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Movie Review: Captain Marvel Takes Off But Doesn’t Quite Soar

Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel (2019) poster CR: Marvel Studios

The first sure to be blockbuster of the year, Marvel‘s Captain Marvel is an entertaining film that never quite reaches its full potential. Based on the comics character, Captain Marvel is a new take on the classic character of Carol Danvers. Here, she’s a Kree warrior, part of their Starforce, doing battle with Skrulls, a race of shapeshifting aliens who infiltrate societies before destroying them.

The film is an interesting one that even as I write this, I’m still trying to digest and process. There’s lots of good. There’s lots of bad. And a whole lot of middle ho-hum. In the growing library of Marvel films, it’s somewhere in the middle as far as quality.

The film acts as a prequel in a way, taking place in the 90s and introducing the character of Carol Danvers who we haven’t seen up to this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film feels like a piece of the bigger puzzle, never quite standing on its own, and at times stretching for winks and nods to make the fans happy.

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck with a “story by” and “screenplay by” Boden and Fleck (Meg LeFauve and Nicole Perlman get “story by” credits and Geneva Robertson-Dworet gets “story by” and “screenplay by” credits) the movie has a lot going for it but also has some misfires as well.

Breaking from the usual narrative structure, the film is one of discovery where the “hero” attempts to figure out their “human side” as opposed the regular schmo discovering they’re a hero. With lots of action sequences, the film is Carol, played by Brie Larson, attempting to discover her past and stop the Skrulls.

Larson has the interesting task of playing a human trained by the Kree, an emotionless warrior race focused on logic. Warrior Vulcans in a way. That results in a character who doesn’t smile and doesn’t have the usual emotional latching on points we’ve seen as part of Marvel’s formula. Instead that role is given to Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury who becomes Danvers’ partner in crime as she attempts to complete her mission and discovers there’s so much to it and her. In this role reversal, the hero is the “straightman” with the sidekick the joker.

And that’s one of the interesting aspect of the film, it’s focus on Larson’s Danvers being “too emotional.” Part of the undeserved hate against the film is Larson’s lack of smiling in promotional material. She’s not supposed to, she’s Kree, they don’t show emotion. And that aspect brings out the film’s underlying theme of toxic masculinity and how women are treated in society. We see through flashbacks and other scenes Danvers is held back and told to not be emotional. One can just look at the reaction to female politicians to see there’s messed up societal standards when it comes to that.

The film, in many ways, feels like a woman attempting to break free from expectations. She’s also told this growing up. She’s trained to use logic over emotion. Not letting emotion get the better of her. And then eventually, saying screw that to unleash her inner awesome that she’s bottled up. It’s a middle finger to the “traditional norms” that today are being confronted in so many ways.

And that as a viewer had me experience something I haven’t before, trouble connecting with the hero. As a straight, white, man, I’ve never had someone tell me not to be emotional (beyond not crying) or I couldn’t do something due to my gender (I have had that due to my height but then I’d just get angry and go off, so once again, emotional for guys is totally ok apparently) so to see Carol being told over and over to not be angry or she couldn’t do something because she’s a woman, it’s an experience I’ve never had. And it made it hard to connect and enjoy her journey. I have no doubt that many others who will see this film will be able to relate to her experiences and will enjoy the film in a whole other way than me (this is also a good thing, not everything she be geared towards my demographic).

But, that disconnect between myself and the main character, the lack of quips of the hero, made me rely on the action for enjoyment and there the film is all over.

The direction of Boden and Fleck is too choppy at times relying on quick camera cuts making it difficult to follow exactly what’s going on. It’s not until the big CGI finale does the camera slow down, allowing the audiences to take in more of the action and enjoy it. Early fights are difficult to tell exactly what’s happening and it’s hard to tell if this is by choice or due to the difficulty of the setting. It’s most prevelant in a scene taking place on the metro.

The film also lacks the “f@#k yeah” moment until 3/4 of the way in. It’s a long wait for the hero to really come forward and show her inner awesome. It’s also a complete change from previous Marvel films which feel like they’re almost built to show off the character’s abilities in set time frames in a set narrative beat. The lack of that for most of the film is a change which honestly I’m still not completely used to. Compare this to Wonder Woman which gives us the beat on the beach, No Man’s Land, and the end of the film. It’s a different type of narrative that stands out from the at this point rather formulaic Marvel method.

The film being a prequel helps and hurts it. It uses that to get long time Marvel fans interested with the inclusion of Fury (how did he lose the eye!?) and Clark Gregg‘s Coulson. Reveals are a plenty tying the film in nicely to the Marvel Cinematic Universe but at times these reveals feel forced and a bit unnatural. Also, some of those reveals don’t feel like much as far as payoffs.

The supporting cast is other really good or rather wasted. Ben Mendelsohn as Talos steals the show with a fantastic performance (though Skrulls with British accents are weird, don’t know why). Jude Law as Yon-Rogg plays an emotionless Kree well and unintentionally adds a “good” moment when he gets his considering his not great past with women.

While Djimon Hounsou as Korath has much more screen time than he did in Guardians of the Galaxy his inclusion is still a bit head-scratching. Lee Pace as Ronan feels like he’s only included to tie the film into what has come before. Annette Bening‘s role is an interesting one and the less said the better but… I want more Annette Bening.

The rest of Starforce are solid with Gemma Chan as Minn -Erva really standing out. Lashanna Lynch as Maria Rambeau brings a lot of heart to the film and we better see more of Akira Akbar who plays her daughter. That combination had me excited for what could come.

The film is an interesting one and its themes and the topics it touches upon are ones that can be debated for some time. Beyond the toxic masculinity, there’s the obvious look at the war machine and deeper concepts whose discussion would spoil parts of the film.

There’s a lot done right here and in many ways breaks the Marvel mold and formula. It’s a film I have no doubt will have an audience that will celebrate it and enjoy it and even before opening has its haters. I’m somewhere in between. I can appreciate what it does and attempts to do and also see its flaws. I also recognize not all films are for me and this could be one of them.

Overall Rating: 7.0

Pokémon Detective Pikachu Gets its First Trailer

The world of Pokémon comes to life! Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is the first live-action film base on the Pokémon franchise. Being released May 11, 2019, the Warner Bros. Pictures film stars Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Detective Pikachu, with Ken WatanabeJustice Smith, and Kathryn Newton in live-action roles and directed by Rob Letterman and written by Nicole Perlman.

The story begins when ace private eye Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu: a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City—a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world— they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.

Detective Pikachu Gets an Official Synopsis

The world of Pokémon comes to life! Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is the first live-action film base on the Pokémon franchise. Beingreleased May 10, 2019, the Warner Bros. Pictures film stars Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Detective Pikachu, with Ken WatanabeJustice Smith, and Kathryn Newton in live-action roles and directed by Rob Letterman and written by Nicole Perlman.

We also now know what the film is about!

The story begins when ace private eye Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu: a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City—a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world— they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu also stars Justice Smith as Tim; Kathryn Newton as Lucy, a junior reporter following her first big story; and Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe  as Lt. Yoshida.

Directed by Rob Letterman, the Pokémon: Detective Pikachu creative filmmaking team includes two-time Oscar nominated director of photography John Mathieson, production designer Nigel Phelps and Oscar-winning editor Mark Sanger. Visual effects are by Moving Picture Company and Framestore.

Detective Pikachu Gets Its First Poster

Expected to be released May 10, 2019, Warner Bros. Pictures has released the first teaser poster for Pokémon: Detective Pikachu.

Directed by Rob Letterman and written by Nicole Perlman, the film will be the first live-action film based on the Pokémon franchise. The film stars Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Detective Pikachu, with Ken Watanabe, Justice Smith, and Kathryn Newton in live-action roles.

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck tapped to Direct Captain Marvel

As reported by Variety, the directors of Mississippi Grind, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have been tapped to helm the Brie Larson starring Captain Marvel.

This ends a long search to find who would take the gig and as reported the length of time was due to getting the script in the “right shape.”

Inside Out scribes Meg LeFauve and Nicole Perlman are currently writing the script.

Captain Marvel in the comics follows Carol Danvers who is infused with Kree DNA and gains powers such as flight and energy blasts.

Preview: Gamora #4

Gamora #4

(W) Nicole Perlman (A) Marco Checchetto (CA) Esad Ribic
Rated T+
In Shops: Mar 22, 2017
SRP: $3.99

SUNRISE ON DOOMSDAY!

As planet Ubliex approaches the black hole’s event horizon, GAMORA is on the cusp of getting the revenge she so desperately seeks… in exchange for making deals with gangsters of questionable intent, who claim they hold the key to escape. Yet as earthquakes, fire tornadoes and anti-gravity bubbles begin to tear Ubliex to pieces, Gamora may find herself forced to choose between her vengeance quest and her own survival.

Review: Gamora #3

This issue picks up where the last one left off, our favorite anti-heroine at the mercy of a doomsday cult on Ubilex contemplating the ways in which she could die. An earthquake and her cultural captor’s unwillingness to accept that nature trumps their space god gives Gamora the chance she needs to destroy them all and free her fellow captive. Meanwhile the last Badoon heir is actually lamenting Gamora because she thinks she can save her and their destinies are tied. The remaining Badoon higher-ups watch Crystal’s conversation with Klaxon and discuss her ability to bear a male heir to rule and, Klaxon strikes a final deal with the Badoons to turn Crystal over in exchange for all the space dust he can carry. Meanwhile, Gamora is using her new friend to find the princess and learns that she’s actually a good kid and that their destinies are tied.

Without going too deep into spoiler territory the story keeps going along the diamond in the rough road and it’s wonderful. This issue unfolds in the best way possible Gamora discovers things about herself and her intended victim that could change her life. Nicole Perlman writes a truly human story full of emotion and rage, the path of both women is set in stone and steeped in their own agency. There is a purpose and focus for them that in its own way passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. Perlman tells a story of family through blood or belonging and it’s beautiful, human and relatable.

Marco Checcetto serves up beautiful artwork that brings Perlman’s story to life. It provides a storyboard like backdrop to an already brilliant story allowing the reader to get caught up in the story itself. His art is like an added character between the facial expressions and the fine details it impossible to look away and his talent makes it so that you could tell what’s going on by just looking at the pictures.

Overall this issue is a hit and like the issues that proceed it, it works well as a stand-alone. The Gamora series seems to make a point of engaging its readers from cover to cover. The creative crew behind it are adept at telling such a compelling story that you can pick up any issue and jump right in, although you will want to read the issues that precede this one if only to hold you over until #4 comes out.

Story: Nicole Perlman Art: Marco Checcetto
Story: 9.1 Art: 9.1 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel comics provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

Preview: Gamora #2

Gamora #2

(W) Nicole Perlman (A) Marco Checchetto (CA) Esad Ribic
Rated T+
In Shops: Jan 18, 2017
SRP: $3.99

OUT OF TIME AND OUT FOR REVENGE!

The story continues as we follow GAMORA to the doomed planet that is UBLIEX. Perched on the brink of a black hole, its inhabitants count down the hours to their planet’s imminent demise as it is swallowed up by the approaching Singularity. Will Gamora find her revenge among the inhabitants of Ubliex before the black hole consumes them all? Or will the citizens of this world – including a doomsday cult, junkie bounty hunters and a young woman with a tremendous destiny – stop her first?

gamora__2

Review: Gamora #1

gamora__1Before the Guardians…there was Gamora!

Once upon a time she was Thanos’ heartless pet assassin and favorite daughter. Today, she is the backbone of the Guardians of the Galaxy, putting her life on the line to defend the innocent. What was it that transformed her from being used as a tool of her oppressor, to a champion of the powerless? Embark on a journey of revenge and redemption, and witness how Gamora earned her reputation as the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy.

There’s something to be said for a really good origin story and Gamora #1 hits all the marks and then some. Nicole Perlman delivers some killer writing to this new series and as a reader, you feel like you’re really getting to know the character. We get to see Thanos’ care for Gamora, the mind games he plays with Nebula that keep their sibling rivalry going, Gamora’s excellent and ruthless skills in battle, and her weak spots when it comes to her feelings and emotions. Nothing feels forced or manufactured and every emotion you have for Gamora is authentic.

In this issue we get to watch her enact revenge as a birthday present from Thanos, we see her sister Nebula’s jealousy and manipulation and murderous rage, and we get to see Thanos expressing what could pass for emotions from him. The first issue gives us an origin story that we can believe in with a story that we can follow and enjoy being invested in.

Marco Checchetto‘s artwork is flawless, full of colors where they’re needed to sell the story, and muted tones when they’re needed to draw the reader in. Even without words, you could get the tone, context, and relevance of what is happening in the story from the panels alone.

Overall this issue was a great read that left me wanting more, even though it ended at a nice closing point. It was pretty to look at and fun to read, and it acts as a nice gateway into the world of the Guardians and I can’t wait to read about how her trip to the planet that no one returns from goes, especially with Thanos going after her to save her and a bounty hunter after the same prize that she wants. It’s a set up for an action-packed second issue.

Story: Nicole Perlman Art: Marco Checchetto
Story: 9.2 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Gamora #1

Gamora #1

(W) Nicole Perlman (A) Marco Checchetto (CA) Esad Ribic
Rated T
In Shops: Dec 21, 2016
SRP: $3.99

Before the Guardians…there was Gamora!

From screenwriter Nicole Perlman-co-writer of the Guardians of the Galaxy screenplay-and Marvel superstar artist Marco Checchetto comes a killer new ongoing series! Once upon a time she was Thanos’ heartless pet assassin and favorite daughter. Today, she is the backbone of the Guardians of the Galaxy, putting her life on the line to defend the innocent. What was it that transformed her from being used as a tool of her oppressor, to a champion of the powerless? Embark on a journey of revenge and redemption, and witness how Gamora earned her reputation as the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy.

gamora__1

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