It’s rare that I find things that I don’t like about the MCU, but there are a few. As I discussed yesterday, I approved of “Fat Thor” because it was handled fairly well. However, it wasn’t handled perfectly; to-wit: War Machine. I felt that the writers unnecessarily threw Rhodey under the bus. They gave him all the mean-spirited lines, and a couple were particularly bad. This reminds me of my tweet during the Infinity War watch party.
If it weren’t for Peter’s completely irrational reaction, none of the 14,000,605 alternate timelines would have occurred (including the successful one). People do stupid things for one of four reasons that I can identify: 1) They’re stupid; 2) they’re kidding; 3.) they’re trolling you; or 4.) they’re acting emotional, thus abandoning all logic. Regardless of which category you think Peter is in, he behaved stupidly, and I don’t see why the writers had to do that. They could easily have made Thanos too strong for Mantis. Unfortunately, this seems to be how they write. They want a clear scapegoat among the heroes, being someone that consistently goes in a bad direction.
Rhodey didn’t cause Thanos’s arrival in Endgame. His issues were different; he was simply an asshole. First, let’s look at the discussion of the Infinity Stones.
Everyone’s comments and facial expressions seem to show concern for Thor, except Scott Lang, who as always is lost and therefore not sure if Thor is kidding. He may have just been giving Thor encouragement. In any case, all of these people are goodhearted in their approach. The exception is Rhodey, who makes a joke of it with, “No, I’m pretty sure he’s dead,” and arguably Clint’s facial expression when Rhodey and he share a knowing look with each other. Then we go to the discussion of time travel.
As if designed to make sure Rhodey looked as bad as possible, they left it to him to say that time travel should have been used to kill Thanos as a baby. Everyone would have forgiven that (after all, “It’s Thanos!”), but it still had a mean feel to it, and it became yet another straw on the camel’s back (so to speak).
Then consider his scene with Nebula.
Rhodey’s question, “So he’s an idiot?” came across as rhetorical. He was clearly calling Peter an idiot with an air of frustration. Nebula’s simple response of, “Yeah,” came only after a pause and a downward glance. Of all people to be reluctant to insult someone, Nebula seemed exactly that. Here were two characters saying the same exact thing about the same exact person, yet they were coming from opposite directions. Nebula’s remarkable story arc of redemption certainly colored how I viewed all of her statements, and that’s probably true for Rhodey based on the above, who seemed to be going in the opposite direction. But that’s what I’m talking about. That’s a direct result of the writing.
Moving on, remember from yesterday’s post, once it was explicitly established that Thor’s physical condition was tied to the depression and/or PTSD, the fat jokes stopped coming, except for Rhodey. He continued to insult Thor’s condition, and it didn’t come across as playful.
Objectively, “Cheez Whiz” is a funny line, but it was done not only after we learned why Thor was in a depleted physical state, but also at the exact moment Thor was having an emotional crisis. Thor was going to sacrifice himself to atone for his perceived sin of failure, which itself resulted in depression, PTSD, and his physical condition.
I’m the kind of guy that thinks no topic is forbidden from comedy. Anything can be funny if done well. The only sin in comedy is not being funny, and I’m never offended, even if my own insecurities are the butt of the joke. I far prefer laughing at myself than wallowing in self-pity, so I believe making fun of people can be funny. But it also can be not funny. With Rhodey, it came across as mean-spirited and was completely unnecessary.
The totality of just these few scenes left me with a bad impression.
Who’s to Blame?
The blame can lie with any combination of the actor, director, and screenwriter. I don’t know who to blame, but you can see from the deleted scenes in that last clip that this was exactly what they were going for. They wanted to say something mean-spirited, and the fact that Peter Quill was thrown under the bus in Infinity War suggests that the writing is to blame. In total, I felt it debased the character. Unfortunately, I don’t see much room for him to redeem himself. I haven’t heard any mention of his return to the MCU on the big screen or on Disney+.
Have you learned to dislike Rhodey? Is there a value to these lines that I don’t appreciate?
I’m not a psychologist, but I don’t have to be for the sake of this post, and neither do you. The only expertise we need for this post is to diagnose Thor as having depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), or both. Because he’s a make-believe character, what that really means is that we have to infer whether that’s what the writers intended when writing for the character. If you’re one of the few that don’t infer that, then this post isn’t for you. I’m operating from the assumption that Thor’s physical condition is the result of one or both of those mental/emotional conditions (perhaps another that’s more appropriate), and so I will certainly not be arguing that assumption here.
Thor’s physical condition clearly sprang from his mental illness. Was that a good thing? I believe it was, both for script purposes and for real world purposes.
What started in Thor: Ragnarok came to fruition in Avengers: Infinity War: Thor is the strongest Avenger. With only one exception, Thor never took a legitimate blow from the Hulk, getting hit only when he was trying to stop the fight or when the Grandmaster cheated. He developed what was probably the Thorforce from the comics, and with both Odin and Hela dead, that makes sense. He took on the brunt of a neutron star. He almost took out Thanos while Thanos was wielding all six Infinity Stones. The Russos came up with a lame excuse (Thanos was taken by surprise), but if Thor had just gone for the head . . . .
So, if Thor is that powerful, what happens in Endgame? Most likely, the battle lasts about 15 seconds with Thor saving the world. That’s not particularly dramatic. His weakness was necessary to give Thanos a fighting chance and to give us the grand finale we all wanted.
All that said, the only reason this plot device worked is because Thor was deemed worthy. Depression and PTSD are illnesses. Having them doesn’t necessarily make you a weak person, though they do give you certain vulnerabilities. Mjolnir gives us an objective standard to tell us whether or not someone is “worthy.” Thor’s ability to summon and wield Mjolnir tells us that his condition and value as a hero aren’t connected. It tells us that our own conditions and values as human beings aren’t connected. For this reason, I not only think Fat Thor was nothing worth being offended about, but was actually very important.
Moreover, once it was explicitly established that Thor’s physical condition was tied to the depression and/or PTSD, the jokes stopped coming, or at least shifted focus. “Lebowski” wasn’t a comment about weight. Endgame wasn’t perfect, though. For some inexplicable reason, Rhodey continued to insult Thor, and it didn’t come across as playful. I’ll discuss this in depth in tomorrow’s post.
Last weekend was Extraction on Netflix. It’s almost non-stop action with a couple of actors I really like: Chris Hemsworth and David Harbour. I don’t recall a single other actor I recognized.
This was a frustrating movie. The “object” of the movie isn’t worth the collateral damage done on his behalf. No one deserves to be a pawn, but there comes a time where you have to say, “Enough.” However, it’s a movie, not real life. As I’ve noted before, we accept some (let’s call it) moral exaggeration for the sake of drama. Some members of the audience will miss the message unless they’re hit over the head with it, so we can forgive characters that we’d never forgive in the real world. All of that said, the movie doesn’t take the easy way out but somehow has a happy(ish) ending with a dose of (obscure) redemption for good measure. I’m not upset I watched it, but my life isn’t any richer having done so.
I recently watched the 6-speisode season of Ragnarok on Netflix. In contrast to most of my geek brethren, I’m not fond of shows where the protagonists are kids. I’m not into Harry Potter, Ender’s Game, the Hunger Games, Stranger Things, and all the rest of them, but if you are. The fact that high school kids are saving us all won’t bother you. I also don’t like subtitles, and these were quite annoying. They were greatly overdone. For example, many times that a song was played, it unnecessarily identified the song by name and artist. However, I’m quite fond of is mythology, so that drew me in regardless of the inherent strikes against it.
Ragnarok was a way to pull my favorite mythological characters, the Norse gods and giants, into the real world, so I’m inclined to like it even if it isn’t the best show on television. It wasn’t like Troy (a movie I love) that tried to explain how the legends could have arisen from real-world, realistic events. No, this was about the supernatural; these characters used magic and had superhuman abilities. The show also used anthropogenic climate change as the battle ground between humans and the Jotnar (i.e., giants). Of course, the best part is when the reincarnated Thor is wearing a Washington Redskins shirt. #HttR 🙂 The fact that it’s only six, 40-minute (or so) episodes makes it an easy watch.
As you know, I love the MCU. Marvel Studios could have relied on the action and fantasy elements inherent to the source material to make a ton of money on crappy movies, but they didn’t. They spent a ton of money on special effects, but also on hiring highly talented writers, directors, and actors (some with Oscars under their belts) so that the movies had substance as well. No movie exemplifies that more than Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Like many MCU movies, it had the theme of establishing deep friendships that represented more than just coworkers or bar buddies. No, these friends were so close as to represent an adoptive family, replacing the biological families that Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanov, and Nick Fury lost, never knew, or never had. As wonderfully as it was executed, all of that is actually par for the course in the MCU. The Winter Soldier goes a step further.
Winter Soldier dealt with a political issue that is both timely and important: How do we strike the balance between security and liberty? Both are important. If we lax our security, we won’t have liberty for long, because nefarious forces from within and/or without will steal it. However, if security replaces liberty, then what kind of an existence are we actually fighting for? That’s why, when push comes to shove, liberty must win. In Winter Soldier, all of the good guys either fought for liberty or joined the fight after eventually realizing that they should have been all along. This decision shouldn’t be made naively, but those characters didn’t do that.
Okay, they sometimes did. The commitment to liberty was excessively idealistic, but this is a movie. Filmmakers must deal with extremes or risk losing the crowd. Many moviegoers aren’t observant enough to pick up key points being made unless they’re hit with it over the head, and a major theme is certainly a “key point.” This is why horrible characters that deserve the most serious punishment under the law can be forgiven and exalted by an audience simply because they’ve learned how to love a sibling. The movie world is different from the real world, and I’m sure you understand that. If not, movies must seem utterly ridiculous to you.
With that in mind, Winter Soldier dealt with an important and timely issue, came down on the right side of it (liberty) without being (too) naïve, and somehow managed to do that without pissing off members of any political party.
Waco is another quarantine-inspired watch for me. For the young-uns, it’s the true and tragic story of the 1993 siege on the Branch Dravidians complex near Waco, Texas, a joint operation of the ATF and FBI. The end result was a fire that burnt the complex to the ground and killed most within. Who started the fire remains the subject of debate, with this dramatization placing the blame on the government. Whether or not that’s true, it’s clear that their documented actions during the siege certainly exaggerated the tragedy. There were huge mistakes made.
That said, the one thing I didn’t like about this series was that it made their leader, David Koresh, look very sympathetic. That’s an easy mistake to make. He was highly charismatic, and portraying that charisma accurately will inevitably have that effect on the audience. Make no mistake about it, though: David Koresh was a bad guy. He was a child molester, and many of the other adults were complicit in Koresh’s acts. I think the show could have played up these facts to keep the audience grounded in reality, but it was obviously more important to the creators to highlight the government’s mistakes than Koresh’s.
Still, this is an important and cautionary tale that I felt was well worth watching, with a cast that included some well-liked actors. With only 6, 1-hour (or so) episodes, it’s also a relatively easy watch.
Last night was the Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 quarantine watch party. The best story arc in the MCU was Nebula’s, and it really came together in this movie thanks to both the writing and acting. No one can topple Thor as my favorite character, but she comes in as a close second. Sure, I’ve beaten this point into the ground but done so across several blog and social media posts that even I, the author, can’t track. Now I’m going to put it all together in one place so I can just point people to this post. Note well that the creators themselves may disagree with my analysis here and there, but art is in the eyes of the beholder. Great art speaks to people regardless of their own biases and perspectives, and I’ve learned recently that many people agree with my analysis of both the actor and the character. I truly hope I do everyone justice in expressing that analysis. To that end, while I’ve been trying to improve my writing by shortening my posts, this one can’t be done quickly. There’s a lot to unpack, so grab a drink and some snacks; you’ll be here for a while.
In GotG Volume 1, Nebula is a one-dimensional character. She’s an assassin crafted by a family with a far different dysfunction than any real human has experienced. Maybe you’ve experienced something as bad or worse, but unless your parent turned you into a cyborg because you didn’t murder well enough, you can’t truly relate. Every relationship Nebula has had is either severe familial dysfunction or predator-to-prey. She’s been trained to be nothing more than a killer; that’s all she is. She’s never laughed, never had a friend, and lacks the social context even to address her issues, let alone resolve them. The only emotions we’ve seen from her are anger and frustration (e.g., “Thanks, dad.”).
In GotG Volume 2, things slowly start to change. Gamora’s time as a Guardian has brought her along her own path of redemption, but she has no confidence in Nebula in that regard. Thus, the movie starts with Nebula feeling no love from her sister. However, when Peter, Drax, and Gamora are leaving with Ego and Mantis, there’s a moment where Nebula senses something inside herself. She gives a quick downward glance, accompanied by a brilliant musical choice making it clear that this scene was as much about Nebula as it was about any of the Guardians.
[C]obbled together by Buckingham at a time when certain people in the band weren’t even speaking to each other . . . “[t]he Chain” is a stark reminder that you’re forever tied to the people you love most, even while they’re betraying you. –Jillian Mapes
My interpretation is that Nebula doesn’t understand these feelings because she’s never had them before now, but they’re clearly triggered by Gamora leaving her and the recognition that if Gamora can have an adoptive family, so can she. Peter and Gamora were further along this path than Nebula, but they were all on the same journey (as was Rocket, but in a different way). Later, Nebula saves Rocket from execution for what she claims to be selfish reasons, but there’s clearly a change going on inside her. The 2014 Nebula wouldn’t have stopped the execution.
Skipping ahead to the planet of Ego, Nebula attacks Gamora. She’s genuinely angry, but not having to look Gamora in the eye is key to her ability to kill her sister. When the battle brings them face to face, she can’t do it. She yells out in frustration because all she knows is killing, and she suddenly can’t. She feels like she’s lost control of herself. Even at this point, my interpretation is that she doesn’t understand why.
And then there’s that moment when at last she gets it. She yells, “You were the one that wanted to win, and I just wanted a sister!” At 3:57, you see for a brief instant a relaxing of her eyes. I wish they had held the shot on her face for another second. She’s as surprised as Gamora. It’s at that point Nebula finally has a basic understanding of what she’s been feeling. She’s still Nebula, and there’s still plenty of road to travel, but you can’t address an issue until you first acknowledge it. She’s finally done that, and that’s why it’s one of my favorite lines in all of cinema.
There are a few more moments that help her along. She can’t understand how the Guardians can be friends because they always fight. Drax explains it to her.
Nebula: “…. You’re not friends.” Drax: “You’re right. We’re family.”
This helps her understand that right and wrong, love and hate, etc. aren’t always defined strictly by actions, but also by intent. Sometimes right and wrong look the same but nevertheless are not. Soon after, she becomes a Guardian by joining their fight to save the universe. She’s not just doing so to help herself; she’s also helping her sister. She’s not just working alongside someone in a morbid contest to kill more victims; she’s learning the notion of truly bonding with others for a common goal. Cooperation rather than competition.
Nebula’s part in the movie ends with an awkward hug, and then Gamora pensively watching Nebula ride away in search of Thanos. On the one hand, it’s a sad moment, but on the other, it’s a moment of hope that’s going to be desperately needed in the MCU within the next couple of movies.
Nebula’s journey to date is longer than the other MCU characters, but it takes on a familiar form. Like most of the MCU characters, as Nebula evolves into a better version of herself, her methods don’t change. For example, Tony Stark is a self-absorbed, playboy and arms dealer, and then becomes a family-oriented peace-lover out to save the world. Either way, his methods are the same: Develop weaponry. It’s all he really knows, so we judge him more by his intent than by his methods (though he often makes mistakes worthy of judgment). Thor is similarly self-absorbed and deemed unworthy, but eventually joins the fight to save half the universe. How? By recklessly plunging into battle, preferring brute force over tactics. He’s still Thor. And do I really have to mention Ant-Man? As discussed in the prior section, Nebula’s still figuring out that the same actions can be considered good or evil based in large part on intent. Sure, some acts are inherently good or evil, but in the movie universe, even that idea can be relaxed for the sake of drama. We can also allow ourselves to forgive a movie character despite an unforgivable past (see, e.g., Darth Vader saying, “My bad,” and then becoming a Force ghost), which would never fly in the real world (where I’m sure you agree that she deserves that maximum penalty you feel the law may morally impose no matter how much she loves her sister). This is because filmmakers have to use these extremes in order to properly convey the message to the audience. Still, there are rules of engagement, which Tony will later explain to her.
Nebula’s first scene in Infinity War has Thanos torturing her. After freeing herself, we next see her on Titan joining the fight to stop Thanos. While wanting to do the right thing but still not appreciating the importance of intent, she must be very confused by her current mission, which is to assassinate her adoptive father. She experiencing the same two defining characteristics of the life she’s trying to leave behind: Family dysfunction and predator killing prey. But this battle helps break those bonds of confusion just a little bit more. She’s doing the right thing despite the nature of her actions.
When it becomes apparent that Thanos has executed the Snap, she appears to show a bit of remorse for the loss of life Thanos just caused. With Gamora already dead, one might not expect her to have anything more to lose, yet she still exhibits renewed sadness — not frustration or anger — about what had occurred. Is this genuine?
This is where we see it all come together, with Guardians music playing. Ms. Gillan acts out the entirety of this journey in the following scene with two lines consisting of nine words in total, as well as three grunts. She uses body language and facial expressions buried in makeup. It’s not Klingon-like make up, but it still represents a barrier to conveying the message. However, even more difficult are the constraints placed upon her by the script. If Ms. Gillan — who I’ve read is a talented piano player — had suggested adding a moment to this scene in which she and Tony were singing and laughing while she was playing the piano, she would have been laughed off the set. Nebula doesn’t play the piano. She doesn’t laugh, and she doesn’t sing. She’s a stoic, distant, guarded cyborg who’s just learning emotions that we all take for granted. Ms. Gillan isn’t permitted to express those emotions fully but must somehow still convey them as they slowly rise to the surface.
And she does a masterful job of it. Here’s the scene:
The first thing we see is a paper football game. Nebula’s instinct is to cheat by blocking Tony’s attempt. To her, this is a competition, and that’s always meant win at all costs. Win for the sake of winning. Tony explains that, while they’re adversaries, she has to follow the rules of engagement. Again, this must be confusing for her, but she’s trying. In fact, she says, “I would like to try again,” which is 2/3 of the words she’s given in the scene. Consciously, she wants to continue to play, but subconsciously she wants to continue to learn.
When Nebula wins, Tony extends his hand as a showing of sportsmanship. He congratulated Nebula for beating him. Nebula understandably pauses. I imagine her thinking, “What’s going on here? Why is he congratulating me? No one’s ever done that before.” Well, of course not; everyone she’s ever beaten is dead. He still wants to be her friend despite just competing against her. “Wait. What’s a friend?” She’s clearly never had one. Then Tony asks whether she had fun. Again, she has to pause to process the question. “What’s ‘fun’? I’ve never had fun.” But she realizes she has had fun and answers in the affirmative. Remember, all of this is being done with little dialogue, obscuring makeup, and severe constraints on the character’s presentation.
But what happens next leaves little doubt that her transformation is genuine. Putting morality aside, the smart thing to do would be to kill Tony as quickly as possible (or at least as soon as he’s finished with his modifications to the ship). He’s in a weakened state due to his injuries, and as a fully biological person, he probably can’t last as long as Nebula without food, water, and perhaps oxygen. The sooner he dies, the less resources he burns in a futile effort to survive before seeing a rescue currently nowhere in sight. Not only does Nebula never consider killing him, but she actually takes steps to maximize his chances of survival, placing herself at greater risk. She provides medical treatment to his wounds and gives him the last bit of food. Even more profound, after Tony drifts off to sleep, Nebula picks him up off the floor and places him in a chair. If he’s destined to die, she wants him to die with dignity. Even if he’s going to die in his sleep, she wants him to be “comfortable.” And she shows genuine sorrow for what seems to be inevitable. All of this is for a guy she just met. Does this seem like something 2014 Nebula would do?
I’d like to write a lot more, but I’m sure you get the point. So, in the interests of finishing up this post, I’ll summarize the next 2 hours and 45 minutes of Endgame by saying it becomes even more obvious that Nebula’s transformation is genuine. During the rest of the film, she continues to display emotional development, seeming more and more “human” as she goes, and she’s legitimately trying to save everyone, not just herself. Her interactions with her 2014 version enforce that position. “You don’t have to do this . . . . You’ve seen what we become. . . . You can change.” Unfortunately, 2014 Nebula isn’t there yet. “He won’t let me.”
But you do see a tear running down 2014 Nebula’s cheek as she dies (blacked out of this clip). Seeing her future self could have been her start if there were only more time.
Sure, the writers had to do their part in setting this course for the character, and I applaud their work, but someone had to actually act it out despite a number of handicaps placed upon her. Ms. Gillan acted circles around Robert Downey Jr. in their shared scene, and I don’t think anyone noticed. The movies were more Mr. Downey’s than anyone else’s, so everyone was focused on him. Nebula’s importance in Endgame proves that the Russo brothers had faith in Ms. Gillan’s talent.
I agree. I feel that Ms. Gillan has the talent to win an Oscar one day. I have a modest track record for predicting such things (e.g., predicting Reese Witherspoon’s eventual Oscar based on her performances in two forgettable movies from the mid- to late-nineties). This comes not from personal talent, but rather from attending the theater since I was in elementary school. I can’t tell you how many now-famous actors I’ve seen perform at Arena Stage at a time when they were first cutting their teeth in the arts. I learned to look for that talent even when a bad script hides it. Whether Ms. Gillan ultimately wins an Oscar will rely on two factors beyond her acting: Being given the right part and script and being willing to go through the expensive campaign to essentially buy the award from the Academy. I cannot predict either of those, but she’s got one out of three already. That’s more than most of us (and dare I say, much of Hollywood) have.
No MCU character had a more significant, personal story arc than Nebula, and at times she was exceptionally well-acted. Am I wrong?
Blog posts cannot substitute for legal advice. If the topics discussed in this post are relevant to a real case you have, please consult an attorney.
This post is about understanding the risk associated with relying on fair use. A copyright boils down to a “bundle of rights,” and when those rights are violated, it’s said that the copyright is “infringed.” A common defense to infringement is fair use, and I can’t possibly count the number of times someone contemplating making a copy has said, “But this is fair use,” often coupled with the dreaded, “No infringement intended” (as if that’s a proper defense). Everyone seems to think any copying they do is fair use. Well, it’s not me you have to convince.
Fair use is an “affirmative defense,” which creates two problems for you. First, to raise that defense, you’re often admitting that you’re liable (or guilty in a criminal case) of the underlying infringement. Boom! You just admitted you’re the bad guy. As a result, you run into your second problem: The burden of proof now shifts to you to prove that your offense was justified, and even in a criminal case, that shift doesn’t violate the Constitutionally-protected presumption of innocence. Remember, you already admitted you did a bad thing; you’re just trying to say, “Hey, let this slide, okay?”
If we were to apply this to any other crime or tort (civil wrong), it would sound crazy. For example, assuming you’re not someone who enjoys murder, which position feels safer?
“I didn’t kill the guy.”
“I killed the guy — shot him right between the eyes — but I felt threatened.”
Even assuming the truth of #2, #1 seems infinitely preferable (if also true). It’s a better position in which to find yourself. Nevertheless, people tend to infringe first and justify it second, seeing fair use as a quick and easy bailout. Despite a wealth of case law helping to define fair use, it’s still a vague concept, relying not on “bright line” rule that clearly defines it, but instead relying on a series of factors (to be discussed in a later post) that have to be applied to your specific facts. You can’t predict the outcome of your case based on the outcome of another case with an entirely different, complex set of facts. If you miss one critical fact in your analysis, your defense crumbles. Moreover, successfully predicting the outcome of your trial doesn’t guarantee that you’ve successfully predicted the outcome of an appeal of that decision. The copyright holder knows that and is certain to appeal. That will cost you even more money.
Going back to the analogy, you shouldn’t go around bad neighborhoods simply because you suspect that, if you have to shoot someone, you’re likely to be shooting a menacing person, so you won’t go to jail. Similarly, you shouldn’t dive head first into infringement unless you’re willing to accept the consequences, whether they’re a finding of guilt/liability or simply a ton of legal fees.
Fair use is a well-settled defense to infringement, but relying on it is quite risky. If you don’t follow my advice to seek counsel when filing a trademark application, fine, but you better follow that advice if you’re planning to infringe a copyright that’s sure to be brought to the copyright holder’s attention.
Rob Bodine is a Virginia attorney focusing his practice on real estate and intellectual property law. He’s currently Virginia counsel with Cardinal Title Group, a Virginia title insurance and settlement company. Rob is also a licensed title insurance agent in Maryland and Virginia.
I was clearing out my Facebook saved list yesterday and came across this trailer.
Some of you were disappointed by this movie, but for any of you that are (or at least were) MCU fans, this trailer must have had you as stoked as I. This was the 20th film in the MCU, and it represented the beginning of the end of a long journey. After 23 films (treating Spiderman: Far from Home as an epilogue to the Infinity Stones saga), it’s clear that nothing’s ever been done like this before. Star Trek came close, and Star Wars perhaps a little closer, but no franchise created 23 films, each of which could stand on its own, yet still told a common story. The scale of it is, as far as I can tell, unique in cinema.
Seeing this trailer again reminded me of that anticipation.
Binging Halt and Catch Fire inspired me to re-watch Captain Marvel because Lee Pace played one of the key figures in both works. Mr. Pace won’t be the subject of this story, but it triggered the viewing.
Prior to seeing Brie Larson in Captain Marvel, I wasn’t impressed with her acting. Apparently, that created a bias, because I didn’t think much of the job she did in Captain Marvel either. I enjoyed the movie anyway because the character’s personality, fueled by her amnesia and her role as a soldier, didn’t require much range. In fact, it dictated that she remained as flat and one-dimensional as I’ve experienced. However, it left me concerned that in future performances she’d be equally flat and one-dimensional when the role required her do better. Her performance in Endgame didn’t give me any more confidence, because her role was limited.
Then the Room came to Netflix, so I watched it. I was curious as to how she could win an Oscar considering everything I had seen. In the Room, she was a completely different Brie Larson. I saw much better acting, so it was clear that she had the chops for the role. On the second, and now third, viewing of Captain Marvel, I see her performance in a different light. The extra dimensions are there; it’s just more subtle. As with Nebula, the script limited Carol Danvers be acted in a certain way — brooding, cold, distant, guarded — but Ms. Larson somehow hinted at the range of normal emotions inside. At times, she’s happy, playful, sorrowful, nostalgic, inquisitive, remorseful, optimistic, and goofy; I simply missed it because of that bias. My short term memory didn’t retain things I didn’t think I’d see.
The more I watch this movie, the more I appreciate the subtleties typical of an MCU film and Ms. Larson’s performance. My guess is that both Captain Marvel 2 and she will be just as good.