5 THINGS: Captain Marvel Trailer
She Didn't Fly Across the Cosmos To Smile For You, Boys
by Phil Rockwell, Staff Writer
We’re still five months away from the MCU’s first female fronted installment, but Marvel was kind enough to debut the girl-powerful trailer for Captain Marvel on Tuesday. If what we see here is any indication, Marvel is treating the landmark film with proper deference to the character and the potential audience she represents.
“I’m Not What You Think I Am”
Carol Danvers’s final line in the trailer may literally refer to her powers, but figuratively the line strongly hints at what her character will represent as a woman in the heavily bro-gaze history of comic books and comic book movies. For those hoping the big screen Captain Marvel would mirror the biologically nonsensical illustrations of her source material, the trailer left them with little to tickle their tiny lizard brains. Danvers’s heroing gear is directly influenced by her utilitarian, head-to-toe flight suit, eschewing the vacuum-sealed spandex of the comics.
Further, the filmmakers clearly aimed to separate Danvers from her ground-breaking DC counterpart, Wonder Woman. Captain Marvel is more than a super heroine palette swap. The Carol Danvers in this trailer has been through some cosmic shit, and it’s produced a darker, harder heroine than audiences are used to seeing. While Wonder Woman’s unshakeable decency was a vital aspect of her journey, Captain Marvel’s teeth-grinding determination will be just as important to hers.
Brie Larson, who is a righteous feminist badass in real life, played a significant role in crafting this depiction of Captain Marvel, and she clearly was not interested in playing a glorified pin-up. Everything in this trailer indicates that not only will this character stand out from the male members of the MCU, but Larson and company aim to completely realign our expectations for what a female superhero can and should be.
She’s Here to Chew Bubble Gum
and Derail Your Dentures
Octogenarians, you’re on notice. Captain Marvel is done with your bullshit, what with your butterscotch candies and bridge games. She’s coming, and she’s packing heat -- fist heat.
Those of us with passing knowledge of Marvel lore quickly recognized the likely impetus for the most WTF moment of the trailer, when Danvers punches the piss out of an old lady. The moment is a hint at the film’s Big Bads, but I found it a more interesting tease of the film’s potential tone. Captain Marvel is serious, you guys. She is not fucking around. She will punch your Nana in the face and not have the decency to deliver a pithy verbal coda. No. Captain Marvel is not the type of glib do-gooder you bring home to your mother (who she would punch in the face).
The first line of the trailer is “War is a universal language,” hinting that both Samuel L. Jackson’s how-the-hell-do-they-do that de-aged Nick Fury and Larson’s Carol Danvers share a particular understanding of the scars war leaves on the psyche. But that short sequence on the train might also be a taste of the film’s approach to humor. What we see of Captain Marvel is so damn severe here it makes me wonder if one of the most sober characters in the present MCU, Nick Fury, might turn out to be the comic foil to Danvers’s straight woman. We know Samuel L. Jackson can pull his comedic weight, and with Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson back to get his sardonic on, there’s plenty of room for Larson to just be the no-BS, all-out badass we desire. The film will probably end up further to the harrowing side of the dial than the hilarious, but Marvel has shown a peerless brilliance for finding the humor in the most apocalyptic of settings. I doubt their unblemished track record will end here.
Ten years in, the MCU still hasn’t figured out the Origin Story Problem: most films based on a character’s origin spend half of the run time getting heroes to their super-powered state, and then they’re forced to rush other things like developing their villains. It’s a weak and deflating narrative set-up that takes the juice out of most of Marvel’s introductory films. The last character to get an entire movie dedicated to their individual creation myth was Doctor Strange, and until he called Tony Stark a douchebag in an entirely different movie, most of us failed to realize how cool Doctor Strange actually was. It makes sense, then, that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige named Strange its last “origin” movie.
Of course, Marvel can’t just sidestep introducing lesser known characters like Captain Marvel to the general public, but the trailer seems to indicate they are looking for a more dramatically engaging method of doing so. Using the tried-and-true amnesiac trope, it looks like Carol Danvers will be discovering her history on Earth and her origin as Captain Marvel, just as we do. Having crashed to Earth, a place she sees in her dreams but has no memory of, we see pieces of her past as they are echoed in her present. That doesn’t solve the movie’s Prequel Problem - there’s no tension when we see characters in peril and know they will make it out ok - but at least they’re coming at Captain Marvel’s debut from a different narrative angle.
What Even Is the 90’s?
For me, the majority of the 1990’s were Junior High and High School. So, full disclosure, fuck the 90’s.
But I digress.
When I first got word that Captain Marvel was going to be set in that wasteland of a decade, I was not thrilled. Putting my own personal issues aside, the 90’s are so recent they have yet to establish any identity of consequence that could move Carol Danvers’s story or character forward. It’s one thing to place Wonder Woman in the heart of the “war to end all wars.” Her humanity and decency are challenged by the time’s explicit violence and cruelty. Her worldview takes a beating over the course of the film, but in spite of her loss and what she has seen, she chooses to believe in mankind’s better nature.
So, what is there for Captain Marvel to stand against in the 1990’s? What significance could the 90’s have to who Carol Danvers is or will become? My guess is not much. I was happy to see only one reference specific to that decade in the trailer: when Danvers tumbles from space and crashes through the roof of a Blockbuster video store. My hope is that Captain Marvel is set in the 90’s simply to retcon her into the active Marvel Cinematic Universe. In order to do her part in the modern day MCU, Marvel just needed to unfuck its timeline, and the movie happened to unfuck in the 90’s.
There’s been a spate of unnecessarily retro genre fare recently, and I really don’t need another pop culture Easter Egg Hunt referencing shit that’s been discarded by history for a reason. Thankfully my fears of another superhero period piece where the time period plays no deeper role than aesthetic indulgence (X-Men Apocalypse) have been somewhat assuaged by this trailer.
I saw my echoes of my daughter in the Captain Marvel trailer, and it hit me like a sledgehammer to the chest (That’s where “the feels” are located. It’s Science!). A sequence toward the end of the trailer showed a young Carol Danvers dissolve to a slightly older Carol, and then a slightly older one still, and finally the Carol we know as Captain Marvel. The shots show her rising, each time having been knocked to the ground, refusing to yield to whatever challenge had just planted her in the dirt. It’s a sequence showing a girl defiant, a girl growing into her power.
It gave me goosebumps.
I don’t envy the plight of young girls pulling together a piecemeal party of idols from the pages of modern comic books. For every Ms Marvel or Squirrel Girl there are a dozen superpowers randomly assigned to an impossible pair of breasts and sent out into the inky cosmos. Even today, too many heroines are drawn by men or written by men or sidelined by men in the medium’s most prominent titles. On the big screen, Marvel specifically has a long way to go, but we’ve seen fleeting glimpses of Marvel getting ready to flip some tables in the cinematic sausagefest we call Comic Book Movies. Hope Van Dyne, Valkyrie, and the spectacular women of Black Panther have already stolen their films out from under their headlining heroes, and Marvel Studios appears to be setting up Captain Marvel as the most important hero in the next phase of Marvel films. Based on what I saw in this trailer, the MCU will be getting a powerful, audacious, no-fucks-to-give queen at its center.
Long may she reign.
Peerless. Genius. Trendsetter. These are words Phil Rockwell has in his vocabulary. A film school graduate now working in a casino, Phil is a film, tv, and video game junkie who cries when he sees anything that reminds him of his daughter.