Kree, Skrulls, Flerken, and Marvel — and a fine time was had by all


I had a hot date last night: dinner at the Stone’s Throw Cafe, followed by a short walk to the Morris Theater (everything is nearby in a small town), where we watched Captain Marvel. there was a good crowd there. Another virtue of small town living is that even when the new blockbuster comes to town, it’s no problem getting in — show up ten minutes before, maybe there’ll be a short line, but you’ll slide right through and get a good seat. We parked ourselves way up front, maybe the third row or so.

And then we saw the show.

No spoilers, don’t worry.

First, a criticism: the beginning was very non-linear, jumping about rather confusingly in the Vers/Carol Danvers story. For a while I was wondering if this was going to be a time-travel story, which would annoy me a lot, but then about a third of the way through it all clicked and Marvel’s origins suddenly fell into place. If you’re not familiar with Captain Marvel lore, as I wasn’t, bear with it, it will eventually all make sense.

But then, I’m used to disjointed comic book stories. In my youth, when I was really into comic books, I couldn’t often afford to buy them off the rack, and instead would go down to the local Goodwill store where they’d have a pile of old comic books they mainly wanted to get rid of, so they’d sell them at 20 for a dollar (I was so annoyed when they raised the price to 10 for a dollar). Forget continuity, I’d come to the end of a Fantastic Four cliffhanger and then the next comic in my pile would be a Baby Huey or something. Adapt or die, man.

Minor spoiler: Baby Huey does not show up in this movie.

Anyway, once I got on track it was a good, fun story. It’s not a deep cinematic masterpiece, but as long as your expectations are focused on appreciating a solid genre story, you’ll have a fine time. In particular what I liked about the movie is that it really returns to superhero movie roots: she’s a good person with super powers who cares about other people, including aliens, and exhibits empathy. It reminded me a lot of that first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve — it inspired hope in humanity rather than the usual angsty “let’s watch people fuck up a miraculous opportunity and suffer while demolishing a city”. I kinda need that now and then, because I already have a tendency to lapse into grimdark attitudes.

It’s a good sign for the next big blockbuster out of the MCU, because the Infinity War thingie fully embraced the grimdarkness with a depressing ending, and all the trailers for the Endgame movie are similarly discouraging. Captain Marvel is going to be key to wrapping up that story line, I think, and she’s bringing light and hope. Or at least, she better.

Another good sign: we sat through the end credits (it’s an MCU movie, you have to), and when it finally went black and got up to leave, the entire theater was still full, and everyone was smiling and talking happily. This was also a community event, with little kids in the audience, college students, old geezers like me, and you could just tell from everyone’s expressions that they’d had a good time. It’s a relax and feel good sort of movie.

Also, about the cat…a lot of reviews are talking up the role of Goose the cat. That’s fine, but while he has a few crucial moments, it’s not a big central part of the story. I also wouldn’t call it comic relief. Goose has some anatomical elements that made me very happy, but otherwise, despite the different coloration, he made me think of my cat: dangerously hostile and with peculiar digestive habits. I’m thinking of trying that trick of holding her up, aiming her at my enemies, and giving her a little squeeze.

Maybe we’ve adopted a flerken, rather than a cat. Holy crap, suddenly everything clicked again and it makes so much sense!


Also, a video review!

Comments

  1. specialffrog says

    I saw it yesterday and enjoyed it. Definitely towards the better end of the MCU films. Some on-the-nose musical queues though not at Suicide Squad levels of bad. And a surprisingly unpredictable plot.

  2. mathman85 says

    I saw it on Thursday night, and I was similarly quite pleased with it. It’s a great breather episode in between the heavy—or, as P.Z. puts it, “grimdark”—Infinity War and Endgame. It was funny, it was entertaining, and it was well worth the price of admission.

  3. says

    Do you know that you are the first genuinely positive review of Captain Marvel I’ve seen so far? I’m rather taken aback and now I have to see it…

  4. says

    #4: Well, it did help having a beautiful woman by my side and a nice dinner in my belly. I may have biased my environmental influences in its favor.

  5. says

    I like the film a lot. I think it is mid tier MCU and about as effective as Captain America: The First Avenger. However, I think views like…

    https://mashable.com/article/captain-marvel-feminism-female-superhero/#sVjWgOx4_gqh

    are important to read. The film is exceedingly shallow and mild on feminist themes, which is fine. A lot of that has to do with its place in the MCU storyline and I suspect future Captain Marvel standalones will be better on that front. I think this is important to note because of the absurd MRA reactionary campaign against the film/Larson. (Last I looked, Rotten Tomatoes was still battling the trolls, IMDB’s score is still getting tanked). It is a good film and yeah fuck the manosphere dipshits but can we not embrace the film as feminist manifesto?

  6. Math in PA says

    @MikeSmith: See– a review like that saddens me, because unlike the ones where they use the label of villain wrong, it’s clear that they did see the movie; and I do wish we had a spoiler-open zone to discuss this, because I’m sorry, but that very much reads like the reviewer went in to the movie with a sneer on her lips in the first place.

    The very point at which they talk about the central personal narrative, though, tells me she wasn’t paying attention. Because she uses– as her reason to dismiss– a scene that comes after the rejection and recenter. She’s already decided, made her colors clear, and taken steps to act on her choices. It was over and done with; Carol had already pushed back at it and was fighting back.

    The passivity of the statement that the reviewer makes is one of the two biggest cues, because they make it seem like it’s done normally for films like this involving women– someone else does it for her. Carol does it for herself. It’s the synthesis step that opens up final catharsis, and it’s frustrating to try to discuss it without explaining why that had a lot of people in my theater shouting happily at that moment– and at the point where Carol explicitly rejects a gatekeeper.

    Which is an even early problem with the reviewer’s dismissal; she’s conflating two different scenes, two different enemies, and possibly three different confrontations. And sure, I know that given the fact that the narrative is dealing with confrontation of an unknown past and two different forms of gaslighting can make it hard to follow in places, but…

    You know, that’s extra-frustrating. The narrative has completely locked into place by the final confrontation, so there’s not even an excuse of continuing revelations at that point. It’s such a solid, satisfying rejection of gatekeeping and gaslighting, too.

    And I have to wonder where certain commenters on here got their information that this was in any way an advertisement for the military. It’s gentle, to an extent, with the actual people caught up in the fighting– I can’t quite remember whether the line is ‘This war has made my hands filthy, too,’ or ‘My hands are filthy’– but it is also a very thorough rejection of militaristic imperialism, too.

    And the movie juxtaposes both types of gaslighting as well, very clearly. The Air Force is definitely trying to use the film in its recruitment, but that’s rather dumb, considering any number of elements that are NOT kind to them specifically. Let alone for militaristic/imperialistic orgs in general.

    Heh. Actually, on topic for this blog, I think the AF may have cause to regret flogging the fact that the movie had to get their permission for the presence of certain things in the movie (trademarks are present, even if muted and often shown in an ambiguous light). Remember those still-fucking-frightening reports of Christian Dominionist AF chaplains indoctrinating pilots?

    Ronan’s role is minor but he is a looming threat at all points– even when we’re still being lead to accept the kree at mostly face value. It isn’t in the slightest ambivalent. It’s barely even concealed; if the pre-movie conceits had turned out to be true, Ronan’s role would still have been a condemnation of that barbarity.

  7. says

    I was going to go see it yesterday but we had a heavy snow and I screwed up my ankle a few weeks ago and that’s still healing so sadly I had to avoid any excursions that weren’t necessary (low on groceries, so that was needed). Hopefully either the snow gets better or the ankle heals enough while it’s still in theaters.

  8. Gregory Greenwood says

    Having seen the movie myself, I rather liked it. It isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it was a solidly constructed Marvel movie that did the job it was intend to do well. I had no problem with Brie Larson’s performance or her screen chemistry with Samuel L Jackson – part of the hook of her character being that she becomes more expressive and human as she reconnects with her past life. By the end of the movie, she is very personable and strikes a fine balance between strength and compassion

    The movie had some positive feminist and female empowerment themes, but the movie could hardly be considered overly political to its detriment by any reasonable observer. Those themes never overwhelmed the narrative and I never once saw any male character being depicted as villainous simply as a direct product of their maleness, or for that matter a female character depicted positively solely because she was a woman – villainy (and heroism) always flowed in the movie from how you behaved, not who or what you were.

    Far from being a put upon comedy side kick, Nick Fury is a proactive character throughout his time in the movie and SPOILERS Talos (and the Skrulls in general) is depicted at variance with his comic book incarnation, being a family man who just wants to find a new home for his refugee people and to protect his wife and daughter. He gets his own heroic moments just like Fury, and the movie never feels the need to play them down unduly out of some ‘agenda’ that, so far as I can tell, only ever existed in the minds of an angry dude-bro segment of the Marvel fandom .

    I will admit that there were a few things in the movie that confused me and could probably have been better handled – like why a species with rapid interstellar travel technology (that appears to be some kind of space folding ability from how it is depicted) would need a ‘Light Speed Drive’, and why such a drive is discussed as if it could facilitate rapid intergalactic travel. Leaving aside the relativistic effects that come with travelling at near light speeds, such a speed would still not really be fast enough to facilitate practical interstellar travel, still less intergalactic travel, and the technology already possessed by species like the Kree and the other star faring civilisations in the Marvel-verse is already superior to that. I understand that that the power core for the Light Speed Drive was EXTRA SPOILERY the Tesseract, but that already facilitates teleportation over effectively limitless distance, making light speed travel totally anachronistic. It just struck me as odd. But that is just a niggle really; in the end the Light Speed Drive was no more than a plot McGuffin anyway. Though It does leave me to wonder why in an earlier Marvel movie (the first Avengers movie if memory serves) the Tesseract had to be recovered from the ocean when it was already in Nick Fury’s possession on dry land since the ’90s, but I imagine that will be explained in a later movie.

    All told, it was fun comic book fare. There is nothing even beginning to justify the flailing hatred the movie is still receiving from some quarters.

    Also – Goose is awesome.

  9. Math in PA says

    @Gregory Greenwood The Tesseract is picked up in a flashback scene. They’ve been uncareful with the locations of the damn things, which seems… imprudent, but here’s what we know:

    Red Skull finds it in the 40s; gets absorbed into it during the final fight with Cap on the flying wing.

    Howard, not Tony, but his dad, Howard Stark finds it while searching for Cap; he almost disregards it while still looking for Cap (unsuccessfully; I believe we see on screen that Cap is found and unfrozen in the post-millennium era, though I’m less certain of that).

    It remains in SHIELD possession for a while; apparently, a prequel comic makes it clear that Project: Pegasus is a joint NASA-SHIELD op deliberately done to study the Tesseract. A point here about the LSD and the stone– they don’t know it’s the Space Stone. It’s the battery for HYDRA weaponry, as far as they know. Not sure how much the parasite HYDRA knew about the Stone, either, though of course Armin Zola was the guy who tapped the Stone as a battery too.

    That incidentally makes sense to me, given differentials and side-effects of such an item, especially since it was basically being used like Tesla’s beamed power idea. Even though of course it’s nonsense, it’s internally consistent nonsense, too. But the major point is that they didn’t even know that the stone ate the Red Skull, though by Avengers they know that it seems to open out to -somewhere-. But that’s what, mid-to-late-forties 40s to 2012? I suppose they probably learned a few things, but not that it’s a teleporter. Marr-Vell is a bit of a question mark there, but we don’t know what she knew about it.

    SHIELD temporarily loses possession of it during the Captain Marvel incident. No spoilers; they regain control afterwards.

    From the mid-nineties to The Avengers, we don’t know what they did, but it gradually turned from a vehicle-battery concept to a weapons-battery concept, which is why it was being studied in the underground base in The Avengers that Loki emerged from.

    I’m pretty sure the scene with Howard Stark searching for it is postcredits for Captain America: the First Avenger if you want to look it up again.

    As for the LSD, I think it was a part of “avoid technobabble”– they don’t explain how Carol manages to bridge the tech gap for communications, they just let us see it’s hypertech and move on without making insulting/swiftly outdated claims. There’s a few hints that the Kree are using something like portal networks– “jump points” gets bandied about in the background, and like in GG they go into some hex-grid in the sky to pop out elsewhere.

    Whether that’s natural, or takes work to create (like sending a jump point terminus out the slow way or something), it suggests that ordinary fast travel is done through what amounts to an interstellar highway system. Hope we don’t get selected for a bypass! The impression I got– and as you said, it’s not really important and they don’t dwell on it– is that it’s intended to take them completely out of the galaxy. The Kree seem to be limited to this galaxy in the movie, and given intergalactic distances, especially if the users of the LSD don’t point it at something ‘local’ would be impossible to follow with any regularity.

  10. specialffrog says

    Not that it is particularly important but I think the Tesseract was recovered from the bottom of the ocean by Howard Stark at the end of the first Captain America movie (still in WW2 era). So it makes sense that it would be in possession of the military industrial complex between then and the events of Captain Marvel.

  11. Gregory Greenwood says

    Math in PA @ 14;

    The Tesseract is picked up in a flashback scene. They’ve been uncareful with the locations of the damn things, which seems… imprudent

    Fair enough. And you are absolutely right – Shield seems to be ridiculously slap dash when it comes to storing the most powerful objects in the entire Marvel universe. It makes you glad they aren’t responsible for nuclear weapon security.

  12. Ichthyic says

    And I have to wonder where certain commenters on here got their information that this was in any way an advertisement for the military.

    lolwut?

  13. Math in PA says

    @icthyic I just re-looked it up, and I was conflating other people saying that the movie was Top-Gun levels of pro-AF with someone refusing to see it because of said CM-branded AF recruitment ads for women/girls. Which, again, given … well, what everything is that isn’t a chillingly good overcoming-gaslighting-and-other-forms-of-abuse power fantasy/metaphor, I think they might regret that. It’s about as clueless as ‘patriots’ singing the chorus to Born in the USA without understanding the song.

    And, still– refusing to watch it based on that does the movie a disservice, especially with the very specific stances it takes in and of itself. Letting the AF win, in some ways.

  14. John Morales says

    For me, a review without “spoilers” is only nominally a review.

    (Would you buy a car based on a review without “spoilers”?)

  15. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Gregory Greenwood wrote:

    Shield seems to be ridiculously slap dash when it comes to storing the most powerful objects in the entire Marvel universe. It makes you glad they aren’t responsible for nuclear weapon security.

    I’ve got some bad news for you. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/05/24/highly-secure-security-guards-us-nuclear-weapons-base-used-lsd and https://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/books/review/command-and-control-by-eric-schlosser.html

  16. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Math in PA wrote:

    And I have to wonder where certain commenters on here got their information that this was in any way an advertisement for the military.

    The DoD seems to think it is: https://www.defense.gov/explore/story/Article/1775393/airmen-fly-higher-further-faster-as-captain-marvel-extras/

    The US government has various programs that lets movie studios shoot with military hardware and receive subsidies in exchange for script approval. The article on the DoD website implies that this movie was almost certainly participating in it.

  17. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @19: I agree. If a film can indeed be spoiled by spoilers, it’s not much of a film.

    Spoilers for the 2004 film Troy: Hector kills Patroclus, Achilles kills Hector, Paris kills Achilles. Rather non-canonically, Hector also kills Menelaus, and Briseis kills Agamemnon, thus depriving his wife of the pleasure. And for once, Sean Bean doesn’t get killed.

  18. Gregory Greenwood says

    ck, the Irate Lump @ 21;

    You hear about such stories from time to time, and it is terrifying. I sometimes think it surprising that we haven’t suffered an accidental detonation of a nuclear weapon as a result of such sloppiness.

    This isn’t quite Shield levels of bad, but it is still ludicrously poor security for the world’s most destructive weapons.

  19. says

    So what exactly is it that makes it so very difficult and undesirable to say “Spoiler ahead”? Does it make your arm break off? Does it make you break out in hives? Does the same thing happen with other forms of elementary courtesy?

  20. magistramarla says

    We’re doing dinner and a movie this evening. I’m psyched to see this one.
    The spoilers mean nothing to me, since I was never a comic book fan, and I’m just trying to figure out the world of Marvel by enjoying the films. My husband tries to explain things to me. but it takes a bit for me to understand and remember it all.
    I do think that this will be a fun movie to see.

  21. Math in PA says

    @ck, the Irate Lump Yes. Like I said:
    ” said CM-branded AF recruitment ads for women/girls. Which, again, given … well, what everything is that isn’t a chillingly good overcoming-gaslighting-and-other-forms-of-abuse power fantasy/metaphor, I think they might regret that. It’s about as clueless as ‘patriots’ singing the chorus to Born in the USA without understanding the song.”

    I don’t think that spoilers will ruin the story; I was well aware of the major twists and most of the plot, and I still enjoyed it. But I do respect people’s rights to enjoy things in their own way, so I’ve been trying to avoid spoilers nonetheless.

    The DOD and the AF do not come off as the good guys in here. Imagine if First Blood had been better written, had even more sympathy for the PTSD of vietnam vets, had Trautman secretly working with President Reagan to turn Rambo into a killer of refugees in Southeast Asia, but John escapes with the assistance of some local Vietnamese-Americans. While helping to save them from the sheriff, he finds a sort of catharsis to come to terms with his PTSD, then goes on national television to confront Iran-Contra, the Republican Party’s manipulation of both Vietnam and the Iranian hostage crisis. The analogy starts to fall apart there because of the differences in characters and eras, and since First Blood wasn’t Punisher Lite, it didn’t have the superheroic upbeat ending.

    While I know that the later Rambo movies turned steadily away from the anti-war message, it would have been like taking a First Blood that not only empathized sincerely with PTSD vets (which IMO it did, only more so), but treated their catharsis and healing as being a metaphor for American society turning against the MIC. Then using that to recruit for the Army. When I compared it to Born in the USA, I meant it.

    Anyway, last spoilers free moment here. I don’t really know WP’s code, so I hope that repeating LAST SPOILER FREE MOMENTS HERE will be sufficient; if not, I apologize.

    The fact that they emphasize ‘Kree Starforce‘ and ‘Race of Noble Warrior Heroes’ in a movie where the main character was a member of the US Airforce which is a part of the same overall military that loves to talk about its Noble Warrior Heroes is not in any way a coincidence. Ronan and the Accuser Corps are religious fanatics in charge of strategic bombers; The Supreme Intelligence is literally gaslighting Carol both at ‘church’ and in her dreams (there’s a Skrull inserted into her dreams who literally was nowhere near the subject of the dream); Yon-Rogg, her commander, acts like a gaslighting, jealous, manipulative SO who keeps telling Carol that she has to meet his standards, has to suppress her emotions, which are a danger, and then emotionally and physically abuses her by setting the rules of engagement so he can throw her around without her being able to use her advantages, train in their use, and all the while needling her until she does let go. But he just wants to make her the best her she can be.

    Which is then used as a reason to have her taken in for interrogation/proselytizing. “Maybe it’s a mercy you don’t remember.” Meanwhile, we hear a soft, harmonious voice saying, “It has been 120 days since the last Skrull attack,” Ronan says things like “one Skrull anywhere is a threat to Kree everywhere,” etc.

    Meanwhile at least one ‘terrorist’ has entirely ‘human’ reasons for what he does, and the film doesn’t try to claim he’s just a poor abused angel either. ‘My hands are filthy, too’. Even after her Heroic Change of Costume, a child and civilians shrink away from her in fear when they see her still wearing a similar design to the USAF shirt.

    The actual USAF itself, like I said, does not actually look much better. They’re literally presented as either being harassing, misogynistic jerks, or failing to hold said jerks accountable. They’re obstacles– telling little girls, “What will be your origin story? How many will make YOUR life hell?” They swept Carol’s death completely under the rug, harassed her wingwoman about it, and stonewalled them in a search for information. Project Pegasus had the data, remember, but rather than confront ‘weird’, chose to make Maria’s life hell. They are as much adversary as anything else in the present. The only thing that’s positive for the USAF at all is the choice of the shirt, which is out of date and in the background.

    I’m not sure how much further anti-imperialist and frowning at the AF it could be without actually waking up whoever greenlit those ads, but I’d still recommend not letting their version of reality stand.

  22. says

    @specialffrog

    It was to the ether given the sort of internet wide commentary that is happening around this film. The director and star both have pitched the film as a feminist film. I found the review interesting.

    @Math in PA

    I agree that the review’s analysis is a little off but I said it was important to read. I did not say it is important to agree with it. I found the motorcycle scene galling in its simplicity and metacommentary of the film itself does not fit in with any else presented. Any film that presents violence as a means of resistance cannot be truly feminist.

    You are also being way too charitable to the film in its alleged anti-imperialism.-the refugees merely become a client race in the end for one thing. I guarantee no one working on the film connected Starforce and Airforce in the manner you are. Even if you are right that the text is anti-imperialist that it utterly compromised by the Airforce partially funding the film and them turning Captain Marvel into a recruitment tool. I don’t think the film is serious enough, at all, to have any of that in the text itself.

  23. Chakat Firepaw says

    But then, I’m used to disjointed comic book stories. In my youth, when I was really into comic books, I couldn’t often afford to buy them off the rack,

    PZ, you’re old enough that being able to buy off the rack probably wouldn’t have helped. Your childhood would have been before the days before comics switched to direct distribution¹ and would have still been going through newspaper distributors. Since the newspaper distributors didn’t care, issues would hit the stands all out of order and with many issues never even showing up at a given store/newsstand.

    1: So-called because the comic distributors got their start with a comic book shop realizing they had enough business to justify directly ordering new issues rather than relying on what they could get second-hand.

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