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- 28th September 2008
Captain Marvel (2019)
As previously mentioned, Carol’s a character whose journey on 616 I followed a little some years ago. At the time I read, “present day” Carol was regularly mentioned in the X-Men through her connection to Rogue and her affiliation with the Starjammers. Despite having had a volume of solo adventures and a stint with the Avengers she became best known to me for having had her powers and memories permanently stolen by Rogue.
While I think of Carol as Ms. Marvel, it’s plain to see objectively that as Marvel’s face of feminism, Carol’s success was iffy to say the least: from the original navel-revealing costume to the amnesia and the whole rape and unwanted pregnancy business. Her original series was also pretty patchy. Moreover, she came with the burden of being one of those bronze-age “derivative female version of existing male superhero” characters. Worse she was also possibly the least interesting of even this sub-section to me (She-Hulk was fun as an Avenger and really came into her own during her tenure in the FF. Spider-Woman, despite her own patchy series, was a character I loved which put me firmly in a minority at the time).
While Carol wasn’t the first female Marvel character to carry her own title (Greer Nelson was certainly before her, and I don’t doubt there may be others earlier still), the whole thing of her being a woman going toe-to-toe with men in a man’s world was probably pushed more than most in Ms. Marvel. It’s oddly fitting, then, that more than four decades later she carries the added burden of carrying the first female solo MCU film. I seem to remember this aspect getting more attention than it probably needed when it launched since it comes with potential can detract from the product itself rather than letting it stand on its own merits. It is also a little ironic that the 1980s Monica Rambeau iteration of Captain Marvel (a favourite of mine dating back to her very first appearance) was in almost every regard far more progressive than Carol’s version... but without any such fanfare.
Many twenty-first century modifications in the comics don’t particularly appeal to me. Spider-Woman’s recent black costume with its patches of Spider-Man webbing, for example, is horrible. Carol’s makeover is an exception. Everything about it looks and feels right. I think the costume looks great - true to her history but more practical and less cheesy. Carol’s history is deeply entrenched in Mar-Vell’s universe so it feels like she’s a logical choice to take on the mantle. None of her previous code-name changes have worked for me, but once I saw she was Captain Marvel something just clicked with me. It all translates very well to film (almost as though it had been designed with the MCU in mind. Hmmm).
The Kree stuff never particularly interested me, mainly because I generally favour my superheroics rooted in a less alien backdrop (there are exceptions, but Carol isn’t one). This was always going to be a challenge with me in watching the film, because it was inevitable we’d visit different planets and alien races and whatever. However, the Kree-Skrull war worked for me. I know it from references as part of the history of Marvel, but I also know little enough about it not to be too precious about how it’s portrayed. And it did pleasantly surprise me with the “who can you trust” element being particularly enjoyable (it’s essentially an espionage thriller on a grander scale).
With much of my enjoyment often resting on action sequences, this film is good news/bad news for me. Some of the more spacey stuff got a little dull for me, particularly CGI Carol flying through space chasing spaceships., however I thought most of the CGI space environments were well-done, and the action scenes engaged me more than in many MCU films. I’ve never watched Top Gun, and it’s not near the top of a viewing bucket list, but I did find the sequences with Maria flying the plane quite exhilarating at times (if I’m not mistaken, some of this also resembled a similar pursuit in Star Wars) and when she evaded and destroyed the enemy ship I found myself giving a little inward cheer . This was a very pleasant surprise.