Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Captain Marvel – a tale about identity, overcoming isolation … and cats in space

A fighter struggles to control her emotions. Throw in a dangerous mission she may be unprepared for, a dodgy comms channel and a few verbal clichés and soon they’re spinning off into a CGItastic opening of Captain Marvel that sees Kree soldier Veers return to a somewhat familiar planet to search for someone with links to her past.

A huge Blockbusters video rental store and the Alta Vista search engine are among the cultural references used to anchor the movie in 1995. Agent Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) are remarkably fresh-faced and rather unflappable.
“I don’t even know who I am”

Brie Larson takes up the central role with gusto. There’s no shortage of action scenes, with barely a blond hair out of place after knocking nine bells out of the baddies. The film’s ‘girl power’ feminism is worn very lightly. It’s a movie, about stopping wars rather than simply warmongering. Veers is a fighter (and a) pilot, and a good one, and her negative experiences of growing up a woman are not overplayed. Instead, it’s a film about identity, overcoming isolation and dealing with the loyalty carpet being pulled from under your feet. And the main character happens to be a relatively sensibly-dressed woman.

Very little of the plot makes sense or follows a logical progression from one scene to the next. No one hits the emergency button on a Los Angeles Metro train that has at least one hole in its roof? A Cold War spy was sent to Belfast … whaaaat? A plane is modified A-Team style to go into space? A woman without ‘Super’ in her name can fly about the sky and into space. Really? One alien race is ruled by a bloke who looks like Pharaoh carrying a clunky hammer while the other green aliens need to find a home …

But the narrative gaps don’t spoil the sense of journey or the fun of the yarn. The humour of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show is present and never allows the cloud of seriousness to descend on the film. A cat named Goose – surely one of many Top Gun references – is played by four different feline actors and nearly becomes the star of the show.

If the big film studios are going to insist on churning out superhero films, then let’s have more frivolous stuff like Captain Marvel please. Solid entertainment without so much worldbuilding that the universe collapses on top of its audience.

Captain Marvel is playing in most cinemas. [My Omniplex Lisburn screening was invaded by three lads twenty minutes from the end, who were hauled out by an usher with only a little distraction for the rest of the audience. I wonder what happened to the younger kids who had earlier run through the entrance and into The Hole in the Ground? Swallowed up by the horror, or fished out too?]

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