It’s been a week of clearing the clutter and to be frank, the latest woman-strong comic-book rendition coming out of Hollywood in the character of Carol Danvers – aka Captain Marvel – should be tossed to the side with Marie Kondo’s “things that don’t bring us joy.”
This week, WomanScape cleared the clutter and made room for clarity of mind. Sometimes I escape to the movies to do just that – clear my mind. Like most, I expect it to be freeing. But Marvel Studio’s Captain Marvel did just the opposite – it left me feeling disappointed and uninspired.
Photo credit: CinemartCinemas.com
Captain Marvel is billed as an action-comedy flick for all the wrong reasons. Sadly, it lacks the energy and fantastical scenes I’ve come to expect in superhero movies.
Who starts a movie with choppy flashbacks and no character motivation? The broken tempo confuses viewers who want to cheer on the hero and expect to see an action-packed volley of explosions, superhero powers and Starforce battle scenes.
Instead, we meet Jude Law – the Starforce Commander as he answers a knock on his door from Brie Larson (aka Captain Marvel who doesn’t yet know her powers). Brie’s character Carol Danvers can’t sleep so she decides to practice fight with Jude’s character, Yon-Rogg. When he says she’s ready for her first mission, the botched confrontation with the Skrulls is nothing more than an interstellar beat cop mess-up. It reminded me of an old-school Star Trek battle with the Klingons but without a fight.
What I do know is that I also found myself laughing at all the wrong places and shaking my head over the implausible storyline, the lack of character motivation and the stilted jokes. I try to find redeeming qualities in every film I see, including the ones I don’t like that somehow made it to the box office. But full disclosure, lately I have become an increasing fan of Indie-type, independent films. They push tired Hollywood narratives and redundant remakes aside for richer, more contextualized storytelling.
So that’s why this situation is strange. Captain Marvel directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck come from the Indie world but totally missed the emotional mark on this film. Maybe they grappled with the superhero concept and got stuck in the middle, forced to direct a bad story that fails to satisfy on any emotional level. Unless, of course, you’re a fan of superheroes punching old lady albeit posing as shapeshifters and trying to blend into the crowd on a Los Angeles subway car? It’s just one of many cheap setups done for a laugh or advancing a plot point.
Photo credit: Express.co.uk
Everything feels contrived in the movie, including the flashback scenes that just keep coming. Clunky footage of Carol being knocked down and getting back up as a kid are meant to show her gritting through adversity.
Agent S.H.I.E.L.D. – Fury (Samuel L Jackson) – has unexplained access to everything top secret yet he’s a rogue agent. And Carol’s old friend Maria? She is remarkably composed when suddenly reunited six years after believing her friend was killed in a plane crash.
With the financial firepower behind this film and so many entertaining, diverse and truly original story-lines on Netflix, Amazon and other alternative movie-making powerhouses, I expect Hollywood to do better. Captain Marvel is the next big female superpower following on the heels of Wonder Woman. It’s a lot of pressure, but I really wanted Brie Larson to find her solar-system footing with this messy but potentially admirable character whose human vulnerabilities and fallibility could have been realized in Carol Danvers.
But that didn’t happen despite Brie’s star-talent. Typically, she lights up the screen in anything she does, including her breakout Oscar-winning role for Best Actress in Room followed by a lead role in Jeanette Wall’s The Glass Castle. Even her talent can’t save the film that falls short in so many ways. I’m amazed it wasn’t galactically rejected before it made it to the big screen.
Photo credit: BBC
Quite simply, Captain Marvel is impossible for me to recommend. I’d like to tell you, readers, to see the movie and judge for yourself.
But please squander your hard-earned money on something else, anything else. It’s already burned a hole in my pocket. All this and I’m also feeling shamelessly protective of the tarnished reputation that this movie may bring to its big-name actors Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, and Annette Benning.
Wondering how I arrived at this extreme viewpoint? I’ve surprised even myself. Honestly, I was bowled over to learn about the financial supports that tried to hold it together. If only it were that easy. The $20-million dollar tax credit given by the California Film Commission to help produce the film in Los Angeles and an additional $300 million dollars on marketing to garner global attention weren’t enough to save it. Gosh, just to break-even, the film needs to hit the $750-million-dollar mark, which will probably happen for three reasons: the big-name actors, the lull period after the Oscars and our desperate desire for more women-centric films.
So how does a movie like this not go straight to video, especially given the number of directors like Ava DuVernay who declined the opportunity to direct the movie when the script was first announced in 2013. When film production got underway in 2018, the writers and actors seemed to step in and out of the production which probably added to the discombobulated storyline.
And what of the writing? I suspect Marvel Studios didn’t know what they wanted to do with the story but figured a strong female character was enough. The movie is supposed to be the backstory to Carol becoming Captain Marvel, but this fails without any antagonistic drama to set her on a clear hero’s quest.
What I know is that as women continue to make waves in Hollywood and across industries, even if it’s not nearly enough, the world wants to see strong women in front of the camera and behind it. When Kathyrn Bigalow won the Oscar for Best Director for The Hurt Locker (2009), the world cheered. The gate squeaked open for female directors. It was a start.
Directors like Karyn Kusama (Girl Fight, The Destroyer) and Nadine Labaki are coming on strong. Labaki’s Oscar-nominated foreign film Capernaum provides a unique and moving perspective on the painful situation for refugees and kids living on the street in Lebanon. Labaki’s voice matters – it will move people to act.
As more women demand bonafide roles and scripts for lead female characters, and female film directors step into the chair, the pressure to keep producing meaningful work must continue. We need to be vigilant and give film festivals around the world great women-centered content.
In movies like Captain Marvel, it’s not enough to build a story around a female hero if the plot is glaringly weak. I can’t help but feel Captain Marvel took the wind right out of my Wonder Woman cape.
No doubt, there are other great female archetypes to come. How about a scientist or someone the world really can look up to? That’s the kind of Womanscape I’d like to see for young women and girls to latch on to.