley’s friend, Mr. Darcy, however, are not of the same sort. Elizabeth and Darcy go through a series of verbal sparring matches, letting their pride and prejudice get in the way of their chance at love.
Seth Grahame-Smith’s book edition adds zombies in the mix, and turns the Bennett sisters into skilled fighters. There are other minor changes, like at one point a verbal sparring match between Darcy and Elizabeth is turned into a physical fighting match, but overall the story of the PPZ book is much the same as the original novel there are just zombies in the world.
The PPZ movie, however, did what I wish the book had. The zombies become a crucial part of the story rather than just a world detail and minor complication. The premise for the PPZ movie is that zombies have taken over much of England except for a barricaded safe zone. Darcy is a Colonel in the war against the zombies, and a skilled fighter. The Bennett sisters have all been trained in Chinese martial arts and sword fighting, and are skilled fighters themselves. The fight against the zombies, and their growing numbers, is much more central to the plot of the movie and I think it works better than the zombie element in the book. The romantic plot of the movie follows much the same plot as the original book, with the exception of Wickham and Lydia.
I think the book PPZ is enjoyable because it’s essentially Pride and Prejudice just with the added elements of zombies. That being said, I found it annoying that the zombie element was not integrated into the plot more and that it seemed frivolous. I dislike things that aren’t essential to the story being thrown in. The PPZ movie, however, fixed that for me and did it in a way I enjoyed. The zombies aren’t just your typical walking dead, they’re an actively malevolent threat that leaves potential for a sequel. However, the movie did have issues of its own. If you can make it past the first thirty minutes (more details of issues below the spoiler tag), things do settle out and end up in a fun story, but there are some things to overlook to get there.
Overall, it’s worth the watch if you enjoy both zombie movies and Pride and Prejudice. Just be prepared for a mix of genres, and don’t hang your expectations too strongly on this being your typical Pride and Prejudice remake. By the end, I was ready to watch the second one (if it ever gets made), even though the beginning falters.
**** MOVIE SPOILERS BELOW ****
The biggest issue in the movie is the first thirty minutes. It’s clear the writers struggled with how to start this version of the story because it’s kind of all over the place tonally.
Tonally, there are some awkward moments that just don’t quite sit right. For example, early on there is a strange sexualized moment with Darcy and a doctor who is checking him over. Which I understand is supposed to foreshadow the doctor is not good at his job and has let an infected person into the house, but it isn’t blended well into the story. Plus, later on there are several moments where the Bennett sisters are getting ready for the party at Mr. Bingley’s when they are arming themselves that are also sexualized in the same odd way. While I didn’t mind that it was equal opportunity sexualization, it created a strange pause in the story and just didn’t blend smoothly. Then the sexual element would disappear and it’d feel like the storytelling shifted.
The tone problem continued early on when it came to humor as well. There were some great humorous moments – Matt Smith as Mr. Collins was wonderful – but they also weren’t blended in with the story well. They stuck out here and there like they were saying “this is supposed to be funny.” And while a lot of the moments were funny, they were also awkward at times and interrupted the story flow.
One moment specifically where I think it was meant to be humor but it just struck out for me, was when Darcy sees Elizabeth and the Bennett sisters fight the zombies at Mr. Bingley’s party. It goes from this big fight sequence to focusing on Darcy, and everything stops while he spouts this speech about Elizabeth and how he sees her differently now. Then it goes back to the action. I interpreted it as intending to be funny, but it felt instead like they paused the action movie to have an “Austen moment” and then hit play again. Which, could have been funny, but it almost didn’t feel deliberate which turned it into an awkward moment.
Once the story got going, however, things definitely balanced out and I felt like I could orient myself better in the story. The first thirty minutes just had me confused as I tried to figure out what type of story I was watching. That being said, I feel safe in saying that this is not an easy to classify movie. It’s not quite horror, not quite romance, not quite comedy… It definitely has some fun action moments, but it also doesn’t follow the typical action lines. It’s truly a crossover movie, and once you accept that while watching it becomes easier to stay with it. You just have to make it through the beginning and let yourself accept it as something new.
Honestly, I think this is the sort of movie that would really benefit from a dual viewing. The first to get oriented in the method of storytelling and cross-genre elements, and the second so you can just sit back an enjoy.
If the beginning was fixed, this would easily be a 4-4.5 Star movie for me, but as it stands, I can only give it: