True confession: I saw Captain Marvel twice over the past weekend, and it wasn’t because I loved the movie. I actually had some issues with it the first time around, but then I stopped to wonder if I was missing something and went a second time.
I’m rather glad I did.
Essentially, I saw the movie on opening night for a 7PM show at the local AMC. As a Stubbs member, I get three tickets per week for the price of my monthly subscription. As such, getting a seat early was fairly simple. But it was also a weeknight, I don’t generally do night movies, and it was a school night. So, bottom line, I was a bit tired and had something of a headache for much of the movie. And that most certainly affected my viewing.
Now, to be fair, I never hated the movie. Brie Larson gave a fine performance. The reveal that the Skrulls weren’t really the bad guys but a repressed minority striking back the only way they could to stop their own genocide was rather cool, particularly given the casting of Ben Mendelsohn given he seems to be Hollywood’s go-to guy for villains these days. That fact added to the fake-out factor when his real motives were revealed. And there were some other things I really dug as the movie progressed. Plus, even though casting seemed to suggest Jude Law was playing Mar-Vell, finding out it was really Annette Bening makes for another nice twist. That Bening was also the Supreme Intelligence really worked for me.
Most of my problems came from what I felt was choppy editing and a script that never told us much about who Carol Danvers was. We’d see flashes of her old life, but outside of a few small moments in the present, it sure seemed like she didn’t know much about herself. Granted, there was an in-movie reason for it, and I could appreciate that, but Marvel movies were always about character and Carol spends most of this movie trying to figure out what hers was. From my first viewing, her only defining character trait seemed to be a refusal to quit, but how did that make her different from other superheroes?
But then I saw how the other Geeks reacted. And various online reviews. And one friend on Twitter who noted the only people who seemed to think the movie was only “good” were all guys. Did I want to be…that guy? Not really. Given my general grumpiness the first time, perhaps I should give the movie a second shot and see if it worked out better the second time. I mean, I’m a guy. I’ve never dealt being treated by a second-class citizen due to my gender, so maybe I just didn’t see the stuff that would have been obvious to people who have. Would the movie work out better with that sort of stuff in mind?
Well, it did. Quite a bit actually. Despite being stuck in a crappy seat for the second viewing, the movie worked much better that time around. But what helped the most, besides not wanting to go home and take a nap after being out all day, was a simple change of perspective. Instead of seeing the story as a superhero being told what she could or couldn’t do, I looked at it as a woman being told what she could or couldn’t do. And then I kicked myself when I heard Jude Law and the Supreme Intelligence both chiding Carol for not reigning her feelings in.
Cripes, how did I miss that? That’s like Sexism 101: Tell Women How They Should Behave. It’s not as overt as what other Air Force pilots told Carol in her flashbacks, or that jerk on the motorcycle, but Carol spent most of her life having other people tell her who she was or who she should be. I picked up on that when I watched the first season of Jessica Jones. How did I miss it here? Not that it worked out perfectly. Given the amnesia (for lack of a better word) plotline, that means just about everybody tells Carol who she is, including her best friend Maria Rambeau and a little bit Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury. Fury does it the least, and seeing Fury actually respect a superhero is a nice change of pace, possibly because Carol is the only other person besides Steve Rogers who seems to treat Fury with respect right back…which makes me think I can’t wait until she has to deal with Tony Stark’s flippant attitude.
But heck, Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg even takes credit for what she becomes. She couldn’t even get to where she was on her own? She needed someone else to somehow take all the credit for it? He deserved to be shot into the rock wall.
Now, the movie on second viewing still had some flaws. The pacing in the beginning is still a bit weird. I do wish we’d seen more of Flashback Carol instead of the various brief flashes…and I really want to know why Mar-Vell was the person she respected most since they really had only one extended conversation/scene between the two. It probably would have made more narrative sense if the Supreme Intelligence took the form of her best friend Maria, but maybe there’s more to the Mar-Vell relationship than what we’ve seen so far. I mean, there almost has to be, right?
Still, I was glad I went back for another viewing. Sometimes you really need to shift your perspective a bit.