There’s always been something pretty incredible to me about movies, as a medium. Compared to some other forms of media, films are a multi-sensory experience that can just transport you to another place in time, like… instantly. My life was kind of an inescapable hell for a long time, as a kid, but my parents did take me to the movies pretty often. It was this utterly captivating form of escapism to be able to sit in a dark room for two hours and visit another complete, fully-fledged world.
There’s also something to be said for seeing a film at the right time in your life. I don’t know if it’s a case of the universe feeling that you need to see something, or your own unconscious pulling you towards a specific movie, but I’ve always been an advocate for the restorative power of cinema. The right movie can make you think about your life, contextually, for hours, if not days afterwards. I can’t think of many other forms of media that have had the same effect on me.
Truthfully, I didn’t think I’d be seeing Captain Marvel last night. I left it up to my Twitter followers (in a poll) and I figured I’d end up seeing Shazam. The response was, overwhelmingly, in favor of Captain Marvel. I thought in the back of my mind that people just wanted to see how I’d react to a film that was just alright, in a lot of ways, and coming from Patreon as a film critic I’m pretty used to that. My partner didn’t think I’d like Captain Marvel all too much, for good reason, as they’d already seen it and just didn’t have it pegged as my sort of thing. I’d seen a couple trailers but, overall, it just wasn’t a compelling prospect.
Well: Twitter was right, I was wrong, and I love being wrong. It’s hard to even put into words how much I utterly adored this film, in every way.
Around six years ago, something unspeakably bad happened to me. Even in the context of the rest of my life, this was past that in terms of severity and trauma. While I was already diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, my mind chose to repress what had happened, along with the majority of the rest of my life. Most people I know don’t realize that, every day, I go through the world with little to no memory of my life or who I am. I get that this is a protective measure, and I’ve been working hard in therapy (since I escaped to safety two years ago) to unearth what I can… but I still feel like an empty husk of a person the majority of the time. People bring up past memories of spending time with me- a joke I made or a gift I gave them- and I have absolutely no recollection of it. I feel empty, and broken, and less than human. On top of this, my body remembers, emotionally, the pain that I experienced and I’ve been irrevocably scarred by it.
I cried for roughly a third of Captain Marvel.
There’s something to be said for experiencing someone’s story, in a multi-sensory perspective, and having it feel so intensely familiar to your own experiences. The sense of loss Carol (Brie Larson) feels as she navigates the world, uncovering the person she used to be and dissecting the trauma that created her as she is now, was incredibly relatable to me. I was able to empathize with her as a character in a much more fulfilling and emotionally real way than I have with even people I’ve gotten to know in person over the past handful of years. Brie’s acting really hits this home, and she captures the character’s humor with a serious level of skill.
I’m also regularly disappointed with the way in which most films approach memory loss as a topic. It’s always shown as a character being triggered by something and then It All Comes Back and that isn’t how it works. Carol sees things incrementally, processes them, and then uses those realizations to re-contextualize her identity and experiences. Memory isn’t some lock-box you just figure out and then it’s all there. It’s this messy, dysfunctional stream of things that are hard to hold onto. The sequence with Carol being shown past photographs (and her old belongings) was seriously emotionally liberating for me.
I haven’t kept up regularly with watching the films in the MCU, and I’m also not a fan of superhero comic books (they generally just aren’t my kind of thing). I realize that, on some level, a lot of this is the “male power fantasy” that these stories tend to express, and it is incredibly liberating to see a story that acts as a female power fantasy in the same way. Carol’s power, and how it relates to her femininity, reminds me of some of my favorite magical girls growing up (Sailor Moon) and how they used aspects of their lives as abject strength. On top of this, the elements of Carol’s experience that awakened her powers involve traits traditionally associated with women, such as self-sacrifice, emotional awareness, and communication. Although Carol’s emotional response is framed throughout the film as a sign of her weakness, she channels this into her portrayal of her identity as a human being and shows that it makes her special, just as she is. I am overwhelmingly pleased this film exists, and so excited that a new generation of young women get to grow up experiencing it.
– God, Brie Larson, you are just everything to me. Perfectly cast here, I wish they’d made her more overtly gay but also… y’all know she’s gay. You just know.
– JUDE LAW??? JUDE LAW!!
– Every time Goose was on screen I started screaming and I’m not even sorry. That last end credits scene had me absolutely dead. Someone make an edit cut of this film with just Goose and Samuel L. Jackson having moments.
– Also damn did they do a good job de-aging Samuel L. Jackson.
– YO, THE 90’S VIBE IS A BIG MOOD. Setting a climactic fight scene to No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” is high key inspired. Plus I got to stare at Brie Larson wearing a Nine Inch Nails shirt for like twenty minutes and I am incredibly bisexual.
– If I had to criticize this, I’d say that it falls victim to the same general pitfalls I have re: the MCU in general- they try to cram way too many in-jokes and comic hints in here. This is a movie. Let it be a movie. You don’t need to wink wink nudge nudge at me about the parallels you’re making with existing media, because I promise the majority of the audience seeing this aren’t acquainted with Captain Marvel as a property anyway.
I was going to take off 0.5 of a star for pacing and then as I wrote this, I just… decided against it. I can’t wait to see this movie again.