Io9 Roundtable: Captain Marvel’s Epic Crash Landing Into The MCU

Io9 Roundtable: Captain Marvel’s Epic Crash Landing Into The MCU

Captain Marvel is finally in theatres. Unsurprisingly, the movie’s doing gangbusters at the box office, and Carol Danvers’ status as one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most powerful heroes has been solidified. But there’s so much more to Carol and Captain Marvel’s story than her cosmic powers and, while we liked the movie, that’s not to say there isn’t plenty to discuss about what we thought was executed well—and what could have used some work.

Charles Pulliam-Moore: So, let’s kick things off with some general reactions from everyone. How did you guys like the movie?

James Whitbrook: I still have a few reservations about how some of the backstory stuff panned out — mainly the way it’s used to open the film, really—but overall, it’s good! When it gets going and Carol can have a bit of cosmic fun, it really shines. As does Carol. Literally!

Jill Pantozzi: I thought it was good, not great. But that’s sort of exactly what I expected? Overall though, the story didn’t have a specific tone for me, which, 20 films into the MCU, is weird. Especially after films like Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok, where directors really went all out.

Cheryl Eddy: I had fun with it. I was very aware the whole time, though, that it was tied into the larger MCU, and was just a piece of the Avengers puzzle.

Jill: Yeah, I think Captain Marvel suffers a bit from its placement in the universe, when so many of us are just ready to see the end of a huge story, this sort of slows things down a bit too much. But I felt that way about Ant-Man and the Wasp too.

Charles: We’re all on the same page here. It’s almost a little unfair to Carol to have her origin story effectively be the opening act for Endgame, because as much as this story’s about Captain Marvel as a known quantity, it kinda felt like the parts of its story that were about Carol personally got lost in the sauce. I felt like that’s why she doesn’t say “my name is Carol Danvers” until the end of the film, and it’s supposed to be this huge moment, but it landed rather flat, for me.

James: The movie does itself no favours with the way it opens, I feel — Carol doesn’t get served by it, the worldbuilding on Hala, which you kind of need to make the big twist of the film when it comes to the Kree actually land, doesn’t get served by it. You flit between Starforce’s mission and the fractures of Carol’s memories in such a way that it’s like “oh wait, but hang on, who is she?” for a bit, and that doesn’t really start to be satisfied until she’s crashing around on Earth with Fury.

Jill: Yeah it was too loose at the start, we didn’t really even get a proper introduction to Yon-Rogg.

Charles: By the time we begin to get a sense for what Carol’s dynamic with Yon-Rogg and the rest of Starforce, we’re pretty much already on Earth and Captain Marvel wastes no time in reminding you just how much of a ‘90s movie it’s trying to be. Which works about, maybe 40 per cent of the time. Like, we get it. It’s the ‘90s. Let’s keep moving.

Cheryl: I liked the ‘90s stuff for the most part. But some of the musical choices were too on the nose, especially the choice to use “Just a Girl” in the big fight scene. If she was singing Lita Ford at karaoke they should have had more Headbangers Ball! That’s my own taste though, haha, as an Old who remembers the ‘90s very vividly. Pop songs can work really well in these movies (see: Guardians of the Galaxy) and I get why they did it here, to reinforce the pop culture of the time. I just thought they could’ve been a little more creative.

Jill: The funny thing is, I expected this to feel a lot more like the “era” than it wound up feeling, and that was mostly because there wasn’t much of a cast to speak of. I mean, plenty of people but they were kept very self-contained, so even the Earth folks didn’t experience much of the culture of the time outside of, you know, the Internet Cafe.

James: Yeah, I think that’s my take on it as well—as a kid of the ‘90s, born in ‘91, all the catering to my childhood was terribly cute, but, that was it. Oh, she’s got a Game Boy on her receiver! Cute. Oh, Carol mains Sagat in Street Fighter II, that’s cute. Oh, the Nine Inch Nails shirt! Cute…and then by the time you get to the Fonz lunchbox and the NERF gun at the end it’s like “We get it, you can stop.” It’s never really used to inform the world of the film beyond that cuteness. Also, as I said to Charles after seeing it this weekend, that SFII arcade cabinet wasn’t actually out when Carol disappeared! Champion Edition was a ‘90s thing.

Jill: Well the obvious comparison for me is Captain America: The First Avenger. In that film, you felt immersed in the ‘40s. Here I just didn’t feel that way.

Charles: To both of your points, doing that here would have just required this to be a different film that had more people from Earth being able to exist outside of the handful of secluded, earthbound settings—the Air Force base, Maria’s home, etc.—we see them in. In trying to split itself between Hala and Earth, neither ends up feeling fully-realised in the movie, which is a shame.

Jill: Exactly.

Charles: I winced the moment Fury got that eye scratch. Cause you knew. “Oh, that eyeball’s definitely coming out.”

James: Hahaha, I was honestly dreading it the whole movie, just waiting for “oh, is this the moment it’s gone.” Although I was assuming it’d be lost in a firefight before alien-kitty-infection.

Jill: What did you all think of the de-ageing? I was worried it would take me out, but it didn’t.

Charles: It’s very good, and very creepy, but the illusion gets odd the longer you look at it, I thought. Not so much with Samuel L. Jackson, but definitely with Clark Gregg.

James: I honestly stopped noticing it pretty quickly, but I think that might be down to the fact my image of Jackson mentally is that the man is incapable of ageing.

Cheryl: It seemed like Jackson was having the most fun making this movie. Also, I thought Goose was going to be Carol’s cat, but it’s really Nick Fury’s cat!

Jill: He fuckin’ loves that cat.

Charles: Well, about Goose. There’s been a contingent of folks complaining that the cat (Flerkin, if we want to be technically accurate) is in the movie too much, but I ended up liking the fact that its presence is a nod to the fact that Mar-Vell was experimenting with the Tesseract. The cat’s got pocket dimensions in it, the cube opens portals, etc.

Jill: The cat is not in the movie enough.

James: Ha. I will say, just to briefly tie it back into Fury’s arc, there’s been a lot of meme-y talk in the wake of the movie comparing that line from Winter Soldier about him losing his eye to someone he trusted, and then it’s just a picture of Goose. But I loved that that whole thing is just, emblematic of the loss of innocence the character goes through in this film. He’s so fun and carefree and like, that early rookie Fury wouldn’t have that lie about losing his eye. But modern day, jaded Fury, sans his beloved lil’ Goose at this point, would. Storytelling through the medium of cat!

Jill: I know some folks are sticklers for Carol’s cat’s name in the comics (Chewie), but I really liked how it all worked overall and it certainly doesn’t mean we won’t see more Flerkins down the road either! It’s a big universe. Speaking of which, how about those Skrulls?

Cheryl: Everything I’d read (on io9 of course) had me primed for them to be the villains, so the twist was nice for me, as a verrrry casual scholar of Skrullage.

James: I absolutely did not expect the twist with the Skrulls, but I thought it was brilliant—and, actually in a way, faithful to the origins of the Kree-Skrull war lore from the comics. Because originally, the Skrull Empire was meant to be peaceful, before the Kree were arseholes and forced them into a militaristic society as the war progressed. It was a cool way to subvert the expectation that they were Captain Marvel’s big bad, while honouring that little bit of comics lore. Plus it meant Ben Mendelsohn could just have the time of his life as Talos. Sipping on that soda like a green charmer.

Jill: Mendelsohn is never not great. But yeah, same for me, I was surprised. Which, if we’re all being honest, is a little tough for Marvel to do these days. And they did that more than once in this film.

Charles: The Skrull reveal didn’t really surprise me, but it was a welcome bit of plot development that, ironically, ended up doing a lot of the work to convey just how we’re meant to feel about the Kree and how Carol’s belief that they’re a planet of noble warrior heroes is fundamentally incorrect. That’s the kind of thing that gives a movie like this stakes that feel significant and really gives Carol a long term heroic motivation because, put bluntly, she’s a colonizer who’s been fighting to wipe out an entire race of outgunned refugees, you know? Did anyone else assume that Carol and Fury were going to have Talos’ family settle on Earth and become…the Khans?

Jill: Not exactly that, but that would have been interesting. I did think they’d all settle on Earth though, and blend in, and then lead some of them to “turn bad” eventually and lead us to Secret Invasion.

James: Yeah, I did not really think that they would be the reason that Carol leaves Earth, I thought they’d hang out in hiding for a bit while she jetted off for some other reason. I wonder if they might have tried a Kamala/Skrull thing if they’d had Super Skrulls—the ones that can actually mimic powers—but I think they’re a Fox-only thing at the minute. Before they become a Disney-Fox thing, I guess.

Charles: That line of dialogue between Talos’ child and Monica Rambeau where she’s telling her to never change her eyes because they’re beautiful jumped out at me as like, “What if the next time we see these two, they’ve grown up and become friends, and the first members of the MCU Carol Corps?” Also, this is nitpicky and not at all important to the story, but I was really hoping we were going to see a bit more of the Skrulls’ shapeshifting and the way they’re able to shift their organs around instinctively in order to protect themselves from harm.

Jill: Yeah, that moment with Monica and the Skrull kid was very good.

Charles: There are so many significant changes to Carol’s origins in the movie, that a twist on the Khans would have felt like something Captain Marvel might have done, and you know I’m usually very much in favour of these films deviating from the source material as much as they want to, if only to keep the story feeling fresh. All of the updates more or less worked, don’t you think?

Jill: I think the writers went about it in a very smart way. And again, I was surprised by the Mar-Vell reveal and appreciated it so much.

James: Agreed. Not to be that guy, but like I said in my piece on her origins, the Mar-Vell tweak is maybe my favourite thing in the whole movie, in what it means for Carol. Not just making it Annette Bening, but the way it alters the mission she inherits from Mar-Vell. This isn’t Soldier Carol Danvers carrying on the legacy of a Kree Warrior, but a soldier who’s given the simple mission of “stop fighting, save these people.”

Jill: But also Annette Bening, amirite? I’m imagining some very cool nights out on the town between her character and Peggy Carter, by the way.

Cheryl: Attention Disney+, we need that prequel.

James: I had not considered this, but oh my god absolutely.

Charles: I think in the moments you see between Carol and Maria, you get a glimpse of another version of the movie that spends more time unpacking their relationship which I would have appreciated more of, honestly. Because I got the impression that, yeah, they were friends, but Carol was also the person who stepped up to help Maria raise Monica and be her support emotional support system at the time in their lives that was difficult for the both of them.

Jill: Gosh, I really wish we had gotten to Maria and Monica sooner because Lashana Lynch and Akira Akbar were so fantastic. The characters were so well-developed even in the short time we had with them but you could absolutely feel the love between them and Carol. And the history there, and how their lives might have been in the time before Carol left Earth. I wouldn’t be surprised if Carol was living with them honestly.

James: I just wish they had time to show more because I’m with Charles—you’re meant to feel a spark between Maria and Carol that is just…not there strongly enough? Their best scene together is after they come out of hearing Carol’s black box and she realises the Kree have lied to her, and I wish there was more like that, that showed their bond instead of just telling us they’re friends and expecting that to carry the same dramatic weight.

Jill: When they touched their heads together over Monica I just about lost it.

Cheryl: I appreciated Brie Larson’s performance overall. Obviously, she is an Oscar-winning actor (and we all saw those badass workout preparations she did for the physical stuff), but she got the nuances of the character—like, “WTF who am I? But also, I will not hesitate to act and do what needs doing RIGHT NOW”—while also being someone you’d want to hang out with. In Charles’ recent interview with directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, there was the mention of Carol being uniquely able to make quick yet meaningful connections with people, and I think that really came through.

Jill: We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about two special cameos that were included in this film. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and of course, Stan Lee. Plus they added in a very special intro tribute to Stan which got a round of applause at my showing.

James: I thought I saw Kelly and freaked out, but wasn’t sure because my audience had zero reaction (ah, right, normal people see these movies too).

Jill: Yes, it was very quick and I only noticed because someone online had spilled the beans about it before I saw the movie, so I was expecting it.

James: But I will say, I loved the intro for Stan more than his actual cameo—which, while cute, has invited a lot of weird discourse about how he’s a person within the MCU now. Honestly? Keep that Marvel Studios logo and don’t have any more cameos, no matter how many they have left unaired. It’s the loveliest way to keep honouring his legacy.

Charles: I’m fine with more cameos, so long as they aren’t just quick shots of his face, and then looped audio the way his seemed to be in Captain Marvel, which kind of freaked me out.

Cheryl: Is Stan Lee gonna be in Endgame though? Surely they already filmed that one.

Charles: If he does, I hope it’s as the Watcher chilling out on a small moon having a chuckle at all the nonsense and then zooming away into the depths of space.

Charles: So. Endgame’s coming annnnd the better of Captain Marvel’s stingers is pretty much just a tie-in to the next movie.

Jill: Better is debatable, Charles!

Charles: Shocker, the cat coughed up the cube.

Jill: Haha, classic cat though!!

James: Honestly, I’m with Jill, and I’m not even particularly a cat person. But that’s only because I have very specific beef with the Endgame stinger. As a plot thing, it’s fun—Carol just showing up out of nowhere, not some grand sweeping in or a crash from the cosmos. But…what did they do to Carol’s hair in this post-credit sequence?

Charles: I was waiting for butch haircut Carol to burst in through the wall, not gonna lie. Give Carol a fade.

James: It’s so flat! Lifeless! Not even binary powers can undo whatever iron did that to poor Carol Danvers. It’s so jarring after seeing it majestically float around in Captain Marvel’s climax, like a Super Saiyan filming a conditioner commercial. If they were going to update her look, I’m with you Charles: Her shorter hair from the last few years in the comics (although she’s grown it out again most recently) would’ve been rad.

Jill: Look, you two, Natasha still has no eyebrows, there are bigger problems at hand.

Charles: Looking forward to watching Steve and Carol taking a look at each other and both deciding it’s time for a makeover at some point during Endgame. She zaps his beard off, and he offers her the shield to cut off the binary blowout. Also, make Natasha a Skrull, you cowards.

Jill: Well, we don’t have long to find out whether any of that comes true! Endgame is basically around the corner.

James: God, don’t say that. That’s a threat in our line of work.

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