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Captain Marvel

Wonder Woman² – With a Comparison to Captain Marvel

***There are spoilers for both movies ahead***

Check out Nancy’s take on Captain Marvel, which she wrote shortly after it came out in theaters.

On our quarantine weekends, Fiancé and I have been marathoning movies. We pull out the couch (it doubles as a futon), sprawl out with pillows and snacks, and go to town. So far we’ve marathoned Lord of the Rings (extended editions, obvs), Batman (pre-Nolan and Nolan directed), Christopher Reeves’ Superman saga, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, bounced around between some DC animated movies we haven’t seen yet, and now we’re working on the DC Cinematic Universe that started with Man of Steel.

I’m sure this has been done, because how could it not have been, but I couldn’t help thinking while watching Captain Marvel of the comparisons it drew to Wonder Woman. Watching Wonder Woman again only threw the differences into greater relief.

Wonder Woman is the DCU’s take on Diana’s origins. Set during World War I, Diana leaves her home, Themyscira, when she rescues a pilot named Steve Trevor. He carries important information that could end the course of the war. Believing that Ares, the god of war, is behind the rampant destruction, Diana spirits Steve off the island and pursues Ares to fulfill the Amazon’s sacred duty of protecting the world from the vengeful god.

Captain Marvel follows the story of Vers/Carol Danvers, a Kree Starforce member/human fighter pilot. After absorbing a vast amount of energy from an experimental engine, she gains incredible powers but loses the memory of her life on Earth. What she does remember comes back to her in dreams and short flashes. In 1995 she winds up back on Earth, escaping from the Skrull (with whom the Kree are at war), and instead of trying to get back to Kree, decides to team up with a man named Nick Fury to find out more about her past.

The simplest way to explain the plots of both movies is perhaps: flagship female superhero finds herself out of her element, and must find a way to save the world while simultaneously working within the confines of a setting she’s unfamiliar with.

Wonder Woman did this SO much better than Captain Marvel did, and here’s why.

The first reason is in the portrayal of the heroines by their actresses, and how they interact with their mentor of the world they are unaccustomed to. Gal Gadot’s performance of Diana suggested naive innocence and idealism. Diana is doggedly determined to rid Man’s World of Aries’ influence and stop the war, but she has very different ideas of how to do it than everyone else. She doesn’t understand all the hoops and red tape Steve knows they need to navigate, and gets frustrated with the inconveniences. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is cynical, world-weary, yet focused and determined to do something too – and he’s willing to indulge Diana’s seemingly crazy ideas if she’ll help.

Watching these two – it’s magical. There’s real chemistry between these characters. Half the fun of watching this movie is watching Steve’s exaggerated, exasperated patience with Diana asking a million questions a minute, like a petulant child. Yet, you can’t help but love them each for it. Their relationship progressed organically from mentor/student to friends to lovers, all while remaining mostly equals, making it seem more real and believable.

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Steve Trevor and Diana Prince after saving the village of Veld.

Brie Larson’s portrayal of Carol was, to put it nicely, unemotional to the point of being flat. I suppose it was to show how the Kree are generally in strict control of their emotions… but Carol is human and not Kree, right? So despite her thinking she was Kree for most of the movie, it would stand to reason that we would see some excess of emotion from her at some point, right? Even if it was on accident?? Even in moments where it’s completely warranted and expected, such as her reuniting with her best friend, Maria – right???

The vibe I got from Carol and Nick Fury’s interactions were more of almost a buddy cop dynamic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s just less of that mentor-ship that we see going on with Diana and Steve. It’s clear both Carol and Nick have been around the block, albeit in different ways and in different galaxies. However, their connection seemed a bit forced to me; yes, they teamed up out of necessity, but if I felt Carol was feeling anything at all, it was smug arrogance, solely through her interactions with Fury. More on this in a moment.

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Nick Fury and Carol Danvers infiltrating a U.S. Air Force Base.

Though both Diana and Carol are superhuman beings, and warriors to boot, Diana is shown to be more well-rounded in the emotions department. There was never any point in Captain Marvel where I felt emotionally connected to Carol. I think this is more the fault of the writing more than it is Larson’s portrayal, which leads me to my second point:

The way misogyny is handled in both movies is VASTLY different, and makes a HUGE impact on the way the titular characters interact with their environments, and the emotional weight of each story.

You ever wonder why the No Man’s Land scene in Wonder Woman is so powerful? Why you cry like a baby every time you watch it? Admit it, you know it’s not just me 😉

It’s because, for the entire movie up until that point, we see Diana being told “no.”

  • No, you can’t be a warrior
  • No, you can’t leave home
  • No, you can’t dress that way
  • No, you can’t come into this war council
  • No, you can’t go to the front

Now, no one says these things in so many words, and it’s not always that obvious. It may be only on your second or third viewing that you REALLY pick up on all the subtle ways that Diana is being restricted – which mirrors what happens in real-life with instances of misogyny. It’s not always being told “no” exactly, more often it’s being dismissed or sidebarred – which we see Diana go through. When we get to the No Man’s Land scene, and Steve tells Diana they are not going to help the village of Veld, Diana has heard her last “no.”

It’s so powerful because Diana is FINALLY standing up for herself, what she believes in, her mission, and she is going to do it no matter what anyone says. It’s so powerful because she has tried to assimilate into Man’s World and to their ways, but she finally realizes that their ways don’t work, and she carves herself a new path, her own way. It’s so powerful because she is embracing her feminine power to save the world, and her ultimate superpower: not her brute strength, but her ability to provide hope in a completely hopeless situation.

The brilliancy and beauty of this scene is in the movie’s moves up until this point to try and hem Diana in, so subtle that it’s nearly subconscious. When you see her finally break free in this scene, the movie has earned all the ugly tears you shed over it, and then some.

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Yup, it’s right about here that I always start sobbing

Captain Marvel didn’t have an equivalent scene, though it tried to. Near the end of the movie, Carol confronts the Supreme Intelligence and breaks her inhibitor chip. It also gave us a slew of flashbacks to Carol’s childhood in which we are shown in quick succession how Carol has been told “no,” and that’s what’s allows her to break free and come into her full power, which we then see in the next scene: the “I’m Just a Girl” scene, where Carol fights her former Kree squadron for the Tesseract.

The problem with this scene – and with the movie in general – is Carol is explicitly told “no,” in so many words, in those flashbacks. We are beaten over the head with scenes like this:

  • Carol and Maria getting hit on by a sleazy guy at a bar
  • Carol and Maria can’t become fighter pilots
  • Carol needs to control her emotions
  • Carol can’t play baseball
  • Carol can’t go that fast on a go-kart track
  • … All because they are girls or women.

Carol, and the audience, are explicitly told these things, instead of being shown them. The subtlety that worked so well in Wonder Woman is missing altogether from Captain Marvel. The obviousness of the misogyny in this movie strip much of the meaning away from the instances in which they occur, or their motivation for Carol.

I mentioned above that I felt Carol to be a cold, arrogant presence throughout this movie – this is why. It felt as if she was so hell-bent on proving her worth, despite her being a woman, that that’s all her character became. This crippled her relationship with Fury. Instead of Fury becoming a guide to Carol when she returns to Earth, he became the receiving end of the superiority she picked up from her time as a Kree. It felt as if he was reduced to a comic relief sidekick alongside Carol, instead of the force of nature we had previously seen and known him to be. Though this is a prequel movie for Fury, and he arguably doesn’t quite have the experience to be a mentor yet as he’s early in his career, the fact remains that as far as she knows, he is still Carol’s bridge between Kree and Earth – and to me it felt like Carol knew better than he did.

Now, I know Carol was brainwashed to believe she was really a Kree. It seemed as if all the flashbacks from Carol’s former life on Earth shown in the movie were instances like these: blatant misogyny. What it really needed was more of Carol being a badass like Maria talked about during the kitchen scene. The Carol Maria talked about sounded awesome! She was a pain in her best friend’s butt! She was an amazing pilot! She loved to go out and dance and do kareoke! She was an aunt figure to Maria’s daughter, Monica! THAT’S the Carol we needed to see – the truly human Carol!!!

In fact, the one thing Captain Marvel did better than Wonder Woman was the inclusion of Maria’s character. What little we saw of Maria and Carol’s friendship was AMAZING!!! They had such a great friendship, of two women (one of them of color!!!) LOVING AND SUPPORTING EACH OTHER UNCONDITIONALLY!!! There wasn’t enough time spent on any female characters other than Diana in Wonder Woman for us to see any friendships form between her and another woman (though I am hopeful we see this between Diana and Barbara Ann Minerva in WW84, coming out in October at time of posting).

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What Captain Marvel really needed: more Maria

The movie needed more of this truly human Carol. The pre-brainwashed Carol as seen through Maria and Monica’s eyes, to make the audience care about her, and to make us believe that she is more than a single dimension: that of being a woman with something to prove. It’s otherwise difficult for the audience to remember that she IS supposed to be human, and therefore it’s difficult for the audience to emotionally connect with her.

The heavy-handed misogyny in Captain Marvel also strips away any and all emotional impact we are supposed to feel from anything – especially the final fight scenes, after Carol finally comes into her full power. The movie tried SO HARD to show us Carol’s girl power that that’s all her character was reduced to. When we finally get to the “I’m Just a Girl” fight scene, we just roll our eyes at yet ANOTHER in-your-face instance of Carol’s femininity. Captain Marvel hamstrung itself on its’ own feminism.

The dynamic of each movie within its’ respective universe is also interesting to think about. The DCEU was okay at best until Wonder Woman (the 4th installment) finally helped them to find their stride. While no DCEU movie they create afterward will come close to being on the same level, their subsequent movies have become overall lighter and more fun in tone than their predecessors – and more like the MCU.

The DCEU tried too hard in their beginnings to become what the MCU was in their middle that they rushed into a huge crossover with no other basis than Man of Steel, and failed at it.

The MCU is a carefully-crafted, decades-long cinematic event. I may be a die-hard DC fan, but even I can admit that Marvel’s movies FAR outstrip DC’s in scope, continuity, and storytelling. Captain Marvel was the third to last installment in the Phase 3 of the MCU saga – between Ant Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Endgame (technically, but I personally consider it the second to last because I don’t count Spiderman: Far from Home as being part of Phase 3, but that’s a post for another day). My point being, this movie is smack dab between a hilarious, high-stakes heist, and the epic ending to one of the greatest cinematic sagas in all of film history, and introduces a character VITAL to that ending, just one movie before. And it unfortunately feels like a slog to get through. It feels like forced required reading just before that cinematic climax that only serves two purposes: to explain the Carol-Ex-Machina moment in Endgame (disappointing), and how Fury lost his eye (even more disappointing).

The MCU tried to recreate with Captain Marvel what the DCEU did with Wonder Woman – a first movie for a female hero in their camp – and failed at it.

– Kathleen

… Okay, now that I got my nice, objective views out of the way, I’m sorry I can’t hold it in anymore I need to say it the very biased way I said it to a friend: Captain Marvel??? More like Captain Knockoff: Superman Without Any of His Likeable Qualities Wearing a Chinese Bootleg Wonder Woman Costume

Y’all KNOW they PURPOSELY created CM’s costume to look TOO SIMILAR TO WW’S like JUST LOOK AT IT AND TRY TO TELL ME I’M WRONG

I think y’all knew which camp I was in to begin with, but I hope I explained the important differences between these two movies, and why those differences had a significant impact on each movie, sufficiently!

Captain Marvel movie review

Marvel FINALLY got around to having a woman headline one of their Avenger movies, and it was very well done. After a slow start and some confusing world building, it hit it’s stride and I settled in for a great movie. Although my daughter and I went to see the Captain Marvel movie a few weeks ago, due to some scheduled posts and a busy schedule, this is the first I could sit down and reflect on the movie. So similar to what I did with the movie Solo I will address a few issues and then move into seven character studies instead of a standard movie review.

I was a bit nervous about the movie, as her character is brand new to the Avenger movie universe, and I wondered how they were going to tie her in. I haven’t read much about her character, the little I know is her horrible depiction in Civil War II in which she came off as misguided and fool-hardy. Before that, what I knew of her consisted of a backstory of Rogue’s on the animated X-Men series, and how Rogue sucked her powers from her leaving her comatose. I knew she was somehow tied to the Kree aliens, but the world building they were forced to do in the beginning of the movie to explain things to the movie watchers, felt clunky. The movie started to hit it’s stride a third of the way in and then I was able to settle in for the narrative.

Brie Larson was a perfect fit for the role of pilot Carol Danvers. She was the right balance of tough and smart without being too sexualized. She was practical, yet funny, and took her mission seriously. There was a learning curve with her powers and she didn’t take her powers or her relationships with others for granted. She truly did go higher, further, and faster! Now that Marvel showed us they can create a nuanced role for a leading woman, let’s see what they can do with Black Widow and Scarlet Witch!

Samuel Jackson veers towards being a caricature of himself, and I’ve never been a fan of his tough, always ready with a quip,  Nick Fury persona. But the movie de-aged him for the movie and gave him some needed character development. We also get the explanation of how he came to lose an eye, and its not what you would expect.

I experienced a huge generation gap with my daughter as we were discussing the movie afterwards when I made a comment about Jude Law as Yon-Rogg being good-looking, but that didn’t mean he was a good guy. She didn’t know who I was talking about because she did not consider him good looking as he was too “old”. Sigh.

I don’t want to give away too much by revealing who this character ended up becoming, but I was thrilled that actor Ben Mendelsohn wasn’t typecast as the baddie in this role, after his villainy in Ready Player One. I was cheering him on by the end of the movie.

Loved seeing Annette Benning get her groove on with the great 90’s soundtrack! Dr. Wendy Lawson was an intelligent woman who wasn’t quite as she seemed. More roles like this need to be available to older actresses!

Best Friends Forever! Maria Rambea’s friendship with Carol was authentic and much needed. There is a real lack of representation of female friendships in movies and books, so their relationship was welcome. Marie was also a kick-ass single mother to her daughter Monica, whom I’m sure will play a role in future movies, when the Avengers are in modern day.

Goose the Cat stole the show! One of my four cats looks like Goose, so now I will wonder do I live with kitties or flerkens?

While Marvel diligently built Carol into the existing framework of the Avengers universe, I am concerned how a jump from the 1990’s to now might prove problematic, but despite this, I am all in for Avengers: End Game coming out next month.

-Nancy

Civil War II

Bendis, Brian Michael, David Marquez & Justin Ponsor.  Civil War II.  2017.

I truly do not know where to start on reviewing this book. My two favorite comic book authorities at Graham Crackers counseled me not to purchase this title, but I didn’t heed their warning. I should have listened!

When Civil War came out, it was an excellent story on moral responsibility, civil liberties and national security plus it tied in with current events such as the Patriot Act. This second story is all about profiling, which certainly is an issue right now with the world’s fight on terrorism, but is done so in such broad strokes as to lose it’s message.

Before I get started on the plot, I want to first say the artwork by Marquez and Ponsor is excellent, and actually is better quality than the first Civil War book. The coloring is rich, and the faces are realistic with the body types drawn more appropriately instead of unrealistic proportions than some artists do when they depict superheros. But there were some editing choices that puzzled me. There were some cool two page spreads, but some were used several times over. When the story was in issue format, they obviously liked some pictures enough to include them in different issues, but when collected into graphic novel form, they should have eliminated the redundancy. Plus, the front cover fell prey to a recurring Marvel problem – it doesn’t match the story. The wrong Spiderman costume was drawn in (Miles was in this book, not Peter), and Quill from Guardians of the Galaxy is shown on Iron Man’s side when he was actually on Captain Marvel’s side.

Quick plot recap with some spoilers: A new Inhuman, Ulysses, emerges with the ability to see into the future.  When he warns the Inhumans and Avengers that he saw a vision about the villain Thanos attacking, they are able to be proactive and are ready for him, thus thwarting a greater disaster. A hero dies, and Iron Man and Captain Marvel take different sides on whether Ulysses’s warnings are truly accurate, and if they should be used to prevent future crimes. Iron Man accuses Captain Marvel of profiling, while she feels it is more important to keep everyone safe no matter what it takes. Heroes take sides, and battles ensue. More deaths occur, with a showdown regarding how free will and one’s motives affect the possible threads of the future.

While there were some good moments with clever dialogue and the debate about the Hulk/Hawkeye issue, the rest of the book just seemed to be a hot mess.  A huge problem for me were the tie-in issues that were referenced to but not shown in this volume. I couldn’t possibly keep up with this whole merchandising “event” so I just read this novel, and was confused in spots. In the first Civil War, the X-Men sat out the battle, but in this second story everyone, and I mean everyone, showed up. The split X-Men team (a tie-in explained this, so I had no idea why half the members were with Storm and others followed Magneto), the Canadian Alpha Flight team, the Champions (young Avengers) and the flippin’ Guardians of the Galaxy showed up! What??!

But the biggest problem I had was with Captain Marvel, and her character assassination in this book. Almost all superhero movies revolve around men, with a few token women thrown in as eye candy, so the upcoming Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel movies are very important. Why would they then make her SO unlikable before her chance to shine in a movie????

Now, I am truly hoping some Marvel fans can explain these following questions to me:

When Ulysses was changed into an Inhuman, wasn’t another college student taken too? What happened to her?

What’s the deal with the dog Lockjaw? He got drawn in more than some human heroes, such as Squirrel Girl who I saw in one panel and never again.

Why were heroes on either team? There was no explanation as to why they choose their side.

Do the heroes that died in this story stay dead? Usually everyone comes back somehow and I don’t feel like reading other related issues to find out on my own.

Why is Hank McCoy now with the Inhumans?  I’m sure I’ll have more questions if I think longer on the plot, but I need to move on.

I’m disappointed that this story, which should tie in with upcoming Marvel movies, was just not any good. They did no favors to the franchise with how many of the characters were portrayed. A marketing line for the novel, “The Marvel comic event everyone will be talking about” proved true- but not for the reasons they had hoped.

-Nancy

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