Tag Archives: Marvel Comics

Fanboy Movie Review #13 — Captain Marvel

[Note: I do not consider myself a movie critic. What follows is just one fanboy’s opinion based off of a single viewing of the film. Oh, and there are SPOILERS ahead, so take heed.]

Captain Marvel, the latest feature film from Marvel, debuted three weeks ago. Sure, there have been other comic book movies featuring a female lead, even one set in the Marvel universe, but this is the first time we’ve had one in the MCU proper. It’s also a sort of prequel that’s largely set in the late ’80s and mid-’90s.

Title Card

Yaaaas Queen!

One thing real quick.

Yes, it’s tempting to compare this movie to 2017’s Wonder Woman, since both are female superhero adventure films, and speak directly to things like the perception of womens’ roles, inspirational female empowerment, and breaking societal molds. Still, they are two different movies, emerging from two different continuities. Wonder Woman was a gem that came out of nowhere from the chaotic mess that is the DCEU. In contrast, the MCU has far more entries and is much more consistent in terms of tone, direction, and writing.

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Perhaps one day when Disney owns everything we’ll  finally get this mighty team up. 

Truth be told, I had always hoped that Marvel would get to this point first (*cough* Black Widow *cough*), but I am glad that Wonder Woman came out first. For one, it gave DC a much-needed win, but it also allowed Captain Marvel to do its own thing, since it also had to be more aligned with Marvel’s metaplot and serve as the set up for Avengers 4.

First Impressions: Carol Danvers is a fantastic character in the comics. She’s a military officer, a leader, a fearless combatant, and practically a one-woman army. When it comes to the upper tier of powerful heroes, she is easily up there with Thor, the Silver Surfer, and the Hulk. And considering the poor state of the Avengers at the end of Infinity War, they desperately need new allies. Adding Captain Marvel to the battleline is one helluva reinforcement. The MCU has a pretty slick track record for transitioning heroes from the page to the screen, so count me in.

What I LIKED:

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Over 9,000!!!

THAT STAN LEE TRIBUTE! I thought there might be a Stan Lee tribute in this movie since Captain Marvel is the first release since he passed away. I was not prepared for this. I’m tearing up just thinking about it. The Mallrats cameo was also very touching. Excelsior…

The Captain Herself – There was a lot of talk about how wooden Brie Larson is in this role. I disagree. She might be poker-faced, but that’s perfectly in keeping with the character she’s playing. She’s a soldier, a fighter pilot, and essentially a member of Kree special forces. She’s a storm contained in human form, but one who decides where and when to focus that power. That level of stillness (almost Zen) and determination in the face of the enemy is exactly what I would expect. I think her performance is much more nuanced than is being recognized.

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I see you. 

Nick Fury – What movie can’t be made better with the addition of Samuel L. Jackson, huh? What I like about this is that he is playing a proto-Fury, a less experienced, less hard-edged version of himself. He’s not at the top of his game yet, and while he is moving up the ranks of SHIELD, he’s not the master spy we see in later films. I love being able to look into this period of the character’s life. That leads me to my next point.

Agent Friggin’ Coulson – Coulson was the common thread that brought together a diverse array of heroes into the Avengers, and his death cemented their resolve. I was overjoyed when he returned in Agents of SHIELD, even though he is remains the ‘unsung’ hero of the continuity. Seeing him as the new guy at SHIELD was great. It goes a long way to explain why Coulson is so loyal to Director Fury later on. Of course, I wish he had a larger role, but I was glad to see him at all. Thanks, Phil.

Talos – Ben Mendelsohn is a fantastic actor. He’s played the villain in a few high-profile films in the last few years, from Nolan Sorento in Ready Player One, to Orson Krennic in Rogue One. When he shows up on screen, I sort of expect him to be evil, which is why his casting for the role of Talos is so inspired. It’s a meta bait-and-switch to find out that, no, Talos is actually a sympathetic character who is fighting to ensure the safety of his family. Brilliant. If Ben’s game for it, I would love to see Talos appear in future installments.

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“Mind if I have a drink of your tasty beverage to wash this down?”

GOOSE – I love the running joke that everyone in the know is instantly terrified when they find out Goose is a Flerken. The big reveal that Goose is hyper lethal when he wants to be is a great moment of the film. The only downside is that I think they played the Goose card a bit too much in the last part of the movie.

Carol “Avenger” Danvers – I’ve heard that some folks didn’t care for the reveal of how the Avengers Initiative got its name. I thought it was a nice touch, especially since the alternate name “Protector” was more accurate for the idea Fury had, but was bland. Giving Carol the credit for naming the program is a nice way to include her in the growing mythology of the movies. Maybe that’s just me.

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Perhaps we’ll get a Photon/Pulsar on screen in the future, or even a second Captain Marvel. 

Lieutenant Trouble – Actress Akira Akbar plays a young Monica Rambeau, a character who grows up (in the comics) to take the mantle of Captain Marvel for a time. Her mother’s callsign of “Photon” was also fun, as Monica takes that as her superhero name later on. Since we are fast-forwarding back to the present in Endgame, perhaps we will get to see Monica grown upon Carol’s return, perhaps even following her mother’s example and joining the military.

Where’s Fury? –  That post credit sequence was intense. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to explain the situation to her. Yikes.

What I DIDN’T Like:

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Good thing she was right. 

The “Light Speed Engine” – The central MacGuffin of the film, which also serves to give Captain Marvel her powers, doesn’t fit. We are told time and time again that it will end the war. How? When you have the ability to travel from the Kree capital to Earth by opening a single hexagonal wormhole, an engine that goes the speed of light would be unimaginably slower. It would take you 4 years and some change to reach Proxima Centauri. Reaching another galaxy would take millions of years, relatively speaking. So how would that affect the course of the war? If there was a piece of dialogue to explain this, I didn’t catch it.

Pacing – The first part of the film starts off slow, and could have used some tightening up. I will give them credit for framing a large part of the early exposition as Talos and company scanning through Carol’s memories. “No, no, let me drive.”

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Wait…wut?

Nick Fury’s Eye – If I recall correctly, the Ultimates Nick Fury lost his eye in a duel with Wolverine, thus the three visible scars across his ruined eye. Since Marvel Studios didn’t have the rights to the X-Men when the character first appeared at the end of Iron Man, we were left with the mystery of how the world’s foremost super-spy lost an eye. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Fury tells Cap, “The last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye.” Now we know it was Goose, who paws at his eye for no apparent reason. This is the MCU equivalent of finding out that Han Solo’s last name comes from some guy at starport customs. It’s underwhelming, and Fury himself doesn’t seem too upset about it. Almost any other explanation would have been better than this one. Ugh.

Nick Fury’s Retcon – It’s established in the early MCU that Nick Fury worked with Howard Stark. He even tells Tony in Iron Man 2 that he knew Howard better than his own son. Unless a senior member of the SHIELD’s steering committee, (who died a few years before the events of Captain Marvel, at the hands of the Winter Solider) took a very rookie agent under this wing, this doesn’t bear out. It also seems to contradict some of the back and forth between Fury and Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce in Winter Soldier. I have to wonder if anyone at Marvel Studios acts as a sort of ‘line editor’ for the movies just to get these little bits of continuity right. Yeah, yeah, I know—it’s a fanboy nitpick, but consistency is the glue of any great continuity. It’s making sure that if the aliens attacked on a Tuesday in one place, they aren’t referenced as attacking on Saturday somewhere else. 

“I’m Just A Girl” – I’m all for ’90s music, which this movie has in spades. I’m also down for Gwen Stefani and No Doubt…just maybe not during a serious combat sequence. I get the message the song is sending, and it’s good one. Still, I like to imagine that when Captain Marvel steps foot on the battlefield that it’s like the rush of an oncoming storm. Something like Carmina Burana should start playing, or something rousing. Pinar Toprak delivered a wonderful score, one with remarkable depth and subtlety. Why not let her drive home the importance of this fight with an inspirational battle theme that’s uniquely Carol’s? Having the fight play out to “I’m Just A Girl” made it seem gimmicky and cheapened the moment.

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A bit anticlimactic. 

“I Don’t Need To Prove Anything To You” – A funny moment in the film to be sure, but one that seemed like a cop out. Earlier in the story we see Carol and Yon-Rogg sparing. I thought this would be the Chekhov’s Gun for later in the movie when they square off again. I wanted to see Carol defeat her previous mentor by outclassing him, and not just because she used her powers. Again. The most telling moments in Black Panther were when T’Challa didn’t have his powers, and still had to fight for Wakanda. I know why it played out this way, but I think it was a missed opportunity to show that Carol could be a badass even without her powers.

The Science Guy – Poor unnamed Skrull “Science Guy.” I’m not sure why he was left behind in the first place. Surely Carol didn’t think that he could stand up under Yon-Rogg’s professional scrutiny (smoking out Skrull infiltrators is kinda his job). Krill Vye the Science Guy seemed nice, if maybe a little bumbling and out of his scope. Too bad his allies left him to die like that. Tragic.

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Round 1…FIGHT!

Unresolved Questions:

There’s the usual stuff about why Fury didn’t use the pager during the Chitauri Invasion, which was led by a renegade Asgardian deity, or when a maniacal AI decided to build a vibranium mass driver. But I suppose we already have the answer to that in a real life sense.

Apart from that, it appears that Captain Marvel’s powers are derived from the Tesseract/Space Stone itself. Is it possible that Thanos might be able to take her powers away since he controls the blue stone? Or might it be the other way around and grant her some measure of immunity from that stone in particular?

As a fan, the real question I’m asking is: How will Captain Marvel interact with the surviving Avengers once she’s returned to Earth? What role will she play in the events ahead, and in whatever victory is to come out of all that. She will be joining a team that already has an existing dynamic and established leader, so how will that work out? I’m looking forward to finding out.

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See you in Endgame, Avenger.

Conclusions:

It’s strange that we are 11 years into the MCU and they are still producing “origin story” movies. And yet, they have it down to a science because I think Captain Marvel definitely works. The vibe inside the theatre was electric, and I could see wide smiles on the many young girls in the audience. For those little ones who wanted a sterling example of superheroism up on the screen, they definitely found it.

The best part was the energy in the lobby as I left the theatre. There were bunches of people all standing around discussing it, laughing, and recapping their favorite moments and quotes. Not even Infinity War had that kind of effect. (Maybe that was because we were all in shocked silence.) At any rate, the movie has its share of flaws and missteps, but so has practically every movie that Marvel has every released. Ultimately, I think that Captain Marvel is a welcome addition to the MCU, and a fantastic character to add to the existing dramatis personae.

Thanos should be worried.

And that’s the way this fanboy sees it.


I’m Thankful for Stan Lee

I’ve had to take a break this year. If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t post as often as I have in the past. Even on this blog, I’ve only posted once this year to cover Infinity War. Well, folks, we live now in a world without Stan Lee. I couldn’t, in good conscience, let that pass without comment.

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A True Believer. 

It’s taken a moment for me to organize my thoughts. Stan The Man left us almost a month ago at the time of this writing, and it wasn’t until Thanksgiving that I realized how I might frame my thank you, my tribute, and my thoughts on his life.

You see, at Thanksgiving I do actually try to acknowledge the things I’m thankful for, whether it’s my health, my family, or what have you. This year, I added Stan Lee. I’m wholly thankful for his works, his personal dynamism and legacy, and the influence he’s had on my life.

My Marvel Origin Story

My first exposure to superheroes was through cartoons. And while we’re mostly talking Marvel today, the consistent source of heroic adventures before I could read came in the form of the various incarnations of The Super Friends. The DC universe’s strength has always been in its monolithic heroes, the larger-than-life icons made flesh such as Wonder Woman or Superman. They are gods made manifest, they are ideals incarnate.

Yet, threaded throughout my cartoon-going experience were The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man, and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. The channels in my area didn’t show them with any regularity, which made them something of ‘found gems’ when did they come on. Here was the first time I heard Stan Lee’s voice as he narrated the episodes. That’s where classic Stan expressions such as “True Believer” and “Face Front” entered my vocabulary. It wasn’t every episode, but sometimes he signed off with his trademark, “This is Stan Lee saying ‘Excelsior!'”

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In contrast to DC, Stan gave us people with superhuman powers who felt more, well, human. They had problems we could relate to. They were flawed characters who could be full of self-doubt or anger. Something about my first blush with these characters told me, even as a kid, that I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg. It made me want to find out more.

My father also happened to be a Marvel guy, whose favorites included Spidey, Iron Man, and Thor. He actively encouraged me to read comics. Some of the first books I ever read on my own involved characters created by Stan Lee. Along the way I added The Uncanny X-Men, Daredevil  and Silver Surfer to the lineup of titles I would try to read. Being from rural Texas, however, there were only two main places I could get comics, and both of them were grocery stores. One put them on a magazine rack with all the titles facing forward, and the other was on a classic carousel rack. Neither store carried titles for very long, so I often just read what was available.

Thankfully for me, I had a cousin who collected comics. He wasn’t able to visit super often, but when he did he brought a bunch of his books with him. We would sit around for hours talking about heroes and villains, and often he was able to fill in the story gaps of those issues I had missed. He also introduced me to Marvel titles I had no access to, a short list being: The Defenders, Strikeforce Morituri, Secret Wars, The Infinity Gauntlet, Avengers, Damage Control, Alpha Flight, What The–?!, and one of my favorites of all time—What If.

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One of my favorite stories of all time. 

This was the first time I felt like I understood what a comic universe was all about, with hundreds or thousands of characters existing in a shared continuity. And in all of this, Stan Lee stood as the architect. Sure, he wasn’t alone in this; there were scores of other writers and iconic artists like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby who brought the characters to life, but even when Stan wasn’t the one who put pen to paper, you could still feel his presence resounding throughout every corner of the Marvel Universe. It was unlike anything I had experienced before, and I became invested in these characters and the setting. I still am, to this day.

The Generalissmo

Stan Lee is perhaps the most influential comic book writer in history. He helped to define not just a genre, but a medium. There aren’t a whole lot of writers who can claim to have steered an entire platform the way he did. Stan was a living icon. Those dark aviator glasses, the mustache, the grey at the temples, his catchphrases, and boundless positivity all made him instantly recognizable all over the world, and in virtually any format.

Goodbye Stan

And all the cameos. I’m sure that the next few Marvel movies will have the trademark Stan Lee cameo in them, and they will be all the more poignant now that he is no longer with us. We can be glad that we had such a dynamic persona at the forefront. I remember a time all too well when comics were really for kids, and usually only for boys. Thankfully now comics are open to everyone, and the more the merrier.  We can attribute that to Stan the Man—either directly or indirectly—in a hundred ways.

Beyond that, you can even feel his presence on the other side of the comic book fence, over in DC land. Less in the movies, but in the more personal TV shows on the CW, by far my favorite interpretation of that universe in recent years. In that telling, we have characters who must balance their superhero career with their personal lives, who suffer greatly for doing the right thing. Sound familiar? And yet, they always rise to the occasion, because they, too, live by the same creed that Stan Lee first gave us in Spider-Man. Say it with me now:

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As true today as it ever was. 

So, not only was he the architect of the Marvel universe, but ‘those other guys,’ as he might put it, also feel his influence. Again, I don’t know of any other writer that has so influenced his medium. (If you can think of one, feel free to leave it in the comments.)

Founder of the Flame

I started writing this post before the Avengers: Endgame trailer came out. Now that’s it’s here, it got me to thinking. I had hoped that Stan would be with us when the sequel to Infinity War hit theatres. I do hope he got the inside scoop of what was going to happen, or saw some dailies, or something. He left us right when the heroes he brought to life were at their lowest point. They fought Thanos, and they lost.

Even though I think Endgame is going to be bittersweet, and we may lose one or more of our favorites by the end, it saddens me that Stan won’t get to see the Avengers stand triumphant at the culmination of 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since we know that Spider-Man and Black Panther are returning, we at least know that the surviving Avengers put things to rights in some regard.

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Pretty much how I felt when I heard Stan was gone. 

I know that ‘superhero fatigue’ is something critics and pundits have been talking about for years now. Sure, superhero movies may eventually go out of fashion, become unprofitable, or slowly go the way of the Western, but for now I am as hyped for this movie as much as I have been for any other offering of the MCU, including the original Avengers film. That spark of excitement, that joy of seeing these characters brought to life, burns strong in my heart. It’s a bonfire, in fact.

Stan is the one who lit that torch. There are many who have been the keepers of that flame over the years, and many whose works have sustained it and fed it, but Stan Lee was the prime mover. I cannot overstate what an influence that fire has been on me, both in my own writing, as well as on me personally.

And the truth is, I am a better person because of his work, and the enduring legacy he leaves behind. I’m far from the only one. So, as one of his True Believers, let me simply say this: Thank you, Stan, and good-bye. It won’t be easy the next time I see the Marvel montage roll. But no matter how many of your characters I see on the screen, or in the pages of comics, you remain my hero.

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‘Nuff said. 

And now this post ends the only way it really can…

excelsior