Uncollected Thoughts: Captain Marvel

One point for…

I usually go to a Marvel film expecting an entertaining time without anything exceptional on top and, for the most part, that’s what I get. And for Captain Marvel had not merely the generally good reviews the film has had but the specifically good words the film has had from my colleagues who have already been to see it. It was like that when I went to see Thor: Ragnarok, except that I wasn’t anything like as impressed with that film as everyone else. Hey, guess what?

It’s been a pretty crappy week personally, as I’ve been bordering on ill, and completely drained of energy every day, and I’m like that now. I had a morning appointment in Manchester for which I had to keep my wits about me, and it took a bit of willpower to go outside again, even if it was to enjoy myself. The seats at The Light cinema (screen 4 instead of 10 this time, nothing like as far to walk) are wide and comfortable and they slide out enough that you can practically lie-down in them. Which was not a wise thing to do because I was close enough to going to sleep as it was.

I was irritated to discover that the four trailers to which we were treated were all comic book films, three superhero, one Japanese manga. Ironically, the first of these was DC’s Shazam! which, as any veteran comics fan could tell you, stars Captain Marvel, the original Captain Marvel, that it. It looked good, I think it will prove to be good, and as a purist I hold the original in much higher regard than any of Maarvel Comics’ various trademark grabbers (though that’s a battle long-since won by Marvel, as well as being one DC have no moral right to win.)

Eventually, the big picture started. It was big and flashy, starting on Hala, home world of the Kree, noble space warriors, engaged in a long-standing war with the shapeshifting nasties, the Skrulls. Vers (our Captain Marvel) is a Kree warrior one of a six-person team under Yan-Rogg (Jude Law), possessed of the power to fire photon blasts from her hands, but hampered by her emotional issues, including her complete lack of memory of her past.

Vers and her team set out to rescue a Kree underground agent, but are led into a trap by the underhanded Skrulls. Vers (this is so contrived a name, not to mention one that had to be said a dozen times over before you could hear what it was supposed to be) gets captured, busts out in a long, running fight down spaceship corridors and winds up on Earth, wwhere S.H.I.E.L.D. (in the form of digitally de-aged Agents Fury and Coulson) try to apprehend her.

It’s only at this point, abut twenty minutes in, that the film decides to stop jerking its audience around with a confusing jumble of events lacking structure and starts piecing the actual story together. It’s a viable, indeed admirable story-structure, but paradoxically, this kind of chaotic approach needs to be carefully ordered if it is to hook and intrigue its audience into wanting to find out how the fuck it all fits together and not, as it did one member of the audience this afternoon, bounce them into the state of who the fuck cares how it all fits together?

By that point, the film had lost me and it was never going to get me back.

There’s nothing to be gained by expecting Marvel’s Film Universe to mirror the Comics Universe, nor should it. But after lining up the Skrulls as irredeemable baddies, the way they’ve been in the comics since they were introduced over fifty years ago, then to shift them into being the good guys, the innocents, was a step beyond credibility. There was also a tendency to overload the film with misshaped Easter Eggs, such as Dr Wendy Lawson, Earth scientist (Annette Bening) turning out to be a renegade Kree named Mar-Vell (Marvel’s first trademark securing CM, but a male), Carol’s best pilot buddy being Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), mother of eleven year old spunky girl Monica (Marvel’s second trademark securing CM, but an adult), and Carol’s full name being Carol Dan vers, with her Kree name deriving from a broken USAF pilot’s dog-tags: so ‘clever’ yet so predictable.

As for the acting, none of it particularly impressed me, Brie Larson looked good and hot in her Kree uniform/Captain Marvel colours, though she’s not very convincing when she has to run. Emotionally, to quote Dorothy Parker, she ran the gamut from A to B, and whilst she was mostly better off underplaying as she did, it left an absence not a presence in the centre of the film, and undercut those moments whe she tried to shift into an emotional higher gear.

And the film, like so many others, lost it in the ending by not knowing when to stop, just one conflict after another until they stopped meaning much of anything.

So, I’d give it a B-, most of which being made up of Larson in her leathers, and if the implication for the sequel is that it is about taking the war back to the Kree homeworld, I’ll take the proverbial rain-check. I think I’ll have a lot more fun with Captain Marvel than I did with Captain Marvel, even if I’m only allowed to call him that in my head. I’m preconditioned that way.

Uncollected Thoughts: Avengers – Infinity War

Well, at last!

It’s been a long week of industriously avoiding spoilers and demanding that workmates don’t discuss it within twenty feet of me, but at last I can get to see Avengers – Infinity War. Admittedly, the first available performance was four hours after I booked, leaving time to fill in between, but I made use of it under a seriously sunny sun (ironic, actually, considering what else I might have to do next week).

Of course, setting a time to be back for only invoked my well-known paranoia, so getting there with only twelve minutes to spare was seriously cutting it fine in my universe. Though as I was on Screen 10, the furthest screen upstairs, about halfway back to my pokey little flat, it felt, the margin was down into single figures by the time I took my seat.

It’s also my first visit to The Light, which has replaced Showcase in Stockport. The seats are wide and luxurious, more like armchairs and if you don’t sit up, they start to slide forward, putting you, should you wish, in the semi-legendary recumbent posture.

Not until the trailer started coming at me in 3D did I realise I’d been lucky to book for a 3D performance. Though I may have to look at upgrading my 3D glasses for a pair less dirty and snaggled before The Incredibles 2.

I think that it was about Guardians of the Galaxy 2 that I said that you know what to expect from a Marvel movie, and that’s what Infinity War delivers, in spades. I could say that in terms of superhero characters, we get everything bar the kitchen sink – from memory, I think the only living ones missing are Ant-Man and Hawkeye, and they both get mentioned – but whilst that’s true, the expression does not suit the film.

Because this is bigger. And more serious. And more real. Bigger, badder, heavier, more powerful and yet in a true balance for every moment. The jokes, the quips, are less frequent but more in keeping: quick, incisive, apt, perfectly suited to the moment.

In short, this is the closest I’ve ever come to a superhero film that is exactly like the experience of getting immersed in a bloody good superhero comic. Everything is real. Everything is exact and believable, however fantastic it is. And the stakes could not be higher. This is for the Universe. And the bad guy wins.

I’ll return to that. Speaking to a workmate before going off to book, I mentioned successfully avoiding spoilers to the extent that all I knew was that there was at least one major death. He denied it, straightfacedly. He didn’t remember any deaths. I was right not to believe him: there were two in the opening scene, Heimdall and Loki.

And another one two-thirds of the way through. And a fourth in the closing phase.

That’s not counting all the still, silent, painless and passionless deaths that follow Thanos’s victory, endless in number, because although this film is over two hours long and I would have gladly welcomed another hour of it and even more characters, it’s really only half a film. Like The Fellowship of the Ring was only a third of a film. There’s another one to come, and who knows what resurrections we’ll see before it’s all done.

There’s a long wait for a single post-credits scene that’s a teaser not for Avengers 4 but for next year’s Captain Marvel movie, though that’s apparently set in the 1990s.

As for tonight, I’d happily agree with this as the best Marvel film so far, which means a great deal has to be done to top it. If we’re still here in a year’s time, I’ll tell you if I think it does.