Countdown to Endgame #2: The New Kid

As The Avengers: Endgame approaches, Team Midnight has committed to watch all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films released to date in chronological (story) order: 22 films in 8 weeks. Follow along with us.

[Caution: definitely contains spoilers.]

The newly released Captain Marvel takes place in 1995, back when Nick Fury had two eyes and everyone you knew had a nose-ring. Though chronologically the second film in the MCU storyline, it’s the 21st MCU release and is currently in theaters, so go see it!

Hero: Carol Danvers / Vers

“I don’t need to prove anything to you.”

(Also: “Where’s Fury?”)

Tesseract energy-infused half-human, half-Kree hybrid. Formerly an air force captain, potentially from Louisiana.

Other heroes:

  • Nick Fury
  • Talos
  • Agent Coulson
  • Mar-Vell
  • Marie and Monica Rambeau

Villain: The Kree

“For the good of all Kree.”

Aliens, featuring the Supreme Intelligence; military boss, Ronan the Accuser, and Yon-Rogg, a Warrior Commander.

Villain Complexity Rating: 3/5

The Kree are a race of occasionally blue aliens who consider themselves a sort of altruistic galactic police. What they actually are is a race of occasionally blue galactic imperialists with a nasty penchant for violent coups of peaceful neighbors. Oh, and they’re led by an AI known as the “Supreme Intelligence”. Freaking space Nazis.

“What’s at Stake” Rating: 3/5

There are multiple striations embedded in the bedrock of this film. You have the Kree engaging in guerrilla warfare with the Skrull (1), Vers completing her initiation to become a full-on-raging-Kree-A-hole (2), Vers’ transition to Skrull sympathizer and champion (4), Vers’ search and discovery of her past life as Air Force Captain and general badass human Carol Danvers (3), and perhaps most importantly in the context of the MCU, her friendship with Nick Fury (5), who is, in many ways, handling co-lead duties in this film.

What did our hero(es) learn?

  • She’s way more powerful than she knows.
  • Things are not always what they seem.
  • How to fly / supernova / turn herself into a bomb / space travel without a ship or suit.

Heroism Rating: 4/5

Danvers/Vers/Marvel wants to kick ass so bad, but the people in her life keep telling her to keep her shit in check. Once she finally connects with her own brand of kickass, she is immediately about that hero life. 

  • She absorbs tesseract energy into her body without getting totally destroyed, survives conversion into half-blue-blood alien, and joins an elite class of alien warrior heroes.
  • She defects from the Kree to become the champion of their sworn mortal enemy, the Skrull.
  • She saves LA from getting blowed up by Kree warheads and destroys a Kree warship by making herself a human explosion and blasting through the ship like a missile
  • Through the power of her trademark human resilience, she fights her way out of the Supreme Intelligence’s control.
  • She becomes Fury’s inspiration to form “The Avengers Initiative” and signs on as earth’s “oh shit” insurance policy

Visual Aesthetic/CGI Rating: 2/5

There’s just no reason a film made in 2019 should look like this. Captain Marvel’s earth scenes are bland and personality-less. The visual 90’s pop culture references feel cheap and pandering (cool Nine Inch Nails shirt though lol). The space stuff feels better, but suffers greatly from the same GOD DAMNED gummy human problem that has been plaguing films since the cave troll scene way back in the Mines of Moria. Just why?

Heroic Cinema Saturation Index

Betsy Rating: 2.5/5

I’m so glad that now, after 20 films, Marvel has a franchise led by a woman – and that she may be the most powerful hero in the Marvel Universe. That’s so awesome. And, all the implications of that “oh finally, we got here” moment may be at the root of this movie’s identity issues. I enjoyed Captain Marvel, and I found myself wondering a lot what the movie’s personality is. Is it a space adventure? An odd-couple buddy comedy? A journey of self-discovery? A celebration of triumph over gender-based oppression? Yes. Which is kind of the problem.

I love how this movie is structured – it starts in the middle and follows Carol in her journey of sorting out who she really is – and through that journey, claiming her true power. And the dramatic stakes are really interesting – she spent her human life fighting against sexism in the military, had this traumatic physical transformation, was kidnapped, brainwashed, leashed, and then exploited by the Kree – and then ultimately frees herself and becomes this godlike intergalactic warrior for justice. “Fuck yeah!”, right?

Well, kind of. The character development all worked, anchored by Brie Larson’s no-nonsense gravitas and supported by some high-prestige capital-A-Actors (Jude Law, Annette Bening). And yet the movie itself just didn’t give me that “f*** yeah” feeling. Maybe it was so-so action choreography/directing, maybe it was just too crowded with ideas and so many overlapping kinds of stakes… or maybe this movie just NEEDED to be too many things in order to anchor the next wave of the MCU in the way it needs to. There’s a lot of interesting groundwork here, and I’m genuinely excited to see Carol in future MCU films… and this one was more like “yeah, alright, ok, I’m with you” instead of a genuine, fist-pumping, badass, triumphant… well, you know.

Justin’s Rating: 2.5/5

I do not envy Captain Marvel’s positioning in the cultural context of our current no-superhero-having reality, where it faces enemies not yet dreamt of in the MCU. It has endured a preemptive Rotten Tomatoes strike by incel trolls, faces a US audience living amid government sanctioned misogyny, and will invariably be compared to 2017’s excellent Wonder Woman. Still, I had huge expectations for this film, and in many ways it delivered. Captain Marvel has been introduced, her origins are complex and rich, her powers awesome, and she’s a hero of strong moral character. We’re ready to do this Endgame thing. 

And yet… I didn’t love it. The film suffers in part from uninspired visuals and an abuse of CGI, as well as weak fight choreography and editing, but those are details. I’m a character guy. Vers/Danvers/Captain Marvel is a really cool character, but the execution of her story suffers from the same identity crisis that she does. There are so many things happening here that they all feel a bit rushed. As a result, the connections she’s making with characters like Fury and Rambeau feel insincere and awkward. Her relationship with Skrull leader, Talos, is her most emotionally convincing, despite spending half the film fighting with him. This is due large part Ben Mendelsohn’s mad skills. It’s also worth noting that he’s the only character actor who manages to be funny in this film, which would have benefitted from more humor. Instead, we got a whooooole lot of 90’s pop culture references that mostly elicited polite chuckles from the audience.

Captain Marvel endeavors to be both character origin story and structural pillar for the MCU/Infinity War storyline, but gets pulled in too many directions in the process. Instead, it’s a bit of a staging exercise. So now we can move forward. Okaaaaay.


Captain Marvel came out this weekend and is playing in every movie theater, everywhere. Though it didn’t knock our socks off, it’s worth spending time with, and feels like an important chapter in the MCU story.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s