Is Criticism of Captain Marvel Legitimate?

Is Criticism of Captain Marvel Legitimate?

I remember it vividly. There was outcry from the media and the fandom over a casting choice. The broad consensus seemed to be that it was pretty much the worst casting decision for the character. Although there was some dissent on who was the right actor for the character. Friends in the fandom and I all agreed, we didn’t think it would work, but we would likely see the movie anyway.

The year was 1988, the actor was Michael Keaton. The movie was Batman.

And we were all wrong, it worked really, really well. As have many other questioned (by one or many) casting choices. Examples range from John Boyega as Finn (because someone may have complained about a black Stormtrooper?), to Daisy Ridley as Rey (or so I am told?), to Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (honestly, the only complaint I ever heard about her was that she was too thin…), to the cast of the reboot Ghostbusters. All worked. All were controversial to varying degrees, but all worked out. When you think back, I am sure you will remember more – and not all worked, but many did. Hell, I remember joking about Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan as an action hero. But three Matrix movies and two John Wicks later, we have the odd transposition of John ‘Neo’ Wick as a aged slacker in Bill & Ted 3?

The more things change, right?

I bring this up, because we are again in the throes of another stupid casting controversy. Which now, in the age of the internet and instant validation for any and all opinions, means controversy over the movie itself. Before it is released, of course. That is actually one of the key points – real controversy lasts through release, manufactured controversy ends with release. If there were really any problems based on gender or race, they wouldn’t go away with a good performance. The Kelly Marie Tran / Rose Tico issue began after release. She wasn’t an issue until then. So the issues were real, even if they were with the character and our society is too stupid to distinguish between the two.

With Captain Marvel, I see a movie with a main character that is…off. Brie Larson’s facial expressions seem to be either ‘this is so stupid I can’t believe it…must not laugh’ or ‘I don’t get it at all, my agent did this to me, must look serious’. Again, this is based on nothing but the trailers. Actual footage may have different looks happening, we will see.

Worth noting that Jude Law is wearing the same expression. I have seen more of his movies than Brie Larson’s. I have seen two with her in it – Scott Pilgrim vs The World and Kong: Skull Island. It is six for Jude Law, including Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow, Enemy At The Gates, eXistenZ, Gattaca, and his Sherlock Holmes movies. So I know both of them can, in fact, have a range of facial expressions. They just, in the trailers, don’t really seem to here.

For now, it looks like the only fun being had is from Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury. Which is fine, that would be a fun movie.

I do want to see if the so-called controversy over this lasts past opening weekend. If the controversy vanishes, then there is a good chance it was manufactured – either for laughs or to keep the property in the media / social media cycle.

But there is more to be concerned about…

Captain Marvel has, as the main (so I hear at least) villains the shape-shifting Skrulls.

I don’t like that. I have never been a fan of the Skrulls. Green-skinned, pointy-eared aliens that can look like anyone. It is a bit of a too-on-the-nose warning about Canadians, and while it is true that they look just like us, and speak mostly like us, that doesn’t mean they are infiltrating and undermining our society! Canadians, or Soviets, either way, really.

The reason I dislike bringing them in is because it carries so very much baggage with it, and feels like a setup for ‘no, that wasn’t REALLY Character X, just a Skrull!’ as a way to undo the Snap. Like the ill-fated Daredevil movie, there is also far too much background to fit into a single movie, and still have it’s own plot in there too. Which makes me worry that Captain Marvel will fall on the Green Lantern / Daredevil end of the quality spectrum. Not a place anyone wants to be.

Are the Skrulls actually representing something darker?

Further, if the Skrulls are just there to serve as fake heroes, fallen to Thanos, that changes them from Soviet analogues to something far worse. It makes them into whipping boys (aliens?). And there is a really bad connotation there:

A whipping boy was a slave who suffered corporal punishment on behalf of his young master.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whipping_boy

So, are we introducing these aliens just to kill them off? Are we going to try to tell the Kree / Skrull War storyline? Or are we just lazy about it all now, and tossing in a set of instant baddies who don’t take much work?

Taking that further, the Skrull are presented as a classic ‘evil race’. Like the poorly written Drow, everyone is evil! Which is also problematic. We get too much of that kind of crap in reality. We have progressives dividing the world into ‘white’ and ‘not white’ as synonyms for ‘bad’ and ‘good’, and conservatives branding all liberals as pro-infanticide. Neither is right, and both are their own kinds of evil. So adding in the ‘evil Skrulls’ into an already hot mess of social discord seems tone-deaf at best, and the cinematic version of the Limp Bizkit performance at Woodstock 99 at worst.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Spoilers under the fold.

So, Friday I saw Star Wars 9, Episode 8: The Last Jedi. It was…really uneven. Some parts were among the best things I have seen from the franchise (one sequence was among the best I have seen on screen period). But then there were the other parts – the parts that left me confused and wondering what the hell happened. Those parts include some of the worst moments of the franchise, yes, worse than the oft-hated Jar-Jar1As an aside, I like the idea that Jar-Jar was intended to be a hidden villain / Sith and not just the racially insensitive clown he wound up as. The evil Jar-Jar theory redeems Lucas some, and makes the character watchable..

So what did I think overall? I liked it, of course. Look, even a bad Star Wars movie (looking at you, Star Wars 4, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace) is still a Star Wars movie. And this was far better than TPM. The acting continues to be better, the effects usually better, and the continuing resolutions for the original characters is still well done, even if not as well done as it could be. What this movie did wrong can be summed up in the below screenshot from IMDB:

IMDB screenshot - Star Wars: The Last Jedi credits page.

See it?

Here’s a hint – it’s Lucas.

Look, George Lucas deserves a lot of credit – he created this amazing universe of characters we all know, love, and wish we could be part of. That’s all Lucas – he did this. The problem is that he forgot the parts that made this work in his rush to embrace the newest technology. And in doing so, has messed with those kids – adults now – childhoods by adding needless nonsense to the original series, and losing track of what worked so well there. Namely, tight storytelling with relatable characters. TLJ has that, but not where they are needed or wanted. Lucas did a great thing, and now others have taken up the banner – he needs to let them. He told his story, it’s someone else’s turn now.

So, with that addressed, let’s look at the pros and cons of The Last Jedi. Spoilers ahead, click at your own risk! (more…)

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghostbusters

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghostbusters

So, the word is that the trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie is the most disliked, at 2:1, on YouTube.

Really? More than PewdiePie? I disbelieve!

Ok, so I was…in error. It’s more like almost 3:1. And wow, that is some heavy disapproval. A lot seems to center around not liking that it is a female cast, and the usual reboot hate. But if the anti-reboot crowd watched the trailer, they might see something really important.

It’s a sequel.

Yes, this is, in reality, Ghostbusters 3. The trailer even opens with that fact. Now, based on some of the early reports about the movie, it did indeed seem like a reboot. And a scientist-free one at that, with the main character being an author, and none of them being scientists. Now, however, there is a lot of science. Which is good. And yeah, you have to like the kind of product that the various actors put out to like it. Duh. If you don’t think Melissa McCarthy’s over the top loud clumsy persona is funny (I don’t), you are going to be predisposed to not like the movie.

But here’s the point – the over-the-top ranting I see about how awful this is is just tiring. It may suck. It may not. And that may or may not translate into box office success. Will Ferrell movies, defined as having more than about five minutes of him in them, suck. Hard. The man is simply annoying, unfunny, and a hack. No talent to be found. But he sells tickets because others think he is funny. To me, that should be diagnostic for severe brain injury. But to each their own.

I don’t think this will be that good, but not because Ghostbusters was some perfect exemplar of the cinematic arts never to be duplicated. Nope. I don’t care for about half the cast’s comedy based on the work I have seen. I think they go to stereotype far too easily (Leslie Jones’ line ‘But it’s a Cadillac!’, for example) . Yes, that may be the one line that does that, but it is in the trailer, and trailers are supposed to be representative of the movie. So it is fair to expect that to be a thing. I think that there are good parts – the changes in traps and packs look interesting, and the fact that they seem to have a development process is nice (as opposed them magically appearing in the original). But those don’t outweigh the negatives.

Let a second trailer come out – minds might be changed. Stranger things have happened…