Assistant A&E Editor
It’s hard to know what to expect from a movie when you only went because of a craving for theater popcorn, but “Captain Marvel” was surprisingly good.
As a non-superhero moviegoer, I discovered that “Captain Marvel” is a movie fit for both beginners and regulars. However, as to be expected with any series, there were certain plot or character gaps due to a lack of background knowledge.
The movie is beneficial for all viewers primarily because it is an origin story. It tells of the creation of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), or Captain Marvel, providing background for how she came to be the character that will be used in later movies. It dives into her life before she received her powers and her interaction with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), an agent of a government program known as Shield, while also moving forward as viewers discover how she received and honed her powers.
From a timeline standpoint, “Captain Marvel” occurs before other figures such as the Hulk, Black Panther and Ironman come into the picture. A lack of notable superheroes from future movies helps new viewers keep track of who’s who, but it’s difficult to differentiate minor character importance in later movies.
A few times during the movie I found myself leaning across the armrest to ask my roommate if I needed to remember a certain character. A young, slightly balding agent for Shield? Important. The best friend of Marvel seen for much of the movie? Not important.
Character development during the film was sporadic and uneven, but it helped the plot in most cases. Instead of a linear progression, some explanations and constructions were thrown in halfway through, leaving new viewers unsure of what to think. While Marvel’s character development was smooth and accumulated over time, the “bad guy” underwent a rapid transition around hour one of the two-hour movie. The enemy was humanized, leaving Marvel and viewers to grapple with doubts of who to trust.
In all actuality, this was a genius move. The writers of “Captain Marvel” threw viewers into the same mental turmoil that Marvel was experiencing, leaving the audience to decide whether to switch sides or stick to the initial plan.
Viewer and character doubt play into the relatability of “Captain Marvel,” and the humanity of the film added to the fidelity of the work. Real-life emotion played across the screen as Marvel became angry and punched her mentor during training. Later, she became upset when reclaiming memories of her abusive father and experienced joy upon rediscovering her best friend. While her training under aliens taught her to suppress emotion and follow orders, her humanity pushed through as she rebelled against the rigidity of blind acceptance.
“Captain Marvel” writers also utilized real-world references and pets to add some levity to the film, providing new viewers a break from focusing on content and a chance to appreciate some light humor. Set in the 90’s, Marvel crashes through a Blockbuster roof towards the beginning of the film, then asks a security officer where to find some form of communication. While Marvel is anticipating a specialized high-tech device, the officer points casually to a nearby Radio Shack.
True to many films produced by Disney, “Captain Marvel” also featured a creature for comic relief, and the naming system for the character adds to the humor. A cat, named Goose, tagged along with Marvel and Fury throughout the movie. It trailed along dutifully as Marvel carried out her mission, and Fury accepted the cat and all its mysterious appearances. However, towards the end of the film viewers discovered the cat was an alternate life form with great powers. While other Disney characters like Pascal (“Tangled”) and Heihei (“Moana”) serve only as a point for playful pet humor, Goose provided some feline comic relief while also integrating his powers into the plot of the film.
“Captain Marvel” has a lot going for it if you’re willing to overlook a few minor imperfections. While the film does some work to turn expectations on its head, certain cliché elements such as protagonist-waking-up-from-a-dream and superhero-wins-over-the-hearts-of-others still exist. The hero is set to beat the odds and win, using the tools of her humanity to fight the enemy.
Perhaps that’s what makes the movie realistic. It incorporates some of the expected while providing a few twists to keep viewers engaged. Beginners can understand what’s going on and appreciate the movie (save for a few exceptions), and regulars are given background to nagging questions like, “Why does Fury only have one eye in later films?”
“Captain Marvel” pools audiences together to offer a cohesive storyline that many can enjoy. It is a successful piece showcasing a female leader that will fight for her values, and I found the movie particularly enjoyable. Of course, the popcorn was pretty good too.
Graphic created by Mary Guida.