….And it’s looking like ‘19 is gonna be another tumultuous year for the planet, am I right? And yet we still push ahead. SPOILERS for the CAPTAIN MARVEL film ahead, as well as fun facts, science-fiction trivia, and Marvel Minutiae:
1. The score by Pinar Toprak is, I would opine, a bad-ass score. One of the very first music cues subtly quotes a theme from Vangelis’ score for BLADE RUNNER, and the fleeting-ness of it suggests intentionality. That’s not at all a dig or a complaint — film composers quote/pay homage to each other all the time, whether you’re John Williams or Jonny Greenwood. Toprak (who is of Turkish origin) is the first woman to be credited as main composer for a Marvel feature; she also worked on the DCEU series KRYPTON.
2. Carol’s rock band shirts. The Heart → Lita Ford → 90s alt-rock + R&B arc is almost too crazysexycool to be believed. Any time Carol’s not wearing the Kree suit or an Earth military/sports-related uniform, she’s repping a band: Guns n’ Roses, in the karaoke flashback to “Kiss Me Deadly”; the Nine Inch Nails shirt she steals and wears for most of the movie; at the end, she’s wearing the Heart shirt, harkening back to “Crazy On You” playing in one of her earlier flashbacks. (BTW, Marvel, could we get a Jack of Hearts movie at some point? That guy had good flair.)
3. The 4-shot of Carol, Nick, Maria and Talos in the ship approaching the cloaked satellite lab highly recalls the 4-shot of Han, Chewie, Leia and C3PO in the Millennium Falcon cockpit in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, which will remain the best 4-shot in the history of science fiction films 4-ever.
4. For the Trekkies: the accidental naming of “Vers” by an English word fragment instantly recalls the V’Ger/Voyager macguffin from STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, a.k.a. the almost-totally-forgotten Star Trek movie that was much better when it (eventually) was called STAR TREK IV. THE VOYAGE HOME.
5. Annette Bening has played more than a few con artists in her career, (owing to her breakout performance in THE GRIFTERS), so it’s cool to see her being grifty again, as Carol’s chosen visualization of the Supreme Intelligence, so stylishly lying out the side of her mouth. And yes, the concept of the S.I., and Mar-vell/Lawson being a woman, both were meaningful departures from the comics, and righteously done, ‘cause trust me you don’t wanna see the Supreme Intelligence as he’s drawn in the comics, he looks like the scariest Jello salad ever, it’s just not a thing we need in cinema.
6. Minn-Erva, as played with pleasant unpleasantness by Gemma Chan, has only one really meaningful exchange with Carol in the film…but in the comics, Minn-Erva levels up in powers and becomes one of Captain Marvel’s frequent foes. Her and, you know, patriarchy.
7. I LOL’ed when Agent Fury said the words “alien autopsy” aloud, just ‘cause of all those Alien Autopsy reality shows I remember from back in the day. If I had to sum up the ’90s in terms of sequential pop-cultural sense-memory, it’d go something like “Nirvana –> X-Files –> Alien Autopsies –> Britney Spears.”
8. Is Goose The Cat a shoutout to TOP GUN? As mentioned, he’s named “Chewie” in the comics, and since Disney has no shame about the Star Wars references crossing over into the MCU (thanks, new Spider-Guy!) you’d think they could get away with it. My theory is, somebody specifically wanted to call out to TOP GUN (1986) to plus up the fighter-pilot camaraderie with Carol and Maria. Also, one can’t help but notice that Goose looks just like the cat who accompanied/antagonized Sigourney Weaver in ALIEN (1979).
9. I cannot confirm this Easter Egg, but I Want To Believe it is Anthony Mackie/Falcon’s voice greeting Carol and Nick via intercom as they enter the secret PEGASUS base. A) It kinda sounds like his voice, altho granted it’d be a stretch for Sam Wilson to be active military in the 1990’s in this timeline. B) Anthony Mackie’s performance as Frank in Boden & Fleck’s HALF NELSON (2006) was a breakout role for him, although reasonable people (like Spike Lee and Kathryn Bigelow) may differ on which was THE breakout role for the talented man who would eventually become The Falcon. (Personal bias towards HALF NELSON will show up a lot in this listicle, because it’s a great flerkin’ film.)
10. This is neither fact nor egg, but simply my own Fun Opinion: Brie Larson is better at being Spider-Man than any actor who’s played Spider-Man thus far, no offense to anybody, Maguire, Garfield, Holland, Hammond, we’re all still cool, right? But Larson does Captain Marvel as Spider-Man oughtta be; snarky, snide, overly chatty during hand-to-hand combat. Deadpool does this in his movies (albeit in his more meta-absurd R-rated way), why can’t movie Spider-Man bring the jokes? Spider-Man is supposed to be funny! More importantly, like Spider-Man, Captain Marvel THINKS she’s funny; for both characters, the sarcastic banter is essential to their concept of self. #SpiderBrie
11. The 1990’s-accurate slang was delightful, particularly as performed by Samuel L. Jackson, who has literally been creating slang and catchphrases since the actual 1990’s. “411 on the late-night drop box?” That’s gotta be a sentence that hasn’t been said on Earth in at least a decade. “Fresh” is also a perfect era-appropriate thing for young Monica to say, and a little sassy, given the Rotten Tomatoes problem. #CertifiedFresh
12. There was no romantic love story involving Carol Danvers, THANK GAWD. For this and other reasons I find CAPTAIN MARVEL a superior film to WONDER WOMAN, which for all its shining moments, had a few awkward concessions to formula. CAPTAIN MARVEL feels fully-composed as a story about friendships. The most romantic feels happens among the Skrulls, and it’s a lovely, earned moment.
13. That Monica Rambeau part was pretty good, wasn’t it? It gives us a young kid in the MCU who kinda actively wants to be a superhero, and, fun fact, probably someday gets to be a superhero! (Most of them just mope towards it with some blather about power and responsibility, etc.) #Further Fun Fact! There’s a lot of fandom-ranting right now about Carol Danvers being “the most powerful” Avenger, which is both unresolvable and irrelevant — Thor and Hulk would round out the top 3, but their brute force certainly didn’t help much with that Thanos problem. But! Grown-up Monica Rambeau’s Captain Marvel is totally OP: she has arguably the deadliest powerset in Avengers canon. While Danvers absorbs and projects energy, Rambeau actually transforms into electromagnetic energy of any wavelength; so if she decides to become, say, an invisible laser moving at lightspeed with the intensity of the Solar Corona, um, no one in their right mind wants to battle with that.
14. There’s a bunch of cinematic shout-outs to TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991) and the legacy of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. A) The first thing Carol does after arriving on Earth is blow Arnie’s head off the posterboard ad for his 1994 film TRUE LIES. B) Then she gets in a multi-vehicle chase on the sun-baked streets of LA, pursuing a shapeshifter who can look like anyone. Sound familiar? C) She goes in mufti in much the way Arnie does in T2, by appropriating some personal items from a hulking biker dude. As it’s still #WomensHistoryMonth, perhaps it is apt to recall that somewhat before it was all the style, two of the foremost women protagonists in the sci-fi/action genre were Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) in T2, and duh, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in ALIEN/S, both films by James Cameron, both landmark performances that hold up to this day, thanks to the commitment of the actors and the stuntwomen who doubled for them.
15. Prior to CAPTAIN MARVEL, Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck’s films are distinguished by a piercingly realistic docudrama style, and ensemble casts giving truthful, poised performances. (BTW, if you maintain the reasonable opinion that superhero movies are all kinda stupid because they glorify fantasy violence as the main form of conflict resolution — GO SEE Boden & Fleck’s other films, HALF NELSON, SUGAR, because none of that happens, they are as far from the fantasy genres as you can get.)
The question mark was whether the director team would be able to execute the kinetic action sequences required by the Marvel film template. Towards the end of making the set pieces pop, in a few cases there’s No Doubt they cheated, but the cheats were all highly effective and clever. By cheating, I just mean they use a trick of music or editing to make a fight scene seem a little more exciting than it is; the battles aren’t quite as acrobatically excellent as say, in DAREDEVIL or BLACK PANTHER, and that’s totally okay, we’ve seen those sort of fight sequences in Marvel things already, Boden & Fleck’s more musical/intimate take just adds a new color to the punching-people palette.
16. I go up and down with the soundtracks to Marvel films, but CAPTAIN MARVEL clearly has the best whole soundtrack in the MCU by light years, and again, I’m enamored of Pinar Toprak’s superlative work on the score. Here’s more Fun Facts about Marvel composers!
— Ramin Djavadi, of Iranian descent, did the score for the first IRON MAN film. You know, the one that started this whole mess of Marvel movies? He went on to compose for GAME OF THRONES, you may have heard their theme song once or twice. As in CAPTAIN MARVEL, the IRON MAN music was a little more synth-pop than symphonic, and it helped define Marvel’s particular corner of the summer blockbuster market, back in those formative years before the first AVENGERS film came out (by which point the MCU endeavor was making epic-level money, and as such started trending towards more traditionally epic orchestral scores).
— The other Marvel movie with really good music (no, I don’t mean the GotGs), THOR: RAGNAROK, was scored by Mark Mothersbaugh, founding member of Devo. Yes, the band Devo, is that rad or what?
— BLACK PANTHER’s composer Ludwig Göransson recently won the Oscar for his ambitious work on that film, an award which should look nice next to his several Grammys for co-producing Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.” Dude is on a bit of a roll.
— The only point I’m getting to is that Marvel excels when it lets composers use both the traditional epic-orchestral setup AND stray into other electronic/percussive musical idioms. ‘Cause, we all enjoy the symphony, we do, we like that you’re from the symphony, but Marvel is a 90’s bitch.
17. “Warrior Heroes.” I was so worried, watching the first CAPTAIN MARVEL trailer, that Carol’s insistence on aggrandizing the Kree as “heroes” was gonna be the actual premise of the movie. SOOOOO WORRIED, because that would imply the most simplistic interpretation of the Kree-Skrull war, or any war for that matter. Fortunately, that turned out to be just a #Skrullin’ use of dramatic irony, i.e. the paradox when the main character says something she believes to be true but the audience knows to be hooey, before the character herself discovers such. The film in actuality is a much more subtle double-take on the Kree-Skrull conflict (which tbh, varies in sophistication in the comics; often it’s just a pure gimmick to get the Avengers to wear spacesuits) into a heartaching allegory for war, refugees, and displacement.
Can we just say out loud that watching Talos the Big Bad Skrull reuniting with his family was a hell of a thing, in light of the West Bank, Syria, Yemen, the United States? And must’ve been intentionally so? Again, not because the Skrulls are suddenly “good.” More because we see then what they’ve lost in the course of fighting a gigantically pointless war.
This is yet another element harkening back to Boden and Fleck’s debut feature HALF NELSON: the use of anti-war rhetoric as a sub-narrative to the main story. Because people talk about war when there’s a war on, that’s a thing people do, even when it is not the sole focus of their lives.
Seriously, who’d have ever thought that Marvel’s most politically subversive film would be the one with the word “Marvel” in the title?
(That is to say, it wouldn’t be out of left field to guess that Marvel’s most politically subversive film might be the one that has “Black Panther” in the title, and you would not be wrong. I think it’s about a photo-finish tie between BLACK PANTHER, CAPTAIN MARVEL, and JESSICA JONES for most socially-relevant live-action thing Marvel Studios has accomplished thus far.)
18. Thanks to Alamo Drafthouse’s preshow content for reminding us that Brie Larson was also in SCOTT PILGRIM VERSUS THE WORLD and the video for a Jenny Lewis song. SCOTT PILGRIM was another comics-derived movie which I thought was revolutionary and awesome and audiences kinda went, eh, meh. But then, that was back in 2010, two years before the first Avengers film, year 2 B.C. of our current Comics Era. So much has changed.
19. It is Senator Martha McSally’s (R-AZ) birthday this week, on March 22. It is, as mentioned, Women’s History Month. Setting aside the whole Dem/GOP problem for just one flerking second (gosh, that feels good) Martha McSally is an important figure in women’s history for serving as the first woman combat pilot in the USAF. She has both a symbolic and literal connection to Captain Marvel, primarily as a a trailblazer for female aviators (in the film, Maria Rambeau makes mention of the glass/flight ceiling which McSally personally shattered IRL). Then two weeks ago, in a weird-but-not-unwelcome PR moment at that fun Marvel Studios Q & A event at a reconstructed Tower Records, Sen. McSally asked (via Tweet) Brie Larson and Lashana Lynch about the pilot training prep for their roles, which resulted in some funny banter from the actors about barfing and G’s and callsigns. Then two days later, at a public Senate subcommittee hearing on sexual assault in the military, Sen. McSally asserted that she herself had been sexually assaulted by a superior officer, and had not reported the assault until that very day, two week ago, March 6, presumably at least a decade after the incident.
Are these dots connected in our evolving understanding of how the world spins? I dunno. Obviously, Martha McSally is a real person and a real historical icon, and Captain Marvel is a comic book character (or eight). What is factual is, the day after Sen. McSally revealed her story, CAPTAIN MARVEL debuted in U.S. movie theaters. If nothing else, this herstory got made this year.