Captain Marvel

I will say, to the movie’s credit, that “Saturday movie marathon on TBS,” or whatever, was always going to be Marvel’s most appropriate and satisfying lane, as indicated by the fact that almost every one of these films is wingmaned by Mr. Saturday Cable Marathon himself: Samuel L. Jackson. If we — stans, studios, critics — could all just leave it at that, we’d be better off. Give me a beer, a pile of laundry to fold, a joint, and the smell of Sunday dinner being made and this movie’s sweet spot is incredibly legible to me. This is living room cinema, and we should learn to value it as that — and only that. 

As for the film itself — I’m intrigued that this is the film so many people, specifically people who aren’t wholly antagonistic to the franchise, soured on. I think it’s more interesting as product than as movie, because you can see the much more interesting film at its margins. What’s getting written off as corporate feminism, for example, didn’t need to be so bland, but — tellingly — the structure does it in. Our first impressions of Carol are of a powerful adult woman who doesn’t have any memories of being picked on by boys when she was younger — and seems perfectly liberated by the fact! an irony that’s apparently lost on this movie, which wants to root so much of her power in having once been powerless. Save it for inspirational posters; the idea that with great power comes an amnesia that makes you forget not only who you are, but the societal traumas shaping who you are, is much more interesting than the alternative. Those flashbacks to the past — falling off her bike, etc — are what feel cheap, in context. Why even make her remember them? She’s not that little girl anymore. 

I like Larson as an actor. I think Carol’s spunky, slightly punky vibe never amounts to more than a piece of flair, however. I think a sophisticated riff on those personality quirks might have really wrestled with the militarism of this movie, or at least have been explored with more sincerity. Much of Carol Danvers’s life gets reduced to inspirational memes. But if she’s so punk, why’s she a soldier? Tell me more about this woman. How did she grow up? Where? Rich, poor? What does she stand for? — anything? Even her missions to help other people are in large part motivated by a self-interest to discover who she is. Self-interest: a fascinating, complex trait for a hero. Does this movie know it?