captain marvel

Captain Marvel’s reviews are all in, and the arguments for and against her are in full swing. I’m not going to get involved in either, really. I have my own thoughts on the latest entry in the MCU. My standard disclaimer is that I am not familiar with the original (or multiply retconned) comic book version of the character. So this is the best chance for Captain Marvel to make a good impression.

***

While it is formulaic (and really, what expensive studio blockbuster isn’t?), it’s no surprise that Captain Marvel ticked all the boxes for me. It has well-drawn and well-played characters, an exciting, nicely-paced plot, and an emotionally honest core.

As a film, Captain Marvel is not as epic as I was expecting, yet it is still satisfying enough. Despite all the excitement and hype around it, this is, after all, an origin story. I think origin stories are by their very nature lower-key–especially when they spread out to cover multiple origins. In addition to the transformation of Carol Danvers, we get to see Nick Fury’s initial inspiration for the Avengers, and are given a glimpse of the little girl who will also, someday, be Captain Marvel. And since the Marvel machine is nothing but efficient at connecting dots, we’ll get a heaping dose of epic to make up for anything we missed when Avengers: Endgame opens.

But epic isn’t actually enough. To me, the reason the Marvel movies work so well is the casting. It’s A-list all the way. Brie Larson brings a convincing sharp humor, insouciance, and and appropriate arrogance to her Carol Danvers– a woman who does difficult things well, and knows it. Lashana Lynch exudes the same capability and confidence in her role as Carol’s best friend, Maria. Annette Benning is a pleasure to watch as both a force of mercy and a means of control. Samuel L. Jackson continues to be his remarkable self, and Jude Law turns in another reliably sturdy performance.

***

This is one superhero movie that passes the Bedchel test with flying colors, with the story driven by the relationships between Danvers, Mar-Vell/Lawson, Rambeau, and Monica. It is refreshingly free of romantic subplots or flirtations, and allows its female characters to exist simply as people.

I’m not entirely comfortable with how much that stands out for me–because what does it say about all the other MCU films out there that I’ve also enjoyed?

Another response I didn’t expect to have is to wonder how well Carol Danvers will handle Captain Marvel’s immense power. Maybe it was the Dark Phoenix trailer that triggered my train of thought, but it strikes me that many of Marvel’s most powerful superheroes are haunted by psychological issues, as they struggle to balance their humanity against their almost god-like abilities. Scarlet Witch, multiple X-Men, even Wade Wilson all wrestle with it. Perhaps the arrogance that comes of being a highly-trained, highly- skilled Air Force test pilot (or highly-skilled surgeon, in the case of Doctor Strange) overrides the expected mortal weaknesses.

***

So, in summation: It made me think, but not about the storyline or, specifically, the characters. Not much new to see but well worth seeing, if only for the questions it raises outside the limits of the MCU.

Deadpool 2
What a feelin’
***A Few Spoilers Ahead***

Deadpool 2 is everything the first one was, and more. The violence is even more ridiculously over the top, the profanity so ramped up that even Colossus drops an f-bomb, and the emotional core of the story remains as believable as ever. I laughed. I cried. I laughed and cried at the same time. And I didn’t even have a spike through my head.

The Plot Thickens

Of course Ryan Reynolds is back as our loveable hero, as is Morena Baccarin as his one true love, Vanessa. Brianna Hildebrand returns as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Stefan Kapacic as Colossus, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al, Karan Soni as Dopinder, and T.J. Miller as Weasel. Joining the party are Josh Brolin (fresh off killing half the universe) as the responsible, world-weary Cable, Zazie Beetz as the super-confident Domino (who’s mutant power is handled with great, casual good cheer), and Julian Dennison as the damaged and dangerous Russell. And in a stroke of inspired hiring, David Leitch (of John Wick and Atomic Blonde) is onboard to direct the mayhem.

Deadpool 2 begins not long after the first film ends, with Wade getting in touch with his maternal side. But that is only the set up. After a horrible personal tragedy sets things in motion, Deadpool embarks on a heartwarming journey to protect Russell, a dangerous fourteen-year-old mutant. But it’s complicated, because Cable shows up to prevent his own horrible personal tragedy by killing the kid before things go too far.

And because that’s not complicated enough, protecting Russell soon involves Deadpool and Weasel assembling a crack team of mutants, dubbed X-Force, so Deadpool can develop as a human being and show his warm, nurturing side. And also kill large numbers of bad guys and blow up lots of cars, trucks, and buildings. Bill Skarsgård shows up as Zeitgeist, Terry Crews as Bedlam, Lewis Tan as Shatterstar, Brad Pitt as Vanisher, and Rob Delaney as Peter. They briefly round out the X-Force before the team becomes more…streamlined.

Some of the Fun Bits
  • There are already three decapitations before the opening titles roll.
  • Shatterstar has green blood. Lots of it.
  • Dopinder aspires to be Kirsten Dunst to Deadpool’s Tom Cruise in the worst Interview With the Vampire analogy possible.
  • Now we all know what a “prison wallet” is, whether we wanted to or not.
  • As Wade promised Blind Al in the first Deadpool, the cure for blindness is indeed next to the stash of cocaine.
  • I think the “when does this happen” question gets answered pretty clearly in the X-Mansion.
  • Deadpool 2 references too many other Marvel superheroes to keep track of, takes more than a few swipes at DC, turns Yentl’s ballad “Papa” into a recurring theme, and in a scene so disturbingly funny I will refer to it only as “the legs”, resurrects Basic Instinct in the most disgusting way imaginable.
So Go See It!

Deadpool 2Deadpool 2 repeats a couple of tricks from the first film with enough of a twist to keep them from being simply trite. It is familiar without being a retread, and while it doesn’t really break any new ground (after the first, how could it without scratching at NC-17?), it manages to be just as remarkable. And in true Marvel fashion, it proclaims loudly that zealotry is bad, family is where you find it, death is temporary, and time travel fixes everything.

Let’s face it: Deadpool 2 is the hero we deserve.

Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War
Infinity War

Let’s face it: Avengers: Infinity War does not need a review. It’s been out for over a week, the fans (and the box office numbers) have spoken, and anyone who has yet to see this juggernaut should already have a pretty good idea of what to expect. So instead I present a few observations for your reading pleasure.

Spoilers ahead.

Disclaimer: I have no investment in canon. I’m not much of comic reader and I have only seen about half of the Marvel Comics Universe movies out there. My concern about Avengers:Infinity War is only that it be internally consistent and consistent with the rest of the MCU.

Oh, and entertaining in a huge, summer-movie way.

And, of course, it is. Mostly.

The Nice Touches

As grand mash-ups go, Avengers:Infinity War keeps things moving. I appreciate how it begins in medias res by assuming the audience already knows who the players are and how they all connect, skipping a too-long recap of everyone’s backstory (I’m looking at you, Justice League). At two and a half hours, pausing for exposition would derail the momentum entirely. The action rarely stops, but the mayhem is interspersed with enough flashes of character development to keep it from being just a CGI slugfest.

Speaking of action, my favorite part of the brutal opening battle is Loki’s scathing curse, “You will never be a god”.

Speaking of character development, I appreciate the completely believable fondness Tony Stark has for Peter Parker, built over time, which makes Spidey’s dissolution doubly awful.

I also appreciate that Thanos is written as a character in his own right, rather than being just a huge computer-generated monster. Josh Brolin does a terrific job of showing the layers to Thanos’s monomania.

The Missed Opportunities

I think the Guardians of the Galaxy are poorly used in Avengers: Infinity War. Not wasted–they are too integral to the plot–but at key points they are reduced from fully developed characters into plot devices.

For instance, I think Gamora’s caving in is out of character. I understand her pain at seeing Nebula being tortured, but her weak attempt to run away when Thanos is about to sacrifice her seems–off. I didn’t buy the big reveal that Thanos loves her as strong enough to override her decision to die to keep the stone out of his grasp.

In a similar fashion, I didn’t buy Nebula simply standing by as Quill wrecks the attempt to take Thanos’s gauntlet away. Yes, she had a very hard day, but the Nebula we have seen up to this point is so laser-focused on taking down Thanos she should have smacked Quill into submission before he could screw things up.

And let’s face it, it’s obvious that the heroes killed in Avengers: Infinity War will be back, since we know the sequel schedule. So while there is some shock value to seeing the good guys die and Thanos getting to watch his sunset, the ending leaves far less of an impact than it promised.

The Random Thoughts

Please, please, please let Pepper Potts be dead. Gwyneth Paltrow is so annoying.

I just have to assume that Doctor Strange decided to turn over the time stone to get to the one of the 14 million possible futures where everything turns out all right.

Why was the Hulk even here? Mark Ruffalo had to have had nothing better to do.

Thor and Rocket are a remarkably good pairing. I would totally watch a spin-off about them.

In the second installment of Avengers: Infinity War, Nebula deserves the kill shot. She has more than earned it.

This plotline may be the last best hope to bring Marvel Zombies to the big screen. Who’s with me?

Agree? Disagree? Think I missed the point entirely? Let me know in the comments.