Mar 18, 2019

MCU Roundtable: Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel came out less than just over a week ago, and now she's the talk of the town! How'd it go? Who among the Comics Cube family liked it? What do we have to say about it? Let's go!

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel was released on March 8, 2019, in the United States. This happens to also be International Women's Day. It made $153 million on its opening weekend. As of this writing, it has earned $266 million domestic and over $760 million worldwide, officially making it the highest-grossing movie ever to star a female lead.

RICH: Just got back from the theater. Captain Marvel is damn near perfect.

MICHAEL: I'll preface my thoughts by saying I had a lot of fun watching this film. It was a solid 7, maybe 7.5/10 film experience for me, which is good! And yet I can't help but feel that everyone behind the scenes played it a little safe here. I'm disappointed in a sense because I feel the film could have been so much more — that it should have been more — considering it's the big debut of Marvel's marquee female superhero and the first of their 10 year long, 20-something picture run. And I think that problem for me stems from what I perceive as a lack of emotional depth to the film, concerning the character of Carol, her struggles, and her relationships.

DUY: Yeah, in comparison to Marvel's other solo kickoff movies, I don't think it was better than Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, or Best Picture Nominee Black Panther. I do think it's better than Ant-Man and The Incredible Hulk, which places it around Dr. Strange and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Not bad, but given its social role, could've been better.

BEN: So, usually when I go to see a comic book movie I have to get past a lot of expectations, mostly involving what I know about the characters from the comics. It takes me until the second viewing to enjoy a Marvel movie for what it is, with a few exceptions. I had A LOT spoiled for me on Captain Marvel, so I don’t know if that helped get me past my usual reservations, or if the movie is just really good, but I thought it was really good.

JEFF: I liked the movie, there were definitely somethings in it that could have been better but it was overall enjoyable. Loved the Stan tribute in the beginning.

KARA: I loved it. It was a lot of fun and so incredibly empowering. And it's always fantastic to see a movie pass the Bechdel test with flying colors the way this movie did. For the record I came in with no expectations, having only seen the first trailer to come out, and left in such a state of giddiness that I couldn't wait to talk more about it with everyone in hearing range. And of course I loved her every moment of defiance. Watching her step into situations and confidently make demands was pretty inspiring for me. I wanna grow up to be that badass!

KATHERINE: I loved it. I’m sure if I had to really think about it I would probably have some issues, but I just know that I left the theater so happy. I was surprised to find myself tearing up or crying.

SAMANTHA: There is plenty about the movie that all can relate to, because everyone has had to redefine themselves and change their perspective, and it usually does happen when you return to your roots. I had fun watching it and relating to it on so many levels. What I personally couldn't ignore is that Captain Marvel is such a girl power movie. Like, it'll be on a Bustle list by the end of the year. And it's kind of important that it is. There were a bunch of moments in Carol's past that had me thinking "A guy wouldn't get that." And as a musician and a writer, I felt those moments so hard that I was muttering curse words under my breath. The one dying to jump out of my head are the guys telling her she'll never be strong enough (because she's a girl), followed by "You know why they call it a 'cock' pit, right?" Also, guy on the motorcycle, telling Carol to smile more. Blech.

JD: Two thumbs up! Best Monday afternoon in a while. There were some things I question (all cinematography and directing/editing choices, we know Brie made more than one face during filming, use some of them). Brie seemed a bit stiff.

DUY: This is clearly a preference thing, but I thought Brie was stiff too. Never seen her in anything before, though.

MICHAEL: Actually, don't get me wrong, Carol herself is great here — more charismatic than I know of her comic book counterpart even — and that in no small part is thanks to Brie Larson, who is wonderful in the role and brings all the fun and grit that she needs.And everything hits all the beats you come to expect from a Marvel Studios origin film, with some clever subversions here and there to keep things mostly fresh. There's some really interesting subtext at play, especially concerning the Kree weaponising fear over the Skrulls' ability to escape to planets and assimilate into the populace (and who just so happen to be refugees) to paint them as a faceless enemy, and how the main villain of the film is someone who literally gaslights our heroine, but it all can easily be missed by people not looking for it.

RICH: Larson as Carol Danvers is very well cast, and it's gratifying to see Hollywood feature a woman whose beauty is entirely irrelevant to her character--her strength and her value as a person and as a hero are in NO way tied to sexiness or male fantasy fulfillment. My daughter commented, after we left the theater, that she loved the fact that none of the men were going around leering at her or commenting on her curves — not even the guy whose motorcycle she stole —and that her outfit wasn't a skintight bunny suit or a dominatrix costume or in any other way designed to make her a sex object. That's refreshing as hell, because as much as I love the MCU (and as much as I hypocritically appreciate Black Widow's appearance), there is definitely too much of that in the other films. Captain Marvel is a character my daughter can admire without having the message thrown at her that women are there primarily to turn men on. That matters to me.

DUY: Black Widow is a different type of character too, the type who uses her sex appeal to her advantage. Captain Marvel will just beat the crap out of you

RICH: And I enjoy both types — just for different (possibly contradictory) reasons.

DUY: And I think it is important to have a variety of those characters.I don't necessarily find it contradictory. Like it would be contradictory if someone who is established as not someone who uses her sex appeal is suddenly dressing up as such. Like Carol Danvers.
I wanna grow up to be that badass! -Kara

MICHAEL: Along sort of similar lines, I read a comment which brought up something I didn't notice at all during the film: at no point is Brie/Carol ever sexualised visually by the camera. That's pretty cool.

DUY: I think that was also a key point of the opening scene. The first thing she does is talk to Yon-Rogg about her dream, in his bedroom, on his bed. Then she challenges him to a fight. I think from that point on, the expectation has been subverted.

KATHERINE: I have to say that I loved the focus on friendships and self-discovery, and that there wasn’t even a romance subplot. I honestly don’t want to pit these two movies against each other because I’m happy we’re getting any of them, but as empowering and awesome as Wonder Woman was, I think the reason I didn’t have quite the same giddy feeling walking out of it was because the ending felt like it was so much about her loving and losing Steve Trevor. Which is not to say that powerful women shouldn’t have love interests, but the MCU hasn’t really focused on them with their male characters so I was relieved they didn’t do that with their first female headliner. I think there could have easily been some romantic tension/history between her and Jude Law, it probably took some restraint to not go there at all.

DUY: Hah! Okay, so you brought up Wonder Woman and I didn't, so I'm safe.  I feel like Themyscira and No Man's Land were legitimately great, like truly great cinematic moments in superhero history. I don't think anything in Captain Marvel comes close to those things. But I also had an issue with the forced romance with Steve Trevor, too much Steve Trevor, the racially stereotypical band of misfits (including a Native American named "Chief" who sent out smoke signals), and everything in the last 20 minutes the moment Ares is revealed, and I don't think anything in Captain Marvel comes close to those things in terms of being problematic either. Overall I'd probably end up rating them about the same, but because Wonder Woman has higher peaks and lower valleys, while Captain Marvel was of consistent quality throughout.

KATHERINE: I can understand that and think that’s fair. I am honestly really glad that they’re both pretty damn great. That’s good news for everyone moving forward! I totally agree about the transcendent moments in Wonder Woman, and I wasn’t comparing them overall, just the feeling I had walking out. To be fair, part of that parting giddiness must also be attributed to seeing how she connects to and has partially inspired the beginning of the Avengers. But that shows how much I love the connected universe of the MCU and can’t wait to see her with them more (as opposed to Wonder Woman being the only shining point of the DCEU at that point, and I left feeling like I wasn’t looking forward to her joining them, since they would probably just drag her down).

BEN: I don’t think Wonder Woman even comes close to Captain Marvel.

DUY: So, I think this movie faced an unreasonable set of expectations, partly because it's sandwiched between Infinity War and Endgame, and partly because the last debut movie they had was just nominated for a Best Picture. So I think being just "good", in many ways, wasn't good enough. This movie was important, and I just think it fell a little short. I appreciate the attempt at nonlinear storytelling. And if you go beat by beat, it works. But I think the structure hurt it, and it feels lacking, to me, in emotional resonance.

MICHAEL: A lot of the time the most potentially potent moments of character building for her are fed via exposition from supporting characters or in all too short vignettes, mostly untethered out of context. You're shown seconds of... an overbearing father? Hardships at boot camp? Brief seconds of her friendship with Maria? But they leave just as quick as they arrive, and I can't help but feel one of the more powerful shots, which shows Carol get up from being knocked down over and over in various events of her life, would be more so if there was more context to what she's getting up from. Or in the case of her friends, who she's fighting for.

DUY: The Carol/Maria friendship doesn't get to the level of Steve and Bucky, even Steve and Bucky in First Avenger, so that when Maria tells Carol she's the strongest person she knows, it feels ... unearned. Like I didn't see enough for it to resonate. And while I cognitively understand that the montage of her getting up after each time she falls down gives way to her understanding that there's nothing wrong with her emotions. Like it's all there. The pieces are all there. But it doesn't come quite together, for me. But I also know I'm not the primary target audience, so...

KATHERINE: Those are actually two of the times I cried. Once was when Maria was telling Carol that she’s always been the most powerful person she knows, and the other was during the montage of her getting back up to keep fighting throughout her life. Also in the “unreasonable expectations for the first female superhero movie” is that old adage that “whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good.” (Also applicable to minorities) I’m so glad it did insanely great numbers for opening weekend, since I think we all know that if it had opened with the first Captain America or Thor numbers (all between $57-$65 million), trolls would be crowing about what a disappointment it is and how there should be no more female-centric movies.

KARA: I have to argue that I didn't feel that anything was unearned. I found Carol's flashbacks and glimpses of her past compelling and I totally sympathized with her struggle. I would've loved to see more of those memories but at the same time we're clearly meant to struggle alongside Carol as she discovered herself and fought to reconcile her lost past with her present. And even if we never saw onscreen examples of Carol's character as Maria ended up describing it to her, I still felt that. It's like when your friends tell you to believe in yourself, and even though you can struggle to understand how they can see that in you, it's so powerful to actually hear someone tell you that. That moment totally resonated for me.

KATHERINE: It’s interesting to see some of you guys saying you wanted more context for those snippets into her past, and I agree, I’m always the type that wants more and more backstory, and I’m fine with watching three hour movies that are rich with little character stuff! But part of me also thinks that those snippets were so short, and their length didn’t actually bother me while watching it, because most women already get it. They were also general enough that those flashbacks felt like our own flashbacks, so just a few seconds is enough to remind us how we felt in those moments and how powerful it is to get back up after they happen. I’m not sure, maybe they should’ve given more time for the segment of the audience that might not have that same familiarity, but I can imagine a female director and editor saying “That’s plenty. We get it.”

SAMANTHA: I would both love to see those scenes as they were shot and hope they never come out because holy flashback triggers.  Footage like that can start a lot of conversation. Mostly of boys saying it's all made up, but also of women sitting at a bar trading battle stories.

KATHERINE: It’s also interesting because when those flashbacks happen, they’re tiny abstract glimpses and teases into a life she doesn’t remember. She doesn’t know who she is and what happened to her, but I think most women watching that scene probably understand and empathize with her better than she understands herself at that moment. But maybe a lot of men are also reacting like “Wait— what happened?? We need more info!” Which actually mirrors her reaction and prompts her to try to find the answers.

MICHAEL: I think there's something to all of that. I found myself wanting to know a bit more because I wanted to identify more with the hardships she went though, and how they impacted her as a person and also a woman. If I had experienced them myself, it probably would have acted as more of a shorthand like you describe. The one exception here though I feel is her friendship with Maria, which I wanted to see more of for different reasons.

SAMANTHA: I would have happily sat through an extra 30 minutes of movie to see more of her friendship with Maria, because I definitely got the impression that their connection was superspecial. I'm tearing up now thinking about it, because it reminded me of my friendship with my soul sister Erin (who passed away a couple of years ago). I'm it resonated similarly with others, but seeing more would have certainly added to the satisfaction level.

MICHAEL: Sorry to hear about your friend.

SAMANTHA: Thanks. I couldn't help but wish in the moment that "my Carol" would appear in my background on a random plane.

KATHERINE: I’d love to see more Carol and Maria (and I’m sure we’ll get Carol and grown-up Monica now that it’s 20 years later!), but for whatever reason I was feeling her speech. Might also be that it’s oddly rare to even get moments of women supporting each other so fully. That would normally be the speech the girl gives to inspire her man before act 3. And honestly the first time I saw The First Avenger I didn’t really feel or notice the depth of Steve and Bucky’s friendship, even though all the pieces were there. For me, it was only after I watched Winter Soldier and then rewatched The First Avenger that their connection and history together really hit me. The Winter Soldier is that odd sequel that made its predecessor even better.

BEN: She got you on the Steve and Bucky weren’t Steve and Bucky after the first movie.

KATHERINE: Also worth noting that even with the short amount of time they got together, we got some loving monologues, childhood pictures, tears and a long emotional hug. I know male friendships are different, but Steve and Bucky didn’t even hug until Infinity War! Haha the Stucky fans would’ve killed for that kind of content in movie 1!!

DUY: Taking four movies to hug is totally normal for guys, what're you talking about?

BEN: That was a bit rushed.

DUY: And it was like two seconds long. That's realistic.

BEN: There's no good reason to hug a man.

DUY: Right? Why would anyone want to?

She doesn’t know who she is and what happened to her, but I think most women watching that scene probably understand and empathize with her better than she understands herself at that moment.  -Katherine

DUY: Anyway, I'm with Michael when he says that maybe if I'd experienced those things myself too, I wouldn't have wanted to see more. I can actually imagine this movie starting many guy/girl conversations that go just like this is going right now. Guy says they wanted more depth to the scenes, girl just explains it out of past experiences.

KATHERINE: I think if those kinds of conversations are happening between men and women trying to understand and empathize with each other’s experiences, that’s the best outcome!!

BEN: I am fully over origin stories at this point. I was prepared for a long stroll through the full back story, so I actually appreciated the short bite-sized moments. Let’s get to the interesting stuff. And frankly, while that stuff is important and resonates, it’s not entertaining to dwell on too long. The contrast is the Agent Carter TV show, where they buried her under the realism of a woman in the workplace environment of the ‘50s. I get it, let’s see her kick ass.

SAMANTHA: I get what you're saying, and I think Captain Marvel balanced it.

BEN: I agree. I’m not trying to ignore what women go through, I think it’s important to show that casual sexism. Clearly, women can’t even star in an action movie without getting crap. I just feel like it was covered in the 10-second clips without having to watch a 5-minute flashback of how insensitive her dad was. I can understand the viewpoint of anyone that does want that, but my tastes as a viewer lean toward the smashing things. I want to be clear I’m not trying to scream about keeping politics out of movies.

KATHERINE: Interestingly, I think if they had shown a few minutes of her getting a hard time from her dad or some douchebag tormenting her in the military, I might have actually gotten the wrong idea and thought that was a plotline in her life that she needed to resolve, that she should find that specific person and settle things. But that wasn’t the point, it’s not about that person. I don’t think she has daddy issues or that she ever gave a shit about some idiot in a bar... it’s about the collective culmination of all those experiences and the attitude that she’s not enough just being pervasive throughout life. We usually don’t remember the faces of people who catcall us years later, but we remember what it was like for someone to make us feel dehumanized and unsafe. We don’t even want revenge on them, we just want to be able to get to that point where we can stand up for ourselves (hopefully with the same fire in our veins) and say “No more. Enough.”

BEN: That’s a good call.

SAMANTHA: It was so enough, anyway, that after all Carol had uncovered and all Jude Law's character did to oppress, control, and stop her, he still stood up after she destroyed his shit and said, "I'm so proud of you." and kind of gave her a whole "you have this cuz of me" speech. condescending prick. What Carol did in response was exactly what I have wanted to do for years to people like that.

KATHERINE: I know. After he said “I’m so proud of you” I was like...gaslighting sonofabitch said WHAT. The whole implication of “Yeah sure, your fireworks are super impressive and all, but that’s cheating, so how about we fight with you at 50% power and see if you can beat me then.” Her eyerolling response of “I don’t have to prove anything to you” is exactly how we should respond to trolls who want us to fight them.

SAMANTHA: Dude, she punched your fcuking jet and it fell to the ground. You need more proof? Fine, suck on this hand blast.

KATHERINE: I think sometimes some people identify as feminist allies and don't realize they're being subtly sexist. Like I’m sure Jude Law’s character thinks he’s being supportive when he says he’s proud of her.

DUY: Someone also pointed out to me that the last scene with Yon-Rogg where he goes "You'll never be worth anything until you prove you can beat me without your powers." That is such a guy thing. I don't think I've ever seen women do that. It's such a dude thing to say and do, like "You beat me in NBA 2K, now try doing it without Steph Curry taking threes from anywhere!"

JEFF: I love how she responded to his challenge at the end. She had nothing to prove to him and that one blast is what he deserved.

MICHAEL: Yon Rogg's "fight me fair" was totally a shithead "debate me" scenario.

KATHERINE: I agree it does feel like a guy thing. Like gatekeeping and needing people to prove their worth and their credentials. “Okay, so you’re super strong and can obviously beat me... but I won’t REALLY be impressed until you beat me on my specific terms. And it’s your obligation to impress me!!!”

SAMANTHA: Like fanboys trying to "school" actual lady comic book writers and artists?

DUY: Yeah, but in the department of unconscious biases, I have never, truly, ever, once thought of it as a guy thing, so much as a default thing. But you know what happens when I'm in a conversation with fanboys and I say I know nothing about something like Star Wars, or Dr. Who, or whichever issue of the X-Men? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

BEN: In fairness, nobody likes you.

DUY: Would it be safe to say that a disconnect for this movie and me (and most guys who don't get it) has to do with the overall narrative of men and women? Men are used to something like a Batman story — you have an inciting incident, and this inciting incident drives you to win. Captain Marvel doesn't have an inciting incident, but a lifetime of smaller moments that encourage her to just give up, and she refuses.

KATHERINE: I saw a criticism from someone who thought the movie just wasn’t inspiring at all. He thought Carol wasn’t relatable and that it wasn’t a powerful enough message just to see her get back up after she falls. He thought it would’ve been more meaningful to see her get up, confront the guy yelling at her, then go on to hit a home run in the baseball game. I’m sure this guy was advocating for girl power and I appreciated that, but it struck me as an interesting example of traditionally male expectations for success vs. actual female life experience. It came across as "you fell down. So what? I didn't see you win the race, you don't get a medal just for getting back up." I feel like that fundamentally misunderstands the message that truly, the hardest thing isn't actually winning the race, it's finding the courage not to give up when that's what the world keeps telling you to do. It almost feels unfair to assume that's a gendered misunderstanding, but it kind of feels like one, doesn't it? "If she didn't have what it takes to win, maybe she should have stayed down! Show me the tangible result or else it's not worth a damn!"

SAMANTHA: And there is an inciting incident, That's the issue. And it's punctuated with all of those moments that seem minor but add up to every girl and woman's life. I'll admit that it was probably a little misplaced in terms of structure (because we didn't find out about it until later when her memories returned) the incident is that Yon-Rogg stole her from the life she knew and made her his. He lied, he manipulated, he abused — all for the power to passively control her and the power he knew was lying inside of her. And everyone around them (the metaphor for society, presumably) helped. For some women (and yeah, even some men — though that's not who this is about right now) this is a thing we fear. For most men, they see this and call it hokey — because they've never had to deal with the garbage we deal with on a daily basis.

DUY: Oh damn, I didn't even think of it from that perspective, that Yon Rogg is the inciting incident. I was just thinking of the flashbacks of her personal life and how it informed her.

KATHERINE: Jude Law’s gaslighting was even more infuriating when you’re aware of it. During their fight training, he said something like “I just want you to be the best version of yourself.” Ugh the best version according to his parameters, while withholding all the info that she needs to grow, and as long as she’s not a threat to him / could become better than him. This felt subtle but like something that’s probably very common in unhealthy relationships — not just boyfriend and girlfriend relationships, but probably even more in boss-employee relationships. Acting super supportive to their face while actively holding them back. So then if they fail, it’s entirely their fault for not working hard enough. Man, he’s gotta be one of the most subtly but insidiously relatable villains in these movies so far.

SAMANTHA: I was rage-stuttering trying to explain this to someone who thought I was being silly. "That's not a real plot device," he said. So the problem we have is the prevalent idea that what women go through at the hands of men (and goddess help me, women) are silly, foolish, and imagined. Women have been gaslighted for centuries, so much so that it's ingrained in a lot of men's brains to "pooh-pooh" stuff like this. I legitimately don't even think these guys understand why they are triggered to think that this entire plot device is trivial to them. Because if any of them were thinking, they'd at least understand why women identify with Captain Marvel and why women like me were clapping their hands and stomping their feet when she let those goddamn mental restraints and social limitations go and her body glowed.

BEN: She breaks free and literally shines. That’s awesome. And the point isn’t even if she succeeds, the point is she’s not going to let anyone tell her to stay down and not try again because she’s just a girl.  It's not, “We know you got back up, but did you hit the ball?”

KATHERINE: What bugged me about the idea that the movie needed to show her go on to win the game was the implication that she’s only inspirational if she proves she has value to the team / community, that her presence benefits others. It's not enough that it's for herself.

JD: Yeah, Steve Rogers got back up, but, can he really “do this all day?”

DUY: I feel like there was simultaneously not enough explicit "Because you're a woman" moments, but at the same time it's so obvious that it didn't need to be explicit. (In contrast, I do think Wonder Woman wasn't explicit enough, period.)

KATHERINE: I think Wonder Woman was such a different story because she wasn’t part of our world, she didn’t deal with that kind of stuff in the same way. She was surprised that anyone would say that women couldn’t do these things, whereas it was just part of Carol’s everyday life. It was also different in that Diana was so traffic-stoppingly beautiful that people gave her a pass to act weird.

DUY: Contrast this also with the Dora Milaje, Nakia, and Shuri in Black Panther, where it's never questioned. There are obvious gender roles in Black Panther, but despite the differences, it's just a culture that doesn't view one as less than the other. If you put it side by side with Carol Danvers and what she had to go through in life, I think it even emphasizes what she had to go through... and that that behavior is learned.

KATHERINE: Oh, totally! Gender norms are definitely cultural and learned from your society. Which is why it’s so frustrating — none of this is innate! We could change the culture in a few generations, but we just don't. Too much resistance to change (as seen by men having hernias over something like a female superhero movie). Anyway, that’s a whole other issue.

RICH: I love how pissed off it has made a bunch of socially and physically impotent incels, causing them to lose their misogynistic shit... and has then gone on to be a huge critical and financial success anyway, despite their pitiful boycott and score-bombing efforts, making them and their tiny, shriveled, little raisin dicks even more inadequate than they already were. Captain Marvel has made these sad, miserable bottom-dwellers even sadder and more miserable because it has shown just how irrelevant they are. And for that, above all else, this movie and those who made it have my respect.

SAMANTHA: As I watching, my only concern was that guys wouldn't get it. And while, our Cube brethren are having open and healthy conversation about, I feel like I've already seen a million examples of guys who just didn't get it and aren't really trying. How did this movie get to be so socially relevant? Awesome job, Marvel!

KARA: I definitely had the same concern, but at the same time, in the words of Carol herself, she doesn't have to prove anything to anyone.

SAMANTHA: 100%!! I'm also going to spend a minute (again) loving on how Carol single-punched Yon-Rogg's jet out of the sky. Yes, damn it, yes.

DUY: I will say that I am getting schooled in this roundtable, and I am perfectly fine with that. I'm learning a lot about myself and unconscious biases. I like to think of myself as a progressive feminist ally, but it's pretty clear I still have much to learn.

KATHERINE: The "million examples of guys who just didn't get it and aren't really trying" that Samantha talks about illustrates why I really enjoy talking to the guys here. I feel like some of you articulated similar concerns about Captain Marvel, but I found those objections to be fair and well-expressed based on your experiences. I appreciate not seeing any of the "soft sexism" from you guys that I see in other reviews.

LIZZY: There’s a big difference between saying “I think this movie has issues, I liked it but think it could improve,” and “Wahhhh comic book movie has woman, make my dick shrivel up.” That’s what I really, really appreciate about you guys. You judge it based on its merit, not the gender. Or how well it adheres to some rando ass issue only three people read.  Unfortunately there are women who will jump on any criticism of WW & Captain Marvel as evidence of sexism. Which is just as problematic and pretty much the same thing as men whining about comic book movies being led by women. It boggles my mind that these turds can’t see they’re basically exactly the same.

DUY:  I understand it from the women's end though. If you're used to sexist trolls, then it's easier to just assume they're all sexist trolls.

LIZZY: Yeah, I do too, absolutely. And you get tired of having to parse through the ingrained misogyny to find out what the intention is. And sometimes it’s not even “real” misogyny, it’s just innate, ingrained gender superiority that’s reinforced at every turn.

BEN: Sometimes someone has genuine problems with the writing, but the only complaint voiced publicly is "bah gender swap, grrr," so it's easy to jump into sexism. Consider your message.

DUY: I think there's a difference between doing this type of thing (structured debates and discussions) vs. — despite the fact that criticisms may be valid — going on the thread of someone who loves a movie just to bash it. One of the things I hated about Wonder Woman is the fact that her supporting cast is quite frankly an offensively stereotypical racial profiles. I think if it were any other movie, that would be more of a focus. I think it is really problematic in any movie. And I will mention it if I'm talking about the movie as a whole. But I also won't go on a thread of a woman who finds empowerment in Wonder Woman and talk about that. It's a completely separate topic!

BEN: And doing it to strangers, that's different.

KATHERINE: I totally agree with all of this! And that difference between legitimate criticism, outright belligerent sexism and casual/accidental ingrained misogyny is an interesting and important distinction to make. I think real change can happen when people actually thoughtfully examine whether their kneejerk reaction may have been a result of ingrained misogyny.

SAMANTHA: My problem also lies with hard-headed folks whose criticisms are sexist but they think they're giving valid critique (and will double down when you call them on it) when the truth is they just aren't getting the premise.

Michael: Yon Rogg's "fight me fair" was totally a shithead "debate me" scenario.
Duy: In the department of unconscious biases, I have never, truly, ever, once thought of it as a guy thing, so much as a default thing. 

JEFF: Am I the only one who thought that after Carol unleashed all her power that she was too overpowering? I mean Ronan showed up and she basically slapped his forces down like flies. They showed us her getting up from being knocked down then made it so she's too powerful to be knocked down again. I feel too much too soon for her.

DUY: That was the point though, wasn't it? "I can't wait to see what happens when I'm finally let loose." This whole time Yon-Rogg (and everyone in her life) is telling her she's too emotional, so when she finally releases those emotions, she lets loose completely.

BEN: So much of Marvel is about characters being depowered, I thought it was a nice change of pace.

DUY: Plus she has to be really powered up for us to think she's going to hurt Thanos.

JEFF: I think it would have been better to show her having a little harder time dealing with the Kree ships, at least make her break a sweat in that fight.

DUY: I get it, it's like the complaint that Thor killed The Destroyer too easily when he got Mjolnir back. But I think at that point in each movie, it's earned.

KARA: I loved how friggin powerful she was once she set herself free. Honestly it didn't feel overpowered to me, especially not in a universe where some people can bend reality and time or travel into the quantum realm. And certainly if we're supposed to believe that Captain Marvel is our hope to the Avengers beating Thanos, then crank that power bank up to 11!!

DUY: That brings us to the mid-credits scene made my theater pop with "Wow" and "AWWW shit" reactions.

KATHERINE: That mid-credits scene. I flailed involuntarily so hard that I knocked the water off the drink holder. I was not expecting to get all that.

KATHERINE: It’s the power of that beard, man.

DUY: He doesn't even have the beard anymore!

KATHERINE: Since he did in the clip, it made me start doing the math about how that means he’ll have to shave it at some point during Endgame... hopefully on camera.

SAMANTHA: I had the entire back row laughing as we were headed out. "SO good to see Cap's beard one more time!" And I was giddy over Carol's fierce stance, like "Where is my FURY, goddamn it."

BEN: The crowd was abuzz in my theater too. Almost as if they had no idea she was going to be in Endgame.

DUY: The way she's introduced in the mid-credits makes me wonder two things: 1) there's no way she's the one who saves Tony now, right? and 2) did half of all life not disappear where she was? Was she that far off? And I want to point out that this movie filled in a lot of holes in the Marvel universe (Fury's eye, where the Tesseract was all this time), but also added more in. Is anyone we currently know actually a Skrull?  And in Avengers, Fury makes a point that he was building the Avengers because Thor and Loki showed up, as if it were the first time he was discovering aliens. But this movie has shown that he's known since at least 1995.

KATHERINE: He tells Coulson at the end that they found this super-person without even looking for one, imagine what they could accomplish if they were actually looking. I always figured why wouldn’t he want to to create a team of supers — as long as they’re on his side? I can imagine people thinking this is a contradiction, but Nick Fury is a known liar who stirs shit up on purpose. A few scenes later he also smeared blood on Coulson’s trading cards to motivate the Avengers to get to work.

DUY: Yeah, so it sounds like he knew what he was doing all along, saying all the right things to get the Avengers to fall in line, right?

KATHERINE: Totally could be. Obviously they may not have planned it all out this way in 2012, but I think it makes sense in the story. It’s even a good lie if he wanted to bring Thor into the argument (and distract everyone from Tony and Cap yelling at him about his ulterior motives), since before he mentioned it, all the tension was between him, Cap, Tony, Natasha and Bruce.

DUY: Yeah, it's an easy enough retcon to make, considering Fury's, uh, duplicitous nature.

JEFF: Actually, alien races being a threat is what he gave as a reason for Phase Two, using the Tesseract to power energy weapons. I think Fury liked the idea of having a response team like The Avengers, but the council he answered to wanted the weapons that their armies could use. That would also fit with the Hydra/Shield angle. Pierce from Winter Soldier would obviously rather have weapons developed then a team of heroes with Captain America, who fought Hydra during the war.

Captain Marvel has made these sad, miserable bottom-dwellers even sadder and more miserable because it has shown just how irrelevant they are. And for that, above all else, this movie and those who made it have my respect. -Rich

BEN: My main nitpick is how Fury loses his eye. It’s a funny bit and all, but it’s a bit hokey for me

JD: I did not like a “cat” being the reason Fury lost his eye.

SAMANTHA: It's not a cat, it's a Flerken - they're extremely dangerous!

MICHAEL: That's actually something I forgot. It is a bit hokey (I've been scratched across the cornea but what happened to Fury seemed excessive for a cat swipe) but I also dig it? I've seen reactions to it with people going "But it makes his quote about the last time he trusted someone not make sense!!", missing the whole thing at the end which was just him essentially beginning to perpetuate tall tales about how he lost it, which he apparently continues to do even 25 years later, which kind of makes me chuckle in terms of character wrinkles.

KATHERINE: But it wasn’t a cat!! Scary ass flerken.

MICHAEL: Yeah but was he stronger than a cat? With those adorable floofy cheeks? HMM. Ignoring extra dimensional tentacles, of course...

BEN: That is a nice wrinkle, his legend of what happened being bigger than the truth.

SAMANTHA: He trusted Goose implicitly until he swallowed the Tesseract. Also, end credit scene? I was so ridiculously scared that Goose was gonna hack up a body.

BEN: My brain immediately went to bone or hand or something too.

RICH: HA! So was I. But Goose wasn't a cat—he was a flerken. So I had no problem with it.  That being said... Are all cats flerkens? If so, why have none of us seen our cats do this? But if not, then why was a flerken wandering around on Earth?

SAMANTHA: My flerken, Alfie. I think the telltale sign is the orange tabbiness.

MICHAEL: Goose belonged to Wendy Lawson/Mar-Vell. After her death I guess it just hung around the base, waiting for someone to chase Project Pegasus up.

BEN: I’m fairly certain the term flerken comes from Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run, but I’m not sure of the specifics. Are all cats flerkens? Is this a flerken pretending to be an Earth cat?

KATHERINE: So are they an alien a race that just happens to look like cats? The way rocket just happens to look like a raccoon? Or are they shapeshifters? I now want to know everything about flerkens.

MICHAEL: I think flerkens resemble house cats much the same Rocket resembles a raccoon.

BEN: Funnily enough, Rocket is the one that identifies her cat as a flerken. I remembered reading that part.

DUY: It would be funny if at any point in the Guardians movies, someone had mentioned "flerkens." Leading me to ask, has anyone mentioned flerkens?

KATHERINE: I suspected they just looked like that since the Skrulls immediately recognized him as a flerken but didn’t know what a cat was.

SAMANTHA: I'm kind of wondering if anyone is going to be outed as a Skrull in Endgame.

KATHERINE: The Loki that died was a Skrull!!!

SAMANTHA: New hope!!!!

RICH: The unexpected Skrull twist works very well (in fact, the Skrulls' plight is one of my favorite aspects of the movie, and they have some of the funniest lines).

DUY: The Skrull twist really worked for me. Not only is it a relevant allegory to what's going on today with refugees, but it's also a good twist for comics fans. I'm so used to the Skrulls being evil. Even after they were revealed to be good, I still kept waiting for them to turn again. It never happened. It was a welcome twist. Of course, nothing's to stop them from introducing evil Skrulls later. We could easily introduce evil ones.

JD: I love that the Skrulls aren’t the enemy at the end. There’s a really cool thirty year story there. Ben Mendelsohn was great.

KATHERINE: I’m also very used to Ben Mendelsohn being evil, so it was very smart casting. And we never get to see him being funny, but he was hilarious in this. I should’ve known Jude Law would be a bad guy... I always hope he’ll be good because I love him, and he always ends up hurting me.

JEFF: I liked it too. The comics have rarely shown the Skrulls as good guys, and when they have, it's just been a group or individual here and there.

SAMANTHA: It reminds me of that movie District 9 in a small way. You start your life thinking the aliens are bad because the people you're supposed to trust told you so, but then your perspective is forced to change for whatever reason and it turns out they just want to get away.

RICH: Yeah, I dug that.

BEN: Korath and Ronan being involved was a nice subtle hint that the Kree are the bad guys.

DUY: I kept waiting for both the Kree and Skrulls to be evil.

You should smile more, Jeff. -Ben

DUY: Favorite explicit 90s reference? My theater had a huge laugh at the computer loading scene. Ahhh, dial-up...

BEN: What’s taking so long??

SAMANTHA: It was the AltaVista search engine that made me giggle — I had to actually stop myself from listing in my head all things we used to do searches on.

DUY: It was Yahoo for me.

SAMANTHA: I distinctly remember using Ask Jeeves a lot.Oh! And that the Tesseract was being kept safe in a freaking Happy Days lunchbox - so awesome haha

JD: The Pulp Fiction reference.

BEN: The soundtrack was great, and I’m glad Garbage made the list because they were by far my favorite ‘90s band.

MICHAEL: Not nearly enough Spacehog.

BEN: I didn’t go deep cuts for bands in the ‘90s. This soundtrack pretty much represents every band I loved as I transitioned out of being a rap-only kid.

KATHERINE: This was probably out of happiness and 90s nostalgia giddiness, but I also teared up when No Doubt's "I’m Just A Girl" played during the big fight.

SAMANTHA:  And ending set to Hole!! Be still my grunge-y heart.

BEN: Hole making the soundtrack was definitely a condition of them being allowed to use a Nirvana song. And I love "Celebrity Skin", but I’m not sure it makes the cut otherwise.

KATHERINE: The lyrics are perfect for the credits though! The second I heard “Oh make me over, I’m all I wanna be” I was like Yaaaaas Queen!

BEN: It’s a great song. I’m probably just being cynical.

DUY: I marked out for "Celebrity Skin" more than any of the songs in the soundtrack. It felt so appropriate, and a great capper.

MICHAEL: Not sure if Courtney Love has that much of a share in Nirvana's catalogue anymore, but that is interesting to think about.

JEFF: I am probably in the minority in this group for this opinion but '90s music was shit, Id say garbage but it would too literal for one '90s group.

RICH: Since Nirvana, Alanis Morissette, R.E.M., Ace of Base, Sheryl Crow, Guns 'n Roses, and U2 were all big in the '90s, I cannot concur.

MICHAEL: ...Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Blur, Underworld, Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine, Portishead - between grunge, hip hop/rap, brit, house, shoegaze, big beat and trip hop, there was a lot of movements to choose from. For me, it was the early to mid/late 00's which was utter death.

KATHERINE: I read an article about how we’re psychologically predisposed to being deeply emotionally connected to the music we heard as teenagers. So I’ll forever love 90s music.

MICHAEL: It makes sense, though I have an affinity for 80's music also. Maybe because I heard it as a wee bairn?

BEN: The ‘90s were my teenage years, so yeah, don’t agree.

DUY: I obviously don't listen to anything past the year 2000.

BEN: You should smile more, Jeff.

JEFF: How can I possibly smile after so much 90's music... so much pain and suffering.

MICHAEL: The Supreme Intelligence should have been blasting Two Princes by the Spin Doctors. A+, 10/10

BEN: Oh, that’s another minor nitpick. I understand why they didn’t show the comic book version of the Supreme Intelligence, but I still hoped.

MICHAEL: Same, but it'd kinda be like Dormammu all over again

DUY: Ehh, I thought Dormammu was okay. I'd have liked to see the Supreme Intelligence.

MICHAEL: Same, but as Supreme Intelligence is traditionally a giant floaty head on a screen, I think they would have had to switch it up a little.

Sequel thoughts. Carol in the post-Endgame present or in the past taking the fight to Ronan and the Kree? -Jeff

RICH: Brie Larson did an excellent job in the title role, and I look forward to having her around for many more movies. I'll be sad if we lose Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, of course, as they've been the heart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — but if we have to lose them, then the film series will be in great hands with her as the lead.

SAMANTHA: Bring it, Thanos!! Also, the entire Avenger initiative was named after (with an affectionate smile from Fury) said Captain. So effin' metal.

DUY: Thank you all for already making this a much better roundtable than our last one. Although speaking of that one? Now that Thor, Captain Marvel, and the Hulk are on the board, who else thinks they're going to actually give Scott Lang this really awesome moment that no one asked for?

KATHERINE: I actually also love Scott Lang and would be thrilled for him to have some awesome shining moments in Endgame! I really liked Ant-Man and the Wasp. It just might not be the type of movie that generates controversy and lots of discussion, and it was just super fun and enjoyable. But I think he’ll probably have an important role to play in the next movie because of the Quantum Realm.

DUY: Despite everyone and everything in the next movie, I still think it needs to come down to Steve and Tony. It has to, right?

MATT: That's certainly the set up. They both got moments with Thanos in Infinity War. Thor too, but Thor's more on the side of axing him in the face.

SAMANTHA: I really do hope we get to see Scott Lang shine harder in Endgame. I finally got to see Ant-Man and the Wasp and he went through a lot of growth (no pun intended) and could certainly be a contender now.

JEFF: Sequel thoughts. Carol in the post-Endgame present or in the past taking the fight to Ronan and the Kree? Her fighting the Kree could tie into the peace treaty they signed with Xandar in the first Guardians movie and be a motivation for Ronan turning to Thanos perhaps?

BEN: I’d vote present day. This one being set in the ‘90s was probably the main reason I was hesitant on going to see it.

DUY: I'd vote present day on the sequel as well, with flashbacks to the time in between.

JD: The sequel needs to be in present day. Let’s move the greater MCU story forward. Ever forward, comrades. Goose vs Rocket Raccoon. Yesterday.

MICHAEL: Speaking of time, I'm curious how Carol appears to be the same age when she appears in the mid-credits scene when she's been away from Earth for something like 25 years. Quill has been away from Earth and aged normally so it's nothing to do with time passing differently in deep space, at least generally.

DUY: The easiest explanation would be that it has to do with her powers. I hope that's not it, since I hope there's an actual story in it.

SAMANTHA: Maybe it has to do with the Kree blood? Her blood is at least mingling with it, if it wasn't completely replaced after she absorbed the core. Or it was the core? Or both?

DUY: I also wish Ronan had done more. Are we looking at Ronan for future installments? Isnt he modern-day dead?

MICHAEL: He's very much modern day dead, but I hope he's brought back somehow because he comic book counterpart has a pretty rich history as both a villain and a hero.

I think real change can happen when people actually thoughtfully examine whether their kneejerk reaction may have been a result of ingrained misogyny. -Katherine
DUY: Hey, who wins the Val Kilmer in Tombstone Award? Because I think it should go to Ben Mendelsohn.

JD: He would get my award, too. I wish the scene were everyone was asking Talos about shapeshifting lasted a lot longer. It was so entertaining.

KATHERINE: Also probably my favorite dialogue exchange in the movie, discussing the “dare I say... talent“ that goes into shape shifting. “Can you turn into a filing cabinet?” “Why....would I...?”

SAMANTHA: "How 'bout a Venus fly trap? I'll give you fifty bucks right now..."

BEN: Wrong, Goose is the obvious winner.

SAMANTHA: I'm torn between Talos and Goose. The Flerken really went for it in the back nine and did not disappoint!

JEFF: The cat is hands down the Kilmer winner(as any cat should be).

How did this movie get to be so socially relevant? Awesome job, Marvel! -Samantha

RICH: The Stan Lee tribute at the beginning is so touching.

KATHERINE: The Stan Lee tribute is one of the four moments where I teared up. My heart.

BEN: There's an extra feature on him and Steve Ditko on the Into the Spider-Verse digital release and it made me get misty.

DUY: This has my favorite Stan Lee cameo ever. A nice reference to what was probably Stan's first ever cameo, to what might have been the first shared universe.  Even if it does get kinda confusing if you think about it too hard. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Stan Lee is revealed as a Watcher. However, in Mallrats, Stan calls himself the creator of the Marvel Universe. And this is 1995, before any of the heroes he mentioned in Mallrats debuted in the MCU. So what's going on, people?

SAMANTHA: Kevin Smith's reaction to the movie and the cameo. I haven't been this happy for someone I don't know in like, a week.

KATHERINE: Such a great cameo!!! Did Kevin Smith not know about it?? What a dream for him.

LIZZY: I know I’m gonna puddle up at these last Stan Lee cameos.

DUY: Any comic recommendations for Captain Marvel? I'm assuming the Kelly Sue DeConnick is a default since it's the run this is most based on. Anything else?

MICHAEL: I think the Ms. Marvel run preceding it was okay — nothing to write home about but some fun team-ups with Spider-Man; also I think it was around the Dark Reign era so there's a lot of Moonstone.

PETER: I liked the Brian Reed run and I think I have all the trades even. It's a solid serialized superhero comic book run. It was also my first exposure to the wonderful art of Sana Takeda. The run gets tied up in all the big Marvel events but it uses this to its advantage. It's a relatively long run (for this era) so it gets to have a bunch of different storylines although with somewhat of a common theme (in my reading of the series I felt that on the whole, the theme was "identity" — who is Ms. Marvel?). Quality ranges from average to very good but still not a single bad volume in there in my opinion. Anyway, I'd recommend this series.

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