(Note: I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as possible. As I personally don’t care about spoilers, though – I call it the Rosebud Theory of Surprise Endings – I may inadvertently let something slip. Caveat lector.)
Yesterday I saw Captain Marvel for a second time. This movie rewards a second viewing.
Granted, my first viewing at the local Alamo Drafthouse had some distractions. The waitperson took my order when I was sitting in the wrong seat. (Off by one. Typical programmer error.) Somehow it got confused with the order of the guy who actually had a ticket for that seat, and neither of us got our order until halfway through the movie. That, the waiter’s apology, and the manager’s apology kinda distracted me. On the plus side, they comped both our meals.
So I went back again yesterday to the same Alamo Drafthouse, and sat in my assigned seat. Things went much more smoothly, so I could concentrate on the film.
Things I noticed and appreciated the second time through:
While the movie’s main plot concerned the Skrulls infiltrating Earth, the ‘B’ plot revolved around Carol Danvers reclaiming her life. As we discovered in Guardians of the Galaxy, the Kree are jerks. Here, they erased her memory, harnessed her powers for their own ends, and used her as a weapon in their endless imperialist wars. Discovering who she was, what they did to her, and why her “noble warrior heroes” really fought was the real story. Superheroes are fantasies about power, and these revelations figuratively and literally gave Carol Danvers her power back.
Ben Mendelsohn’s portrayal of Talos gave us one of the MCU’s most compelling antagonists. Unlike Loki’s lust for power, Ronan’s fanaticism, or Thanos’s bullshit Malthusian theories, Talos’s motives are more subtle and more complex. Mendelsohn’s portrayal mixed ruthlessness, sardonic amusement, and (from his perspective) righteous anger into a multi-layered character. In movie he did what Loki or Nebula took multiple movies to achieve. (Granted, blame for the early movies' notoriously paper-thin villains falls mainly on writers and directors. Tom Hiddleston, Karen Gillen, and the others could only do so much with what they had.)
Brie Larson was no slouch either, despite Internet reviews to the contrary. Early in the movie, she shows little emotion because she’s a Kree warrior and the Kree believe emotions interfere with duty. Even then, we see the occasional crack in the mask: an “inappropriate” joke here, a flash of anger there, a sense of unease throughout. On Earth, as her mission begins to change, her anxiety grows, but paradoxically she seems more comfortable; yes, she even smiles. When she finally breaks from Kree programming and discovers her true origin and purpose, the warrior comes back … but also a confidence, compassion, and for lack of a better word humanity that was struggling to get out.
If I were to rank MCU movies (and I have), Captain Marvel wouldn’t be at the top of the list. It neither resonates like Black Panther nor surprises like Guardians of the Galaxy. But I’ll have to replace one of my other previous top five – The Avengers (first one), Captain America (ditto) and Iron Man (ditto) – and I’m not sure which one. Or maybe just live with a Top Six, where the last four are unranked.