Captain Marvel came out last week, and three of Kotaku’s Marvel aficionados—Seung Park, Mike Fahey, and Maddy Myers—have thoughts about this adaptation and presentation of one of Marvel Comics’ most powerful superheroines. We do spoil the movie in this chat, so steer clear if you still haven’t seen it and plan to do so.
Maddy Myers: Hey, Seung and Fahey. We all saw Captain Marvel! Before and after its release, I feel like most of the conversation about this movie has been about what it represents and to whom, whether it’s discussion of its position as a superhero movie with a female lead, or the Air Force using it as a recruiting tool. But you know what I really want to do? Talk about the actual content of the movie (including some mild spoilers, of course).
Personally, I think this movie starts out slow, especially the first 30 minutes, but the last hour is incredibly fun. It’s an origin story movie, but it’s a bit more watchable than the initial offerings like Captain America and Iron Man, although I admit, I do wish this movie had gone ahead and come out ten years ago with those others. Just as the movie itself takes a little bit too long to get to the good stuff, so too has the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What did you two think?
Seung Park: I totally agree with you, Maddy—one of the notes that I jotted down before this chat was that I could totally see Captain Marvel working way better if it had released in, say, 2011. Thematically, it just fits in so much better had it released right before The Avengers.
Maddy: I’m just going to pretend that it did. Captain Marvel: best movie of 2011! Also possibly the best of 1998, based on its soundtrack?
Mike Fahey: It’s a movie-length retcon. I like the movie, I like the cast, the plot, the twists and—most of all—the cat. But I can’t help but feel Captain Marvel is being shoehorned into the MCU rather than introduced. “What, her? She’s always been here. Yeah. Whole time.” Just jamming away to a mix tape filled with every popular song featuring female vocals from the 90s. And that one Nirvana tune.
Maddy: If only she had been there the whole time, though, you know?
Seung: Well, that’s kind of one of the big criticisms of superhero movies, isn’t it? “Why wasn’t [insert superhero here] involved in [cataclysmic event]?” And the simple answer is “well, that’s just the way comic issues have worked,” but that doesn’t quite mesh with what casual audiences expect from a universe that claims to be the most interconnected of all time. (Ant-Man did a good lampshade on that criticism, I feel. But back to Captain Marvel.)
Maddy: I have a little comic book fan baggage going into this movie, too, which is that I was always disappointed the Wasp wasn’t in the first Avengers movie, and also, my personal favorite Captain Marvel is Monica Rambeau, not Carol Danvers (sorry, Carol). This movie actually does include Monica, though, albeit an age-displaced Monica who is apparently going to grow up into an adult woman in the 2000s and uh... maybe have super-powers? Maybe not? I don’t know what to expect here.
I do know that I really loved the little girl they cast as Monica, and also her mom, Maria. Unfortunately, that made me a little sad that the movie wasn’t about that Captain Marvel. But that’s okay; I knew that wasn’t what it was ever going to be. There were a lot of things about this movie that I liked. Such as the cat.
Fahey: It’s the same thing in comic books, though. Every time I read a story where a less than Avenger’s level character deals with deadly danger, my first thought is, “Hey, where’s Captain Marvel’s cat?”
Seung: Yes, let’s talk about the cat. (For the rest of this article.)
Maddy: The cat is extremely good, and everyone’s favorite. I feel a little bad that the internet has spoiled the twist with the cat (and its alien powers) because I’ve already seen a lot of memes about it. I’m glad I saw this movie on day one, unspoiled!
Fahey: Monica will always be my Captain Marvel.
Maddy: She’s the coolest, and there was a big part of me that wanted a flash-forward end credits sequence with an adult Monica and a young Kamala hanging out, talkin’ Marvel gal shop. That didn’t happen. But it did, in my mind.
Fahey: It was supposed to be Wolverine, darn it. But I guess they just couldn’t wait for that whole thing to get cleared up.
Seung: I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Monica.
Maddy: I hope not!
Seung: I remember people were making jokes about Nick Fury’s bad eye and how it was totally going to be the cat that gave him that particular injury. Who knew it would actually come true!
Maddy: I can’t believe that Nick Fury eye theory turned out to be true. This movie’s sense of humor is pretty different from the sarcasm of other Marvel movies. It has almost a “dad joke” vibe at points. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Seung: Agreed! Talos, especially, was a great humorous character. Good to see Ben Mendelsohn play a non-villainous role for once.
Maddy: You know what else was cool? The gender-swap of Mar-Vell. They did a pretty good job hiding that one. Jude Law was announced to be playing Mar-Vell ahead of time, and I assumed he was for most of the beginning of the movie (they go out of their way to not say his name, or at least, I didn’t hear it). That’s the type of reveal that you’d probably only care about if you read the comics and know that Mar-Vell is a character who exists, which I do, so I liked it. And speaking of unexpected decisions, the Skrulls being sympathetic? Really cool! Did not expect that!
Seung: Totally unexpected for sure, but I’m a bit on the fence about that, actually. On one hand, yay, Skrulls are depicted as more than one-dimensional baddies! On the other hand, Secret Invasion...
Maddy: Well, hey, there can always be bad Skrulls. It’s just that these particular ones are good. Maybe.
Seung: To be fair, that last bit’s on me. I totally hyped myself up expecting some kind of foreshadowing to that particular comic arc.
Fahey: I was completely taken aback by the Skrulls being nice. Decades of comic book reading have taught me that they are bad and evil and so very bad and more evil. I was half-expecting everyone who disappeared in Avengers: Infinity War to be Skrulls. Now that’s all ruined and they are adorable.
Seung: Yeah, that was a good twist, and I’m totally on board with nice Skrulls existing. Now give me Super Skrull, dammit.
Fahey: Not that the Kree were all that nice in the comics either.
Seung: Nah, Kree are dicks.
Fahey: There’s an entire season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dedicated to the Kree being dicks.
Maddy: Yeah, I thought it was cool that the movie was introducing some more complexity with these different alien factions. It’ll make future storylines more interesting, for sure.
Seung: Speaking of the Kree, though... good god, they wasted Jude Law and then some. Can you imagine more of a milquetoast villain than Yon-Rogg? Who didn’t see that twist coming?
Maddy: Yeah, unfortunately, a lot of my criticism of the first 30 minutes being boring has to do with Jude Law and the other Kree characters. I had a lot of trouble caring about any of that because I knew eventually Carol was just going to get to Earth and make new friends (and meet her old ones all over again).
Fahey: I never wanted a space movie to go back to Earth so badly.
Seung: I think my geeking out over obscure cinematic universe callbacks eased the pain of the first act a little bit. But yeah, the first half hour is definitely the weakest.
Maddy: The movie gets so much more interesting as soon as Carol crash-lands into that Blockbuster and they start playing all of my favorite ‘90s hits while she kicks ass. I didn’t really need all of that preamble, but I get that they wanted us to trust Jude Law so that we could be surprised that he was bad later... It just didn’t fully work for me.
Seung: I don’t think a single person who watches modern blockbusters could be surprised that Jude Law was bad.
Maddy: I also actually liked the theme of Carol being told that her emotions were dangerous, only to later discover that they weren’t and it was just the Kree fucking with her, but I think one more rewrite and tightening up of the beginning of the movie could have made that plot point land even better. It came really close to working, and I like it enough as a concept that I’ll give the movie credit for it, but I wish it had been executed slightly better.
Fahey: I have a problem with the callbacks, but it’s a nitpicky one I’ve cribbed from my favorite Star Trek podcast, The Post-Atomic Horror. Space is super-big, and the chances of running into characters like Korath again should be slim to none. But hey, everybody knows everybody.
Maddy: Space is actually very small in this movie and there are only 63 people who live there.
Seung: Ah, the Star Wars Extended Universe problem.
Fahey: They all live on Nowhere and share a flat.
Seung: I do wonder if we’ll see more of Ronan. For the amount of press and attention that his inclusion in this movie got pre-release, he just seemed sort of underused?
Fahey: He was mainly there to punctuate Carol’s power. Which is immense. I never felt like she was in any danger during the film at all.
Maddy: Yeah, I’m curious what the initial rewrites and edits on this movie were. I bet there were a few different versions of it. I can see some of the scaffolding of that in there. I’ve also seen people complain about there being “too much” of Nick Fury, Maria, and Monica, but those were my favorite characters, so... I can certainly understand why so many of those moments didn’t end up on the cutting room floor, even though nominally this movie was supposed to be about Carol.
Seung: Sam Jackson killed it as Nick Fury, probably my favorite character in the movie. It was really nice to see Fury before he got all cynical and squinty. He cracks jokes! He laughs!
Fahey: He loves on kitties.
Seung: Before said kitty (well, flerken) betrays him and causes him to not trust anyone else ever again.
Fahey: Hahahaha. You remembered the line, “The last time I trusted someone I lost an eye.”
Maddy: And yeah, super-powers-wise, Carol’s only limitations were psychological. Which, again, I think could’ve been executed better, but I liked that core idea. It reminded me of some of the latter-day Iron Man movies, which are more about his own hangups. I’d love to see future Captain Marvel movies delve into that more with Carol. I’m just assuming those movies will exist.
Seung: Were her limitations 100% psychological, though? Did that inhibitor in her neck actually do anything? That was kind of the point where the movie lost me a little.
Maddy: I don’t think it did, right? Again, this is why the movie needed a little more writing help. I read that as, “she believed it did something because everyone told her it did and so it did,” but I don’t know for sure.
Seung: The movie made a big deal over it breaking, so I assume it had to mean something.
Fahey: You don’t need a nicotine patch, Carol, you are strong enough on your own.
Maddy: Well yeah, but she also broke it herself, which I guess she could have done at any time? Did she not do that because it was for her own protection (or so she thought)? Who knows.
Seung: Rewatch time!
Fahey: I am looking forward to the further adventures of Marvel’s Carol, be they in Avengers: Endgame or when she helps Rogue get her powers and briefly joins the Fantastic Four.
Maddy: Oh, I want the Captain Marvel vs. Rogue movie real bad. If it can’t be a Monica Rambeau movie, then, that’s what I want.
Fahey: I just want more Captain Marvel. Now that we’ve established she’s always been a part of the MCU, I cannot wait for her to actually be a part of the MCU.
Seung: Yep. That mid-credits scene got me really excited for her portrayal in Endgame. (She got a new suit!) Also I’d like to point out the marvelous (heh) Stan Lee tribute in the beginning. That was perfect.
Maddy: It was great!
Fahey: Always good to start off a movie crying.
Maddy: And end it laughing, at the cat. Good stuff.