The misconceptions of ‘Captain Marvel’

Brie Larson is a hero on and offscreen, regardless of what the trolls say

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Even though it’s not a masterpiece, go see “Captain Marvel.” Disney doesn’t need the money, but Larson deserves the support.

Courtesy Gage Skidmore

Here’s a tip — don’t Google “Brie Larson ‘Captain Marvel’ controversy.” Don’t give the internet trolls the satisfaction.

Larson has made her career through impressive leading roles in hard-to-watch dramas like “Short Term 12” and “Room” — the latter performance landing her an Oscar — but with the March 8 release of “Captain Marvel,” the newest addition to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, she’s moving into action films as the titular superhero. Not only is it new territory for Larson, who only has a few credits in action flicks to date, it’s also a big step for Marvel as the first movie in the franchise to star a female superhero.

This is meant to be a milestone in Larson’s career, just as it should be a landmark moment for superhero movies in the same way that 2017’s “Wonder Woman” was. Instead, critics of the actress and her socially conscious missions have made themselves known on the internet — in the most explosive ways they can manage.

Within hours of “Captain Marvel” hitting theaters, it was “review-bombed” on Rotten Tomatoes — that is, thousands of internet users downvoted the movie, likely without having seen it. Similarly, YouTube has become saturated with video reviews with titles like “Brie Larson’s Feminist SJW views TANK Captain Marvel!” and “Brie Larson is Ruining Marvel!”

Both sites have responded to the controversy, with Rotten Tomatoes changing its policy on how much power audience opinion can wield and Youtube categorizing Larson as a news topic, so that the first videos to show up when searching her name aren’t quite so clickbaity.

So why is Larson facing such a vitriolic online reception? Put simply, she’s a woman with strong opinions. She’s known for calling out male dominance in the movie criticism field, and these are the comments that have provoked the most fierce backlash. Larson’s online disparagers have suggested that her inability to keep her opinions to herself will alienate the Marvel fanbase. As the creator of “Brie Larson is Ruining Marvel!” opines in his video, “If Brie Larson could’ve just kept her mouth shut … I think a lot of this could’ve been avoided.”

Despite the myriad claims that Larson’s presence in the MCU will prove to be the franchise’s downfall, and despite the trolls’ best efforts to make “Captain Marvel” seem not worth watching, the movie is doing just fine — its domestic opening brought in $153 million from American theaters alone. Rather than deter fans, the controversy seems to have had the opposite effect. After all, “Captain Marvel” marks the 21st film in the franchise. Its long line of predecessors, though all undeniably cash cows, tend to rely on near-identical formulas. A bit of contention, far from “ruining Marvel,” might actually increase ticket sales with the implication that this superhero movie is unlike any before it.

In actuality, “Captain Marvel” is remarkably similar to those before it. At its start, Carol Danvers (Larson) lives on the planet Hala among the Kree alien race. Somewhat of a misfit on Hala, Danvers has mysterious powers which her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) seeks to help her control and an even more mysterious past which Yon-Rogg suggests she forget. Both characters are enlisted in the Starforce, a Kree army in continuous battle against the Skrulls, a race of goblinesque aliens who can alter their appearances at will.

This somewhat convoluted opening is brought to more familiar territory when, after a mission goes awry, Danvers ends up stranded in 1995 Los Angeles — an era never forgotten in the movie thanks to near-constant pop culture references, from Blockbuster Video to a soundtrack laden with No Doubt and TLC. She allies herself with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the pair spends the rest of the film getting to the bottom of Danvers’ past, uncovering secrets about the Kree-Skrull war and most importantly, laying the groundwork for the present-day Avengers timeline running through every Marvel movie.

If this sounds like a standard-fare superhero flick, it is. “Captain Marvel” is a moderately enjoyable, overall decent movie. It’s also much less controversial than people seem to think. Just as 2018’s “Black Panther,” the first Marvel film with a predominantly black cast, was not inherently infused with radical, racial politics, neither is “Captain Marvel” a feminist manifesto.

Themes of female empowerment are certainly abundant in this movie, and they’re delivered beautifully through Larson’s character, who steadily gains power as she learns to rely on her own strength. Some of the themes are blatantly packaged, but does anyone really expect nuance from a superhero movie? More importantly, “Captain Marvel” isn’t overly preachy or moralizing, which seems to be the main criticism surrounding it — or rather, surrounding Larson, and perpetuated by people who haven’t seen the movie.

“Captain Marvel” may not be spectacular, but it’s worth seeing for fans of superhero movies. It’s better than some Marvel movies and worse than others — a good lead-in for April’s highly anticipated “Avengers: Endgame.” Larson is predictably excellent. Goose the cat is a showstopper and so is Fury, who has just as much of an origin story in this film as does the title character — the two hours are worth sitting through just to find out how he loses his eye.

The legacy of this movie seems fated to be the so-called “controversy” of its lead, not a discussion of its actual merits and flaws. But there’s an easy way to combat this — stop reading online debates and criticism of “Captain Marvel” and just go see the movie. Stop reading this article right now, if need be, and go buy a ticket.

Even though it’s not a masterpiece, go see “Captain Marvel.” Disney doesn’t need the money, but Larson deserves the support.

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