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Paging Captain Marvel: Captain Marvel Movie Review (Spoiler-free)

Like many people, I’m sure, I’ve been buried with advertisements and tons of social media commentary about Captain Marvel.   Some people are gushing because “squee female hero” and others are screaming it’ll be horrible and the advertisements make it look dumb.

Political commentary by talking heads and actors aside… well, it’s a Marvel movie, so I figured I’d want to see it anyway… despite all the hype, advertisements, and stupid crap people are saying about the movie.

And I’m glad I did.  It’s first and foremost, a Marvel movie.  It follows the same formula of their origin story movies and it does it fairly well.  Despite what hype might say, it’s not all that groundbreaking.  The CGI is great, the action is solid, the humor is there to highlight and accentuate, but isn’t the main theme of the movie.  It’s a movie about a hero finding herself.

It’s also one of the strongest heroes we’ve seen so far, with the power equivalent to (or maybe even exceeding) DC’s Superman.  There’s challenges that come with telling a story of a hero that powerful, and by and large, the writers pull it off.  We get to see Captain Marvel being strong and smashing stuff, but also trying to figure things out and learn who she really is.  We also get to see normal (or at least, merely mortal) humans taking on aliens who are far out of their league and it was pretty refreshing.  There’s lots of scenes in a variety of these movies of awesome heroes taking on superhuman threats and looking cool while doing it, there’s far fewer of regular people standing up to those threats with nothing more than bravery and their own cleverness.  They did a good job with that in this one.

There were a few twists and turns with the story, many of them are foreshadowed heavily enough that you can sort of see them coming, but there’s a couple things done for humor that are pretty well set up.  For as awesomely powerful Marvel is, I wish they showed her struggling with controlling her power a bit more, especially around us fragile humans.

The setting is mostly believable, though they laid some things on a bit thick.  I think the messaging was a little too ham-handed in parts, I’m not sure if that was the way certain villains were portrayed or just that they didn’t take the time to explain more of the background.  The ending was a bit rushed, too, but I’m not sure how the movie could have ended much differently given the setup.

It’s not my favorite Marvel movie, but it’s got it’s moments and there are a couple of great scenes.  Could it stand on its own?  Now that I couldn’t say.  Captain Marvel doesn’t have the same emotional grab to as broad an audience as other Marvel characters.  Iron Man started the franchise with a complex character with numerous flaws, a talented, brilliant, selfish, arrogant man who had lots of room to grow.  He was a character with his own inner demons to face and a story of arrogance and personal failures that basically drove the plot of the movies all the way up through the first Avengers.

Captain Marvel has power, but I don’t think she has that same resonance… or maybe I’m just not the target audience for that resonance.  She’s strong, she’s confident, but she’s too perfect.  She doesn’t have those flaws that mere humans can see as reflections of their own.  Her moments of awesome in the movie were cool… but there was never a moment where I felt I really resonated with the character.  Some of the side characters, absolutely.  There’s a side character who was far more dynamic and whose heroism (for the relatively short screen time she had) was fantastic.  I found myself wanting to see more of her than the main character.

Overall, it was fun.  There was plenty of dramatic tension to the fight scenes.  There were high stakes and the movie answered questions about the universe and opened up a whole new range of other ones.  Oddly enough, they’ve set themselves up for sequels to a prequel without really spoiling too much.  I enjoyed it, despite all the hype.  If you’re on the fence, I recommend seeing it for yourself.  Take what you’ve heard with a grain of salt and just see the movie.


Movie Review of Captain America: Civil War (No Spoilers)

Red vs Blue
Red vs Blue

No Spoilers.

I’m not a comic book fan.  In fact, the couple times I’ve tried to read comic books, I’ve come away frustrated and annoyed.  Mostly because I read too fast and I don’t stop to appreciate the art.

That said, I did read up on what “Civil War” would involve, seeing as I love the Marvel movies.  As the characters have grown through multiple movies, I find myself liking the series more and more.  Captain America has become my favorite… because unlike the other characters, he doesn’t struggle with the power he has, he struggles to do as much good as he can.  In fact, while I really liked and identified with Tony Stark back in Iron Man… well, I think he’s kind of turned into a self-absorbed a-hole of late.

Which sets him up brilliantly in this movie.  What we have is a fight where everyone has grounded, established reasons for picking sides over the stated premise.  In fact, it’s brilliantly established that the central characters have multiple reasons, some of them they may not even realize themselves, to oppose one another.

It gets better, though.  The fantastic writing pays out in scene after scene.  New characters are brought in perfectly, in a way that doesn’t break up the action or come across with inconsistency.  One scene flows into the next and when you finally feel like you can’t take anymore, the action takes a break and gives you some time to recover.

There’s fantastic use of dramatic tension and symbolism.  In just about every scene I would think to myself “wow, I see what you did there, good job.”  This is storytelling at it’s finest.  You’re here to see what would make Earth’s defenders throw down and they deliver… in a way that doesn’t leave you doubting why for an instant.

I don’t normally like movies where the good guys are at odds.  In fact, it’s a storyline that I hate in books, movies, and TV.  Having been at odds with friends before, I hate the feeling, the anger and at the same time that feeling that something in the world is wrong.  Seeing it in movies often just makes me irritated.  In Captain America Civil War, there’s none of that.  Yes, I wish that our heroes would stop and talk things out, but their circumstances are such that they have no choice other than to be who they are.  Besides, we came to see them punching each other.

Thematically, Civil War is about individual rights and freedoms against the collective.  In my mind, they pulled it off brilliantly.  There were no compromises, no pulled punches.  These superheroes are responsible for saving or failing to save the lives of thousands, maybe millions (possibly all of Earth).  Their fight right now comes back to the very reasons they are heroes.  It’s simple enough to say “I’m the good guy, this is just what I do.”  It’s a lot harder to make a movie like this, where the heroes are forced to confront their own moralities.

Would I have liked a different storyline?  Probably… but I think the movies would be poorer for it.  In Captain America: Civil War the writers and directors drew a line in the sand.  They forced the characters to grow and us as an audience as well.  If we want to watch big stupid men pummel each other and slaughter enemies without consequence, we should go watch some other movies (Looking at you DC).  If we want to see genuine, real, people, who do what they do for complex reasons and who really struggle to improve the world and take responsibility for their actions, then this is the movie you should be watching.

If you’ve enjoyed any of the Marvel movies, go and see Civil War.  You won’t regret it.

Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens (Spoiler Free)

maxresdefaultAfter seeing that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was coming out the same weekend as not only my anniversary but also my move, I was pretty certain I wouldn’t get to see it until the following week.  Fortunately for my sanity, my wife is also a fan and we managed to fit it into our insane schedule for the weekend.

Since the move revolves around surprises and plot twists, I’ll keep this review spoiler free and friendly to those who don’t want anything ruined.  I may, at a later time, discuss some of those things, but not here.

First off, it captures a lot of the spirit of the original.  This is, in no uncertain terms, an homage to the originals, albiet one written by a younger generation.  The themes, of good struggling against evil and of evil against good, are the same.  The idea of family legacies and of discovering ones full potential, are there as well.  There are many references, both direct and indirect, to places, people, and events of the previous movies, along with deliberate parallels written to make the audience go “Okay, this is Star Wars.”

I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the movie’s merits, but much of the disappointment (and there is some) is more from those who didn’t manage their expectations.  There is no way that JJ Abrams and Disney are going to recreate the Expanded Universe books, page by page.  For one thing, there’s too much there and for another, it would strip away all the pleasure of the mystery and wonder of discovery.  I loved Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn books and those of Michael Stackpole’s X Wing series, and other books of the expanded universe were fun, engaging, and exciting.  What they are not is a good way to write a new and exciting movie.   I’ve heard they’re writing new books, set in the new universe.  I’ll probably read some of them and I might introduce my children to them, someday.  For that matter, I’d love the opportunity to write some of them.

Where the movie succeeds is in capturing the excitement, from the very opening crawl to the last, emotional scene, you can feel that this is Star Wars, that the cast and crew poured love and excitement into its crafting, and that it is a movie that your children will want to share with theirs.  It did what I hoped it would and resurrected the franchise.

Is it a perfect movie?  Not in the least.  There’s a tone of pandering at times, of giving the audience what they want.  As an adult, there were many twists that I could guess at, ones that a child or someone new to the genre probably wouldn’t.  Some of the constraints of the good guys, as well, were maddening, but mostly, again, from my own perspective rather than the flow of the film.

Still, the movie is exceptional in that it breathed new life to the Star Wars franchise.  I’m excited to see the next one, thrilled to have spin-offs like Rogue One, and overall filled with questions.  I highly recommend the movie to all fans of the original Star Wars trilogy.