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Captain Marvel (2019) – Review

Spoiler Free Thoughts and Review

Infinity War and Endgame are, not surprisingly, coming out very close to each other.  At least when compared to the previous Avengers outings they are close to each other.   This is kind of understandable given how disruptive the end of Infinity War was.  Even Agents of SHIELD essentially took a prolonged break to wait for things to be fixed.  A couple of films have squeezed in between, both featuring things that will likely show up prominently in Avengers End Game.  The first was Ant-Man and the Wasp, which according to the post credits scene, effectively happens simultaneously along side Avengers Infinity War.

Captain Marvel gets around this problem by taking place in the past.  Only the credits scene happens during “present day”.  This is kind of a first for Marvel films which have always taken place “Present day”.  Captain America: The First Avenger got around this by having it’s current day scene happen at the end of the film after Steve wakes up from his long cold sleep.

The core of the film is an origin story for Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, aka Vers (pronounced Veers).  The majority of the film takes place in the mid 90s with some flashbacks to Carol’s past life 6 years previous.  It sort of mixes up the standard “origin” concept this way since it doesn’t just start with “here is how she got her powers” then “here is how she learns to be a hero”, which is nice.  Her original also ties heavily into the plot itself.

The real show stealers of this film are Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a CGIed younger version of himself as Nick Fury, and Carol’s cat Goose.  Ben Mendelsohn also does a pretty good job as the Skrull leader Talos throughout the film.  There are some good funny bits, mostly involving one or more of these three characters though it’s not a constant joke like Guardians of the Galaxy.

So how is the movie?  It’s… alright.  There has been some controversy with the film getting brigaded with negative reviews on review sites.  It’s not the best Marvel film by any stretch, but it’s certainly not god awful like some of these “ratings” suggest.  It’s like a pretty solid 7/10 or so probably.

Synopsis and Spoilers

The film opens with Carol, at this point known as Vers (Veers), living on the Kree home world and training with Yon-Rogg to join an elite Kree Commando force known as the Starforce.  We get a brief look at how she has no memory of her past but has dreams of it occasionally through a brief dream sequence where she is injured on the ground along side Annette Benning’s character and being attacked by a Skrull.  The Starforce and Kree are at war with the Skrulls.  The Kree should be fairly familiar to anyone following the MCU, they have showed up in a few movies and the Agents of SHIELD show quite a bit.  The Skrulls are new to the MCU though.  Basically, they are tricky aliens who can shapeshift.  It’s not a plot element in the movie but Super Skrulls can also replicate the abilities of super heroes.

Anyway, Vers gets summoned to meet with the Supreme Intelligence, leader of the Kree, who takes the form of “something important to each individual”.  In the case of Vers, it takes the form of Annette Benning.  Vers is recruited into Starforce and the little party of fighters head off on a mission to rescue someone on a Skrull planet.  They arrive, we get to see the Starforce in action a bit when they are ambushed by Skrulls, and Vers heads into a base alone to look for the hostage.  It turns out it’s a trap and the hostage is a Skrull, and Vers is taken captive.

We get a few flashes of her past again, as the Skrulls scan her memory for information.  They find a memory of Vers and Annette Benning together on an airfield on Earth, after reviewing the memory several times they discern the location of the airfield.  Around this time Vers manages to break free of the system and starts fighting her way out of the Skrull ship.  She escapes as the ship explodes and crash lands in a Blockbuster video on Earth.

This brings up my first kind of problem here, we later find out she was out for a few hours, but it’s not really explained when the Skrulls traveled to Earth from wherever they were.  I mean, obviously it happened, but the way it was presented felt a little random and convenient. 

After using the Earth’s phone system and some Kree technology, Vers manages to contact Yon-Rogg and sets out to find out why the Skrulls were looking for Annette Benning.  Not before being confronted by SHIELD and Nick Fury, with Agent Coulson in tow as a rookie agent.  Fury doesn’t seem to quite believe Vers’ story about aliens and Skrulls and Kree.  They are interrupted by an attack by a Skrull whom Vers chases down on foot with Fury and Coulson pursuing in a car.  Vers fights with the Skrull a bit on an elevated train as the SHIELD agents follow on along behind.  Fury gets a call on the radio of his car from Coulson, who wonders where everyone went from the Blockbuster, which alerts Fury that Coulson in the car isn’t who he thinks it is.  After a brief fight he wrecks his car, killing the Skrull who reverts back to his normal form.  Vers loses the Skrull she was following in a crowd. 

After changing to some normal clothes from her fancy Kree suit, Carol takes to searching the internet for clues about Annette Benning’s whereabouts.  Coulson gets some information on the Skrull body at the SHIELD base before, in classic Fury fashion, showing up randomly to talk to Vers.  Since he now believes her story, they agree to team up to figure out what’s going on and head to a secret base where Annette Benning was working.  In the base they find that the person they are looking for has been dead for years.  They also find a cat that appeared previously in Vers’ memories and some information on the Light Speed drive that had been worked on there.  Vers also discovers that she is in a photo of the test experimental test plane.

Meanwhile, Fury has contacted SHIELD to let them know where he was, only it turns out that his boss has been replaced by a Kree.  In a bit of a clever bit, he discovers this when his boss calls him “Nick” instead of “Fury”.  He previously made a huge point to Vers that no one calls him anything but Fury.  No one.  He tricks the Skrull into splitting up by commenting “Just like in Haiti”, which I only mention as it comes up again later.

Anyway, Fury reunited with Vers, who is not happy at all about him alerting SHIELD to their location.  There is a brief battle before they escape in a Quadjet, which looks a lot like a bulkier and older model Quinjet.  They discover that the cat managed to stow away with them on board the jet.  They set off to visit Maria Rambeau, who was listed as the last person to see Vers alive in her past life. 

It turns out Maria was best friend to Vers in her past life.  They bond, we learn that Vers is from Earth (which we all kind of expected given the flashbacks).  We learn that her name isn’t Vers, it’s Carol Danvers.  There is a half a dog tag that reads “Carol Dan” on it.  Carol had a jacket that apparently Maria’s daughter wears sometimes.  Maria is a little town since she is happy her friend is alive and a little irritated that she was off on another planet. 

This is all interrupted by the arrival of Talos, the Skrull commander, now in his normal Skrull form.  He wants a truce, and to talk, and to reveal… the plot twist.  It turns out that Annette Benning wasn’t human, but was a Kree scientist known as Mar-Vell.  He plays back a recording of the crash Carol was involved in, the one that’s he had been dreaming about.  Mar-Vell and Carol are piloting the experimental craft and get shot down by some alien craft.  Only instead of being attacked by Skrulls, it turns out she had been attacked by Yon-Rogg.  The Kree were the ones after the Light Speed Drive all along, not the Skrulls.  During the confrontation, Mar-Vell had revealed her secret to Carol.  Carol then fires a Kree weapon at the Light Speed drive, causing it to explode.  Somehow the energy is absorbed into Carol’s body.  Seeing this power, Yon-Rogg abducts her, her memory is wiped, and she is recruited to Starforce.  We also see him pick up the other half of the dog tag which reads only “vers”, which was the missing half of “Carol Danvers” on the complete dog tag, and the reason she is called “Vers” early on.

Carol is a little pissed that she has been lied to of course. 

This recording also leads to the secret coordinates that aren’t on the Earth, but are actually in orbit around Earth.  The Skrulls modify the Quadjet for spaceflight and they all (Carol, Fury, Talos, Maria, the Cat) head into space.  Once there they discover Mar-Vell’s secret cloaked space station, which, surprise, contains a bunch of Skrull refugees.  Specifically, Talos’ family, who had been working with Mar-Vell.  It also contains the source of power that the Kree are after in the Tesseract Cube.  Carol gives the Tesseract to Fury for safe keeping, or specifically, Goose the Cat eats is with a bunch of tentacles that spew out of it’s mouth, because it’s not a cat it’s a Flurgen. 

The Starforce squad shows up and use an implant in Carol’s head to force her to power down.  Carol is then, once again, confronted by the Supreme Intelligence.  The Skrulls and Fury and Maria are locked up.  Carol confronts the Supreme intelligence who kind of taunts her about how weak she is.  This pretty much causes her to overcome the implant and unleash her full power.  She wipes the floor with the Starforce Squad.  Meanwhile, Talos has disguised himself as a Starforce grunt, and alerts Fury with a comment about Haiti, which is once again, kind of clever.  They overpower their captors and escape with the Skrulls to the Quadjet.  Along the way we get to see more of Goose’s true power as the Cat eats several of the guard whole.

Carol and Yon-Rogg blast out of the station in a shuttle, but not before Ronan arrives to cleanse the Earth of it’s Skrull infestation.  His starships launch several missiles at the planet.  Carol uses her newfound Super Saiyan powers to fly into space, destroying the missiles along the way and easily dispatching one of Ronan’s ship.  Ronan turns tail and exits the area to go off and get killed by the Guardians of the Galaxy later.

Carol returns to the surface to confront Yon-Rogg.  Realizing he is no match for her, he goads her into proving she can fight him with no powers, but she blasts him anyway.  Because she is “the hero” she tosses him into the escape pod, programs it to head back to the Kree home world and tells him to let the Kree know she is coming for them.

She says her goodbyes to Fury and Maria, leaving the Goose and the Tesseract with SHIELD.  She makes it her mission to help the Skrulls find a new home world and to combat the Kree, and she leaves with the Skrulls to parts unknown.  Before leaving she leaves Fury with the modified pager he can use to summon her in case of emergency.

There are two end credits scenes.  One with the Avengers in Avengers HQ, lamenting their loss at the hands of Thanos and pondering the meaning of the Pager, which was activated by Fury at the end of Infinity War.  The pager has mysteriously stopped sending a signal and they don’t know why.  Suddenly, they turn and a very angry looking Carol is there, and asks ‘Where’s Fury”.

The second scene shows Fury’s desk, Goose jumps up on the desk.  Anyone who has owned a cat can probably predict what happens next in the context of the film, I know I did.  I mean cats like to eat things they shouldn’t like plants, or Tesseracts, but these things don’t really flow through the digestive tract.  Goose starts hacking and coughing before ejecting the tesseract out onto the desk.  It’s pretty funny.

How it’s Connected

So, there’s a fair amount of connected here, but the biggest and most obvious is the Tesseract which first appeared in Captain America: TFA and later in the first Avengers film.  It also made a brief appearance in Thor: Ragnarok, since after Avengers it was stored in Asgard, where it was saved from Ragnaros by Loki.  Then again in the opening for Avengers: infinity War where it was taken by Thanos and inserted into the Infinity Gauntlet as the Space Stone.

The Tesseract is shown to be the source of power for the Light Speed drive that was being developed by Mar-Velle which exploded and infused Carol with her super powers.  It makes sense that this would be able to power a super powered space engine since it’s the Space Stone, which has the ability to let the user travel across space.

Fury gets his eye scratched out by the cat Goose, which is supposed to explain why he has an eye patch in the future.  It’s kind of cute since it’s bad ass Nick Fury and you expect it to have happened by something more than a cat.  In this same line, it’s a little lame, because you expected it to be more than a cat.  Ok, technically Goose is a Flurgen or whatever.

Near the end of the film, the Kree general Ronan makes a brief appearance.  His small fleet of ships shows up to destroy Earth but are stopped by Captain Marvel when she goes Super Saiyan.  Ronin, you may recall was the primary antagonist of the first Guardians of the Galaxy.  He isn’t the only character to show up in Captain Marvel from GotG, Korath (“Star-Lord Man”; “Who?”) shows up as well as a member of the Kree Star Force squad that Carol is a part of.

Then of course there is Agent Coulson, whom Fury refers to as “Rookie”.  His roll isn’t very big but it’s nice to see him show up again in the films and not just Agents of SHIELD.

There is also a slightly cheesy brief bit at the end that implies Fury got the name for The Avengers from Carol’s pilot nickname of “Avenger”.

Then of course the credits scene, where Carol answers the call of her pager sent out by Fury at the end of Infinity War, and shows up looking rather pissed.

One other note that may or may not become relevant later, Carol’s friend has a daughter named Monica Rambeau.  She is like 10 maybe in the film.  She carried the Captain Marvel mantle in the comics briefly, and even lead the Avengers briefly.  I doubt she elevates to that level in the MCU, but she may show up again “present day” as an adult.  She is also a member of the slightly niche with a cult following group Nextwave.  I would be pretty happy if they opted to make a Nextwave film.

Thoughts on what’s next

Captain Marvel will show up again alongside the Avengers in the next film, Avengers: Endgame.  Her massive power level will definitely be a strong addition to whatever fight happens in that film.  I look forward to seeing her go toe to toe with Thanos.  I also wonder how well she will play with the rest of the characters.  In her own movie here, she comes off as pretty single track on her goals.  I can see her showing up, discovering what has happened to Fury and everyone else, and jetting off to beat the shit out of Thanos as soon as she discovers his location, despite protests from anyone else (Steve Rodgers). 

I can also see her getting along with Thor in interesting ways.  Thor already outclasses all of the other Avengers in power level, which became supremely clear in infinity War, but I feel like Carol may actually be stronger than he is in a straight fight. 

Final Notes

There isn’t a lot of the larger picture that is advanced here, but it does introduce us to a new hero which will add a new dynamic to things going forward.  The film does a fairly decent job of sort of explaining where Carol has been since her time in the 90s and the present day time.  So far, nothing has happened that would have given Fury cause to summon her before either.  The invasion of New York was handled by the Avengers and Ultron was a problem, but not one that he really knew about until last minute, and once again, the Avengers managed to keep it under control.  Ultimately, it’s a nice introduction, but it’s kind of unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.

Review – Movie – The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Spoiler Free Thoughts and Review

The Incredible Hulk seems to be a really hard hero to get right for movies.  He’s had a few of them and even a live action TV series in the 80s.  The Incredible Hulk is sort of the redheaded stepchild of the MCU.  It came out just after Iron Man.  It’s technically sort of part of the MCU, but no one really remembers or cares that it’s part of the MCU.  Part of this confusion is the change in actors from the movie and his next appearance in The Avengers.  They traded out Edward Norton for Mark Ruffalo.  This particular movie also exists in a weird space since it’s technically a sequel to the 2003 Ang Lee film simply called Hulk.  The rumors and stories I’ve read are that Norton was kind of a bear to work with on the whole thing and had a hand in altering a lot of the script until it was much less of a sequel and more of a reboot.  It doesn’t really directly contradict Ang Lee’s Hulk, but it doesn’t reference it either.  This is also part of why they dropped Norton for Ruffalo.

A lot of the problem with Hulk is that the exciting part, IE the big green monster, is boring and hard from a story perspective.  He’s not really a hero, he doesn’t really go around saving people really, he just gets mad and rages, and hopefully he’s raging against someone more evil than he is.  The part that works for the story, Bruce Banner, is kind of boring from a movie perspective.  It’s not super easy to depict “inner turmoil” on screen, which is part of what makes the Hulk and Banner who they are.

This film also is treated by the greater MCU the same way it treats it’s Ang Lee predecessor.  It’s not really acknowledge, it’s not really rejected.  It does seem to be kind of a goto reference for the TV MCU though.  Ironic since the TV MCU is also ignored by the movies.  Daredevil and Iron Fist make references to the final battle in Harlem, Agents of SHIELD makes references to Emil Blonsky a few times.

It’s an alright film, but I kind of prefer the Ang Lee vision of Hulk and frankly, I don’t really like Edward Norton as Banner.

Synopsis and Spoilers

The plot starts off with Banner working and hiding in Mexico, working at a soda bottling plant.  He’s communicating with Samuel Sterns, a scientist in the states, anonymously working to find a cure for his Hulkness.  During an accident, he accidentally cuts himself and some of his blood lands in one of the sodas which ends up giving Gamma Poisoning to poor Stan Lee.  This leads the military to Banner’s location.  They recruit special forces agent Emil Blonsky to head in and capture Banner.  After some Fitbit advertisements where Banner’s heart rate keeps increasing during his escape from the military, he finally Hulks out and battles it out with the soldiers before making his escape.

Jealous of the Hulk’s power, Blonsky gets injected with some experimental super soldier serum to help beef himself up and help him go up against the unstoppable force that is The Hulk.  Banner returns to the states to meet up with his old girlfriend Betty Ross, daughter of General Ross, who is leading the military charge against him.  Bruce wants to recover the data from the original experiment that transformed him into The Hulk to better help Dr. Sterns  find a cure.  Unfortunately for Banner, the Military has been alerted to his presence.  Hulk rears his raging face again and makes short work of the military forces, including Blonsky, despite his newfound strength.  Hulk flees with Betty after The Hulk “kills” Blonsky.

Bruce and Betty finally meet up with Samuel Sterns, who was able to formulate a cure, but possibly a faulty cure.  They administer the cure to Banner and afterwards General Ross, Blonsky and the military show up yet again and take Banner into custody.  After Ross heads out with Banner, Blonsky forces Dr. Stern to inject him with Banner’s blood.  The super soldier serum and the Hulk blood have a negative interaction and Blonsky is transformed into the classic Hulk nemesis, Abomination, who starts rampaging through Harlem.  General Ross agrees to let Banner go because the Hulk is the only one who can stop The Abomination.  After the two brutes trash out the city, prompting Wilson Fisk to leverage his power to rebuild things in his vision for control (no wait, wrong show), The Abomination is defeated and things come to a close.

Banner is later shown to be living in seclusion again and Tony Stark shows up to talk to General Ross in vague terms about the Avengers.

How it’s Connected

Aside from Robert Downy Jr’s cameo at the end, there’s not a whole lot else that comes up later.  There aren’t any references to The Absorbing Man in the first movie, there aren’t any Infinity Stones or much SHIELD even.  The events that take place in Harlem are mentioned in the Netflix Defenders shows some, primarily because those shows mostly take place in and around Harlem.  Though I find it kind of odd that the major event everyone talks about is Hulk and not, you know, the literal alien invasion and Avengers.  The Super Soldier serum theme is here, that of course relates to Captain America, Agent Carter, and a few bits in Agents of SHIELD.

Thoughts on What’s Next

There hasn’t been a straight followup for The Hulk, he shows up again in the later Avengers films and the upcoming Thor Ragnarok, but nothing new in terms of a solo film.  There is/was clearly some plan though, during the scene when Samuel Sterns turns Blonsky into the Abomination, he too gets infected by the Hulk Blood and his head starts mutating.  In the comics, Samuel Sterns is a smart dude with a big head villain named Leader.  Someone was pushing for this angle, though at this point it’s clearly gone nowhere.

Final Notes

The Incredible Hulk is an ok though pretty forgettable part of the greater MCU.  It’s not an awful movie, it just sort of, is.  Hulk is just sort of a hard guy to really do justice in film.

Review – Movies – Iron Man (2008) (MCU)

05.02.2008

Way back in 2008, you kind of have to wonder just how much was really planned for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU.  It seems like there was at least a general idea for Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk to get movies, then team up for The Avengers.  How much farther did it go?  Did they have plans for Ant-Man or Guardians of the Galaxy or Jessica Jones?  Did they know they would want Paul Bettany to become an onscreen character eventually in Vision when they cast him as Jarvis?

Regardless of the ultimate plan, Iron Man marks the official start of what would eventually become known as the MCU, as well as a new start to how Super Hero movies would be conducted.  Super hero movies aren’t anything new, but they tended to embrace their comic book origin whole hog and go for the super fantastical designs and effects.  The MCU, especially at the begging started off with at least some level of explanation behind everything, even if it was just a made up explanation, it would be one that worked in universe as explained.

There was also so much that just worked with Iron Man as well.  Robert Downey Junior very much fits the style and look for genius playboy Tony Stark.  The special effects are exceptionally well done, with care taken to lighting and little extra bits like shrapnel and general background visuals.  Even right out of the gate we get some hint at what’s to come and how these movies will be #ItsAllConnected with SHIELD showing up briefly trying to recruit Tony.  Iron Man is also one of the highlights of the MCU, and it holds up well with time.  It’s a basic origin story of course but it doesn’t linger and drag with the origin part which is a trap many comic movies fall into.  The best part is that the Origin itself ties in with the over arching plot across this movie and even across the entire Iron Man trilogy to some extent.

Anyway, going forward is the Spoiler filled synopsis section, so if you’re behind on your viewing, feel free to stop here.

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Review – Movie – Doctor Strange (2016)

Marvel’s latest blockbuster is Doctor Strange, the story of a brilliant surgeon turned mystical world bending sorcerer. Unlike a lot of Marvel’s recent outings, I had almost no idea who Doctor strange was or exactly what he did before seeing this movie. My knowledge essentially amounted to something something magic, something something founded the Defenders, he seems to have a regular bad guy who is a flaming head demon guy. Also, why is he called Doctor Strange?

Turns out that wasn’t super off, he’s a Doctor because he is literally a Medical Doctor, and his big villain is the flaming skull guy, though the villain doesn’t really take that form in this outing. Short spoiler free verdict, it’s a crazy special effects fest to be sure, even better, the story is nice and straight forward, no complicated conspiracies or convoluted twists, it’s just what it is. Benedict Cumberbatch is much better as Strange than I expected coming into this, I’m not really a fan of his, though that seems to be opposite of the norm.

Basically, Marvel has another nice hit on their hands and a fine entry in the MCU.

Now on to the spoilers and detailed thoughts!

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