Marvel

Captain Marvel - Feminism Done Right

I figured I’d wait until all the hubbub around Captain Marvel died down before I threw my two cents at the matter. I’m only coming at this from a storytelling perspective, since it’s not a Post-Apocalyptic film, but I’ve done enough posts on times when feminism has been done poorly that it felt warranted. While I think Captain Marvel was a good film, the main point here is that it delivered its message in a perfectly palatable, and inoffensive, manner.

I’ve made plenty of posts about shows like Van Helsing, Wynonna Earp and Orange is the New Black, about how they’re posing as vehicles of social change when in reality they’re just riding the wave of popular opinion to make some cash. The first two are female power fantasies, where women are given super natural strength to dominate the world around them, while the later is a character drama where all women are victims and men are ineffective losers at best and tyrannical oppressors at worst. They’re feminism done wrong, because they preach to the already converted. They’re made for people who already hold the views they’re purporting to push, which in turn makes them unpalatable to anyone they’d seek to change the opinion of. Making content for a target audience is fine, we all do it, but these shows are catering to the current populist trend of social justice and victimhood. So while they’re appealing to certain peoples sensibilities, they’re not actually contributing anything to their cause beyond “Muh Representation!” and they’re resorting to shit storytelling to do it.

Solid character writing.

Solid character writing.

So basically, that whole paragraph was to show that I’m not a fanboy, I’m not a soyboy and I’m not an ally or anything of the sort. Chicks are cool, gays are cool, I don’t even care about any of that shit, I just want well crafted stories that are water tight. All this pandering to extremists tends to create characters that are two dimensional Mary Sue’s, and narratives that are contrived and cliched. It’s boggled my fucking brain from the get go, because such hamfisted storytelling doesn’t help anyone beyond the creators who can make a quick buck off the moronic herd-minded tribalism that’s so popular these days. I put that last paragraph there to show that I’m not the sort of person who’ll just blindly swallow a cheesy moralizing feminist flick, and that I’ve written enough about such flicks that the following endorsement should carry some weight.

Captain Marvel was actually pretty good, and there wasn’t anything in the film that had me rolling me eyes or wanting to leave. There’s been a lot of negative press and controversy around the film, primarily surrounding the lead actress Brie Larson and her outspoken views on straight white men… but I don’t care about any of that external stuff. Chris Evans says some pretty on-the-nose stuff that’s in a similar vein, and while I haven’t seen any of the Captain America films, I do enjoy his work in the Avengers films. People are allowed to do and say some stupid shit and it doesn’t have to seep into the film. Tom Cruise is a bit of a dick but I watched him in Oblivion and thought “god damn, that man can act!”

He literally paused to eye-fuck the camera…

He literally paused to eye-fuck the camera…

I’ll admit that I agreed with people’s initial assessment from the trailers, Brie Larson did look bored. But as someone with Blunted Affect, I get how fucking irritating it is when you’re told to smile all the time. In the movie though she’s actually quite emotive, so maybe the trailers just focused on the scenes where it’s more serious. There’s a decent amount of humor in the story too, and I found myself laughing with my friends. (Yes, I have friends IRL.) There were several well written female characters, with strengths and flaws, but there were also multiple well written male characters who weren’t nerfed into cuckoldom just to make Captain Marvel look good. This is something that other aspiring feminist films could learn from - making your male characters weak doesn’t make the female lead look stronger, it' just makes her surrounded by a bunch of ineffectual losers and undercuts any achievements she might accomplish. What’s more impressive, a woman playing Rugby against the All Blacks and winning, or a woman competing against the Under-7’s Special Needs division and winning?

Jude Law’s character was well written, and interesting. I honestly hope to see more of him.

Jude Law’s character was well written, and interesting. I honestly hope to see more of him.

I know there’s one scene where her friend says something along the lines of “Let’s go show these boys how it’s done!” But you’ve got to ask yourself, what else was she going to say? They were the only two female pilots, they were surrounded by men and “Let’s go show our coworkers how it’s done!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Also, as a guy who works with just one other male, at a certain point you do start spending a lot of time with that person simply based on their gender. Along with this, there’s this montage where there’s a bunch of men in her life telling her that she can’t do things because she’s a girl. Her dad freaks out because she was in a go-kart crash, which is understandable, and her fellow trainees in boot camp are heckling her. I never got to join the military, but it’s a pretty dude-centric institution… and the film is set in the 90’s, so again - what else where her fellow cadets going to say?

She starts wailing on an Skrull that’s posing as an old woman on the train, and the other commuters jumped onto her - that was a nice bit of storytelling there.

She starts wailing on an Skrull that’s posing as an old woman on the train, and the other commuters jumped onto her - that was a nice bit of storytelling there.

But none of it really seemed on the nose or forced, none of it rubbed me the wrong way - it was all just adversity that she’d had to overcome to reach that point in her career. And it worked too, because they had to show that she was pretty formidable before she got her powers, not just someone who went from zero to hero - like Shazam. The cat seemed a bit weird, but they managed to tie it into the humor of the film. Honestly, the only part of the film that sort of jarred me was the reveal about the Skrulls. I read the Secret Invasion comic arc when it came out a few years back, and I don’t know how this is going to mesh with that. They sort of seem at odds with one another, but maybe Marvel don’t plan to explore that story line in which case it’s not even an issue.

So yeah, despite what people may have assumed - I went and saw Captain Marvel and I actually enjoyed it. I think most of the hate for this film has been spurred on by the lead actress’ comments, combined with people just wanting to hate it because it’s got a female lead. But just like Den of Thieves needs to be recognized for it’s accurate exploration of Toxic Masculinity, Captain Marvel needs to be accepted for doing a female lead in an action film the right way. Captain Marvel is strong and capable in her own right and she doesn’t drag men down to build herself up - that’s all I’ve ever wanted. If we can’t even acknowledge when honest and earnest attempts to bridge the gap from the other side are being made, then we’re never going to get anywhere.

I’m pretty stoked to see how they’ll include her in Avengers Endgame, since she’s on the same level as Thor and Hulk in terms of power. I get the concerns about having such a powerful late-game addition to the roster seeming like a deus ex machina moment, but she seems to be on par with characters that’re already present. I’m hoping at best she’ll be just enough to tip the scales in their favor, rather than have her win the day outright. An addition of someone like Wolverine isn’t going to do shit against Thanos, but someone like Captain Marvel most certainly will. Along with this, we’ve already got two super powered dudes, so why not mix it up and make the third a chick? I’ll admit that it can go sideways in a lot of ways, but after the masterful stroke that Marvel pulled with Black Panther (wherein it was basically Trump vs Hitler) I’m pretty hopeful of what they’ll do with Avengers Endgame.

They’ve been building up to this for over a decade, they can do almost anything with it… the only thing they’re certainly not going to do is fuck it up.

Pretty keen to see how it all ends!

Pretty keen to see how it all ends!

Berserk and the MCU

I watched Avengers Infinity War last August and then wrote this post but totally forgot about it. There’re trailers for Endgame coming out now and it reminded me to actually finish what I started, so here we go. I actually enjoyed Infinity War, I thought it had a great story and it balanced it’s massive cast of characters really well. The ending had the sort of somber gut punch that I've only found in one other series, Berserk. I know a anime from the early 2000's doesn't seem like it would have a lot in common with the latest Marvel Comic Universe film, but just bare with me and I'll bring it home. 

I'm not shy about the fact that I've moved away from comic book movies over the past few years. It's not just the fact that I was a massive comic nerd in my younger days, and the shift of nerdy interests becoming mainstream irked me to no end. My interests becoming popular doesn't make up for the thousands spent on therapy bills from the days when they weren't popular. No, it's also because I’ve just become burnt out on comic movies. Hugh Jackman was Wolverine for seventeen years! That's a long time to be invested in a character... and for a while it looked like there would be no pay off to that investment. 

We first met Wolverine on the big screen in the year 2000. To put that in perspective, the Twin Towers were still standing when Hugh Jackman first popped his claws. I remember that they actually had to change the first Spider-Man movie because originally he'd caught some criminals in a web between the towers and they'd just been destroyed in real life. That's how long ago these films started appearing, they’re older than the War on Terror. It took them seventeen years, but Wolverine finally died in 2017 in one of the best Marvel films to date. 

Time defiantly took it’s toll…

Time defiantly took it’s toll…

I haven't seen any Captain America films, I never saw Doctor Strange, I haven't seen any of the TV series and the only Thor movie I've seen is Thor Ragnarok. I have watched the Avengers films though, because that's where it all seems to be coming together. The first Avengers film came out in 2012, and if you want to get technical then the first film about an Avenger came out in 2008 with Iron Man. That's 10 years from Iron Man to Avengers Infinity War, which is one hell of an investment in these characters. 

Avengers Infinity Wars was already great, but when Thanos snapped his fingers at the end it went into overdrive. All the characters we'd invested in over the years; Bucky, Black Panther, Groot, Scarlet Witch, Drax, Quill, Spider-Man... they all disintegrated. And their deaths were indicative of what was going on not only all across earth, but all across the universe. Half of the universe's population was disintegrated in an instant, and we experienced that through the loss of these named characters we've invested so much in. 

It’s always interesting seeing how characters act when they mix with characters from different series - how do all the different dynamics work out?

It’s always interesting seeing how characters act when they mix with characters from different series - how do all the different dynamics work out?

I've only passably been paying attention to these movies for a while now. I’d go to the cinema if someone else wanted to, but otherwise I just watched them on the small screen. Even with my own half level of interest, the death of all these characters was executed in such a supreme fashion that it still left me stunned. Black Panther disintegrating as he goes to help Okoye. Rocket staggering over to Groot as he dies, again. Stark futilely asking quill to stay as he's already vanishing, and then having to watch Peter Parker, who had basically become his surrogate son by this point, fall apart in his arms. And finally, Captain America gasping "oh, god" as he realizes the greater implications of their failure to stop Thanos. 

It was fantastic, and it's got me hooked for Endgame later this year. My only issue is that I know that all these characters will come back by the end of that film. Comic creators have this issue with not letting their creations stay dead; death is more of a break than a true end for comic book characters. That's my issue with all of this, this fantastically impactful end to Infinity War is going to be undercut and undone by the next movie. On its own, Infinity War is a great story about failure and its costs, but as part of a series it doesn't even matter. If all these characters are going to be brought back, why not bring back Gamora, Loki, Odin, Quicksilver, Killmonger, Wolverine, Heimdall, Peter Parkers parents... the list goes on. If you can bring back some, why not others?

It reminds me of the artificial hype-train around Negan; it’s the real world delay between the end of one movie and the start of the next that creates the tension. But when you watch them back to back, you realize that it’s instantly resolved. How many modern films/shows rely on false hype to carry their stories?

It reminds me of the artificial hype-train around Negan; it’s the real world delay between the end of one movie and the start of the next that creates the tension. But when you watch them back to back, you realize that it’s instantly resolved. How many modern films/shows rely on false hype to carry their stories?

So, Avengers Infinity War did it pretty damn well, but it's going to be undone later on. A series that got it right, however, is Berserk. I started watching this anime back in 2003, where the six DVD's were released in Australia a month apart. I loved the first few episodes so much that I actually watched everything I had all over again in the week leading up to the release of the next DVD. So by the time the final DVD came out, I'd seen the first four episodes six times, the second four episodes five times, the third four episodes four times... and so on. 

Berserk - hunt down the  original  anime series.

Berserk - hunt down the original anime series.

Needless to say, that at the end of the six months, I was fairly invested in these characters. And I don't want to go into too much detail here, because this is going to get it's own blog post at some point... but in the last episode someone pulls a dick-move and pretty much everyone else is killed in a single, horrific event. I literally sat there on floor in front of the television, mouth agape, just staring as the credits began to roll. It was the craziest thing I had ever seen. If all stories are an effort to get you to feel something, then Berserk was a prime example of a successful story. It got you invested in all these main characters and side characters... then in one fell swoop they're slaughtered in the most brutal of fashions. And then it ended. The world continued, obviously, but that was the end of the series.

Such a dick…

Such a dick…

A key component of this is that it didn't feel contrived or forced. Marvel got this right with Infinity War too - as much as it was a horrifying ending, it was still a satisfying end to the story. It hurts but it still makes sense because it feels like the natural progression of the characters involved. In both Infinity War and Berserk, it feels like the mass slaughter at the end is the only place that it could have ended up. You can look back at the story in hindsight and realize that it was never going to end anywhere else, all the choices and all the mistakes were leading up to that single event.

I'm not even sure I want to see Endgame, simply because of the fantastic end of Infinity War that it’s going to undo. But I know that it's getting made and I know I'll probably just happen to see it eventually. In closing though, if you’re looking for a great series to sink your teeth into then check out Berserk. I’ll do a write up of it later on, at some point.