"Captain Marvel" Excerpt
Adam: We're here for a, "still processing" review of "Captain Marvel." We just walked out of our screening of the film, which stars Brie Larson, of course, as Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel. Samuel L. Jackson appears as Nick Fury. I'm sure we'll discuss this aspect of the film, [Jackson] appears in the movie way more than I expected him to. We both went into this movie completely blank, and I think I might in a shorthand way describe this best as, "The Bourne Identity," meets, "The Right Stuff." We have this element of amnesia — Carol Danvers doesn't really know her true identity and spends most of the film trying to discover that, in addition to discovering, I suppose, her true power. And then we get that flight and space aspect to it in fact it– I was going to say name drops "The Right Stuff," at one point, going after my own heart. But actually, we see the box for the movie — a VHS box of the film — because it's set in the mid '90s.
Josh: I knew this movie had a shot with you when that popped up.
Adam: Yep! Everything was great after I saw that shot. I do want to say thank you to our friend Tasha Robinson. Right before I arrived at our screening, I saw a tweet from her. She linked to an article from one of the reviewers over at her outlet, The Verge. Shana O'Neil is the writer. And of course, I didn't want to read too much about the film, but the headline caught my eye, and the initial setup of the burden that has been placed on this film, I felt, was something we could wrestle with a little bit here. O'Neil writes that of course this movie is notable because it's the first female led Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. It's taken a decade. It's taken 20 movies but we finally got it. We needed Wonder Woman to pave the way for it. But it's here. And as O'Neil puts it the movie faces the, "triple challenge of living up to past MCU films, proving a female led movie can make the company money, and squaring off against one of DC's biggest hits." Add on to that, the films that have come immediately before this one in the MCU — the chances Taika Waititi took with "Thor: Ragnarok," what we saw in "Black Panther," from Ryan Coogler, and all of that leading up to "Infinity War," the movie that Tasha referenced at our end-of-year wrap party. That moment, that Thanos moment being kind of the pop culture moment of the year. "After all of that," O'Neil writes, "'Captain Marvel' is in the unenviable position of having to introduce a new character to the MCU, lay out her origin story, tie her in with the current MCU timeline, create backstories for several previously established characters, and set up even more significant elements for 'Avengers: Endgame." So, Anna [Bowden], Ryan [Fleck], as the filmmaker's, not only taking on a challenge where they've never made this kind of film before — their previous efforts including "Half Nelson," and "Sugar" — they now have all that weight on their shoulders. Did they manage to pull it off?
Josh: Oh man, you're making me sweat here. I feel like I'm under pressure. That was a lot. I didn't think about how much this movie was bearing. And, maybe to tick off a few of those things, how does "Captain Marvel" match up with previous MCU installments? Coming out of it, it's one of my favorite.
Josh: So I think it does just fine that way. What's it going to do box office-wise? I don't care. We'll see. You know, I mean that's luxury you and I have where it doesn't really matter. I have a feeling it'll do pretty well because I think it does all the things that the Marvel films that have managed to score with audiences have done. And you know, stacking it up against DC's, "Wonder Woman," there's just no point in doing that. We have six bajillion male-led superhero movies that, yeah, we rank and so forth, but we don't pit them against each other for their maleness, so there's no point in doing that here. I mean, how do you go about meeting all of those challenges? Maybe this simplifies it, but maybe this is what I say; just make a good film. Just put all that aside, sit down, make something that's entertaining. Bring some good ideas to it, offer some fun performances, and don't get too overwhelmed to speak to one of the other things that was mentioned that verge article — don't get too overwhelmed by the larger MCU. And I think that's what they've managed to do here with "Captain Marvel." Now thinking about it in that context, one thing that came to mind for me, as I'm sitting in this movie, is — I don't know how many MCU films we've reviewed but a fair amount — I don't think Kevin Feige's name has ever come up in any of our reviews. Maybe in passing reference.
Adam: Maybe a failure on our part, but that's true.
Josh: Well, I'm bringing him up here because this is another example– and obviously you know he's the main producer on all these films, and obviously there are many other producers and casting directors and people underneath him who are intricately involved, but he's been the guiding force. And this is yet another example of matching filmmakers and actors with the material that are just perfect. And he's been doing this since the beginning. I won't run through them all, but let's just recall the first one; Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau for "Iron Man." Neither of them, obvious choices, right? In retrospect, perfect choices. So what's he done here, as a producer once again, found the right script, the people to write that script, and then direct it, in this case as well, and found the perfect star. And I mentioned the script first because I think of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck as– you know, they've always been... The two things are so intertwined, the script writing and the directing, as you mentioned, from "Half Nelson," or "Sugar," or one I really liked a lot, "It's Kind of a Funny Story."
Adam: Yeah, me too.
Josh: Haven't seen "Mississippi Grind," myself. "I should note, they have a third screenwriter here on "Captain Marvel," Geneva Robertson-Dworet. Unfamiliar with her, but apparently wrote last year's "Tomb Raider," which I didn't see but heard good things about. All right, so their strength, especially Boden and Fleck, is as screenwriters and that is what as you hinted at when you talked about the plot here. That's what this Marvel movie needs. This is really a slyly structured origin story in which the hero discovers her origin alongside us, and that's crafted in a very compelling way here. It's a bit of a mystery. It just freshens up this whole idea of figuring out what is the origin of a superhero we're not familiar with, doing it through this sense of memory recovery. "The Bourne" element, as you're talking about. You know, it really works here. Now, I'll throw it back to you and we can get back and talk in a little bit about the star element and how Larson plays into that. But again this is just more evidence of Feige's hand, or the people he has working under him, doing that old Hollywood job of matching the talent with the material.