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See ‘Captain Marvel’ For The Feminism, Stay For The Space Cat

Marina: Completely agree on the clunky exposition, which definitely lost me at times. It also takes away from the movie’s many wonderful actors, who deserved more moments to shine. For example, it was thrilling to see “Crazy Rich Asians” star Gemma Chan in a huge superhero movie like this — but she barely gets anything to do.

I’m glad you brought up “Black Panther,” because for me, that’s another example of a film that works for both Marvel fans and regular moviegoers. And both are obviously huge landmarks for representation, so hopefully Hollywood will finally, finally stop being surprised when movies led by women and/or people of color make a ton of money, like both “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” have.

Marvel does seem to be continuing their push for more diverse characters. They’ve hinted that they might be working toward a movie featuring an openly gay superhero — possibly “The Eternals,” which Chloe Zhao is slated to direct. And just this week, Marvel announced that they’ve hired “Short Term 12” director Destin Daniel Cretton to direct its first movie with an Asian superhero, “Shang-Chi.”

All four of these, directed by filmmakers who came from the world of indie movies, give me a lot of hope that more superhero installments will take a chance on indie directors, bringing a diversity of styles and making superhero movies look a little less like the movie equivalent of a big-box store.

Bill: Over the years, Marvel’s quietly had a few different queer characters appear on screen ― Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in “Thor Ragnarok,” for example ― but it’s largely been in subtext. Recently, Marvel Exec Victoria Alonso told Variety that “the world is ready” for an openly gay superhero, and when I spoke with another Marvel exec, Nate Moore, in 2018, he said it’s something that would happen “sooner rather than later.” So it looks like “sooner” might be that upcoming “Eternals” movie.

You mentioned how you wished Gemma Chan had more to do in “Captain Marvel.” I also think any Marvel movie could benefit from some extra Goose scenes. Give us more alien cats! What’d you think about the performances overall? Which ones stood out to you the most?

Marina: Always yes to more cats! As we discussed earlier, there’s an awful lot of exposition, which takes away from the performances. I’m a huge Brie Larson fan, and she gives a solid, commanding performance. But it unfortunately involves a lot of explaining what’s going on, who’s who and what’s what.

Like I alluded to at the beginning, I loved every time Annette Bening was on-screen. In typical Bening fashion, she can steal a scene with just one sly eyebrow raise or wry line reading, like: “How’s my hair?” The movie also left me excited to see more of Lashana Lynch, who — as Carol Danvers’ best friend Maria Rambeau — really elevates what could have been an archetypal, cookie-cutter character. And Samuel L. Jackson is reliably Samuel L. Jackson, badass and uproariously funny. I think the range of performances sums up the movie as a whole: certainly not perfect, but a reliable crowd pleaser that has a little something for everyone.

Bill: I think crowd pleaser is a good way to put it. Before the movie was even released, it was already under attack by trolls who wanted to boycott it because Brie Larson said she didn’t just want reviews from white dudes. With people showing up in force to see “Captain Marvel,” the trolls’ plan obviously didn’t work out too well. 

To be honest, a de-aged Samuel L. Jackson is worth the price of admission. But please bring on more alien cats. I’m not sure why it’s taken this long for Marvel to add them. But the time is meow.

Marina: Yeah, clearly the movie’s opening weekend — the biggest global box office debut for any female-fronted movie ever — proves that the trolls were no match for the huge audience that craved this movie and valued its importance for female representation. I wonder if some people went to see it for that very reason, or at least in part to help vanquish the trolls. As you’ve written about, Bill, Rotten Tomatoes finally took some steps to restrict comments and reviews before a movie’s release. So hopefully the days of sexist trolls trying to take down movies before their release, from “The Last Jedi” to “Ghostbusters,” are on their way out. The cynic in me thinks probably not, but the massive enthusiasm for “Captain Marvel” makes me cautiously optimistic that even if the trolling continues, it won’t matter in the long run.

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