Property Review: Captain Marvel

A marvelous beginning

Captain Marvel
Marvel Studios, 2019

We all knew she was coming; we just didn’t know when. And when Carol Danvers got here, we were waiting, and we were not disappointed with what she brought with her.

Captain Marvel’s origin story is a tale as old as time: Heroine has amnesia, discovers her previous life and the reason for her amnesia, finds new allies and turns on her old “allies”/captors. However, this is different. Set some ways back in the MCU, Captain Marvel manages reasonably well to stick to the comic book origins of the character. With the hard work established in the story, thankfully, Jude Law and Brie Larson have chemistry and are a good match from the outset.

As we learn more about the good “Vers,” we also learn that not everything is as it seems. Danvers gets down to business and explores her origin in a funny yet serious way that highlights the central question that most all the Avengers and heroes of the MCU have had to ask themselves: Who are you?

And that’s the most important question asked by this film. Who is Carol Danvers to the outside world after being gone for six years? Who is she to her colleagues? Who is she to her friends and family? And, most importantly, who is Carol Danvers to herself? Going on this journey is the key to understanding the film and the character in later appearances.

Speaking of later appearances, Ronan the Accuser makes an appearance in what is chronologically his first appearance in the MCU. Technically, he steals the show in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, but in the MCU timeline of events, he first appears here to torment Danvers and he almost steals the movie right from under her. Lee Pace deserves mention for his nuanced portrayal of the villain. Ronan could easily have been a one-dimensional act, but Pace has shown layers to the villain and truly carried his weight when it came to showing the might of the Kree fanatic.

With the scene being set for the captain to do her thing and return to her roots, it’s no wonder that the film moves along at a nice clip. It done well and doesn’t stray too far from the comics or do too much extra work beyond what you’ve come to expect from a Marvel origin story. In fact, it does everything you need it to do to set up Captain Marvel for Avengers: Endgame and it does that extremely well. The look at the good captain is fun and packed full of action to set up for one of the most powerful beings in the comics to finally make her way to the cinematic universe in a dramatic and fun way.

Like the comics: 8

Story: 6

Acting: 6

Total: 20/30 or 6.7

HOW WE GRADE
We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Property Review: Avengers Endgame

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Assembled greatness completed

Avengers: Endgame
Marvel Studios, 2019

“We’re in the endgame now.” Dr. Strange was and always has been prescient about the situation at hand. Whether it’s his own battles with the likes of Dormammu or Shuma Gorath or facing off against Thanos, the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth is always planning and stark about the reality of whatever happens to be going on. In this instance, in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Strange was the most grounded and gave the most sobering assessment of all: The Avengers were going to lose before they won.

Based on Strange’s assessment in Infinity War, you’d think Endgame would be some bleak tale of revenge and that’s it. Technically, Endgame does begin as that, but it morphs into something more. It’s a tale of loss, hard choices, joy and survival. And, yes, revenge. It’s a do-over on some levels also. See, here, the Avengers who survived “the snappening” in Infinity War have to go on. They’re living day to day without their comrades, friends, loved ones and mentors/mentees. Life is bleak, with monuments to those lost when Thanos took out half of the universe’s population with a flick of his wrist and a twitch in his gauntlet. Time has, at once, stood still and moved on for those still around. They’re finding ways to cope and that’s the meat of the first third. It’s a brilliantly deconstructed look at the world in which the Avengers did not win. The visceral raw emotion of Avengers coping, and the world at large is beautiful and simultaneously heartbreaking. Of all the Avengers, Thor and Hawkeye are depicted as having the most pain with Black Widow a close second. It’s the train wreck that you can’t look away from and feel in your soul.

From that wreck, however, in the second act rises the phoenix of the Avengers and their allies. The most genius among them — Scott Lang, Hulk and Tony Stark — figure out a way to effect time travel. They engineer a way to travel to different points on their established timeline to retrieve the Infinity stones and bring everyone back. This makes for great comedy and revisits of some of the cinematic universe’s most memorable moments. Pop culture bits (such as America’s Ass for Captain America/America’s sweetheart Chris Evans and “Hail Hydra,” also for Cap) even make their way in, lightening the mood a bit. But alas, as you make one stride forward, there will always be another that takes you back. Hard choices must be made in order to see some gain, or so Marvel would have you believe. So, yes, you’re going to say goodbye to some fan favorites and yes, this is signifying that their time with the franchise is coming to an end. However, it’s handled well, and it invokes emotion so much so that young children will cry at the thought of losing their favorite superhero.

And, for a minute, let the editor just step back and reminisce about the experience of seeing the current crop of Avengers gathered together for likely the last time. When there was a pivotal death, at the most pivotal moment — yes, THAT death — there was not a dry eye in the house. A young child, no older than 6 probably, cried her eyes out. Adults around us, including the editor, sniffled and cried as though we had lost a beloved family member. THAT is how you do a proper sendoff to a beloved character and that is how you wrap up a story, one of redemption and selflessness for the character and the actor in real life.

Every beat hit and every note cleanly marked is the hallmark of these Avengers movies and Endgame was no exception. Threads from the early days were neatly wrapped and character investment paid off for nearly everyone. It was enough that when the lights came back up, the movie received a standing ovation and nearly everyone waited for a mid-credits scene that would never come. THAT is how you wrap 11 years and 22 movies into a neat package and remind everyone that you’re the master of the genre. That is how you thank your fans for taking the time to care and get to know your ensemble cast through individual movies and properties.

That’s Marvel, baby.

Like the comics?: 6
Casting: 10
Writing: 10

Overall score: 26 out of 30 or 8.6

HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Strip Talk #27: My predictions for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Avengers: Endgame is out of theaters. Marvel actors have gone on to new projects and “the snappening” is now but a distant memory. There’s no more anticipation of the next dreadful thing from Thanos and whether our favorite superheroes are coming back to life. Now that the hubbub has died down, let’s take a realistic look at the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

We know that certain properties have been given solid release dates or at least have been announced. Various TV shows — WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier — have been announced as in development and coming to Disney+. Several movies including the highly anticipated Black Panther sequel and the Black Widow standalone film have been detailed with release dates as part of the upcoming phases. But, while we know projected dates, we don’t know much about the characters coming and the new villains. This is where the speculation begins.

My takes on the new phases, you ask?

1. I know who the Eternals are. They are the next big ensemble group coming up. My biggest worry is that no one will get them, and they will be compared to the previous Avengers even though they aren’t Avengers at all;

2. There will be a new set of Avengers. You saw this concept when Civil War hit with the training of new members such as Falcon and Scarlet Witch. Though Endgame went with Falcon as the new Captain America — bypassing the Winter Soldier’s time with the shield — Bucky will get his chance to wield the vibranium. Also, Captain Marvel will join and there will be another Iron Man or Iron Person, if they’re following the comics;

3. Steve Rogers will find a way to come back. Given that the character has been killed at least once in the comics and returned — after considerable backlash — there must be some form of Steve Rogers somehow. I give it a few years before they throw a boatload of cash at fan favorite Chris Evans to come back and reprise our favorite souped-up star-spangled patriot.

4. Black Panther 2 will make just as much money as the first movie, if not more. As a black comic book fan, I know I contributed about $200 of its initial run. I went to see it no less than five times and bought it on DVD. I don’t do that with most movies. Black Panther is the exception to that rule. I intend to contribute further to one of the best superhero origin stories I have ever seen. Buy black y’all;

5. The next big villain of the MCU will be Galactus. He is the only other overarching villain that I can think of that would threaten the Marvel universe on the cosmic scale. This, of course, would mean Silver Surfer would have to be introduced as well as the Fantastic Four. Given that the Fantastic Four’s reboot didn’t do so hot recently, it’s a longshot for them. But they’re needed to pull off Silver Surfer, kind of;

6. The X-Men will get pulled back to prominence. Now that Disney owns 20th Century Fox, guess who can come back to the Marvel universe and be done correctly? Our favorite mutants will enjoy the benefits of tight writing and smart casting. There will be abundant Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen to go around and origin stories will be wonderful and plentiful, filled with accuracy and correct mutant powers; and,

7. With the X-Men does come a powerful villainous duo, who have been featured in some of the versus games: Apocalypse and Onslaught. These two are powerful enough on a cosmic scale (beyond an Omega-level mutant) to wreak appropriate havoc and cause mass widespread destruction, much like Thanos did. It remains to be seen who will emerge from that core, but if the X-Men come so does Magneto, who you need to create Onslaught. Both characters are a menace, not just to the X-Men but to all the Marvel universe.

So, with my predictions cast, I’m watching any Marvel casting news to see if any of these come true immediately. For the long-term, we’ll just have to see how this goes and if Marvel follows the same pattern that it did with introducing Thanos in the first ensemble movie and then using subsequent character sequels to build up to his main plan.
If you can’t tell easily, I’m excited as a true believer.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh [at] gaminginsurrection.com

Marvel character highlight #25: Thanos

Name: Thanos

Alias: The Mad Titan

Affiliation: Infinity Watch, Black Order

Special abilities: Superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability, agility and longevity. Thanos is a genius-level tactician capable of telekinesis and telepathy, can survive indefinitely without food or water and is immune to all terrestrial diseases and death from old age. The Eternal can also project plasma energy.

Background: Thanos was born on the Jupiter moon Titan to Eternals A’lars and Sui-San. He quickly developed a taste for death, intensely falling in love with Mistress Death, the physical embodiment of death. To impress Mistress Death, he killed his many children and augmented his strength and powers. He also kills millions of fellow Eternals on Titan and travels to find the Cosmic Cube. He succeeds, wills himself to become omnipotent and allies with Adam Warlock. After betraying Warlock, he manages to acquire the Infinity Gems to create a weapon to destroy a star. He loses the gems, but regains them, using them to erase half the population of the universe to prove his undying love to Mistress Death. These actions are undone by Nebula and Warlock eventually, and Thanos later joins Infinity Watch as a path to redemption.

Relationships: A’lars (father), Sui-San (mother), Eros (brother), Mistress Death (eternal companion), many children including Gamora (adopted daughter), Nebula (adopted daughter)

First Versus appearance: Marvel Super Heroes

Appearances in other media:
Television: Silver Surfer (animated), The Super Hero Squad Show (animated), Avengers Assemble (animated), Guardians of the Galaxy (animated), LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – Guardians of the Galaxy: The Thanos Threat (animated), LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – Black Panther: Trouble in Wakanda (animated)

Film: The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame

Video games: Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, Marvel Future Fight, Marvel: Contest of Champions, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, Fortnite Battle Royale, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, Spider-Man Unlimited, Marvel Powers United VR, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

Strip Talk #26: The DC universe could learn some lessons from Marvel

The DC Universe is at a crossroads I guess you could say. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed unparalleled success, the DCU has all but died an ignominious death. Suicide Squad: flop. Batman vs. Superman: flop. Superman: flop. Justice League: flop. Aside from Wonder Woman, the Dark Knight trilogy and Aquaman, the DCU hasn’t been able to touch the prosperity of the MCU. There are reasons for this, but to keep this short, I’ll name just a few.

  1. The director carousel is too much. There are too many names involved in projects and there are too many of the same names popping up that shouldn’t. Brett Ratner. Seriously? Zak Penn? Joss Whedon? With the exception of Penn, all of these directors are problematic in their own right, and Ratner is an absolute joke who managed to somehow screw up X-Men: The Last Stand so terribly a whole new movie was done to counteract it.
  2. Despite having recognizable characters, DC doesn’t know what to do with them. Superman is the most obvious out of them all, mostly because they don’t seem to know how to write Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Batman is second given the number of different actors to play him. The Green Lantern should have been easy to write, but that flopped a decade ago and they haven’t returned to him since.
  3. Consistency isn’t in DC’s wheelhouse. All of their movies suffer from some type of inconsistency, whether it’s writing the overall plot or character motivation. DCU cannot seem to get it together when it comes to establishing and staying with a character over the course of more than one movie.

With the myriad issues surrounding the DC Universe, it’s a wonder there are films in the pipeline, but there are. Shazam is shaping up, there will be a sequel to Wonder Woman and Aquaman performed reasonably well to probably warrant a sequel as well. However, there have been other downturns: Henry Cavill is out as Superman as is Ben Affleck as Batman. Jared Leto’s Joker was panned but Joaquin Phoenix may be able to rescue the character.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but I’m imploring the DC Universe loreholders to take notes on Marvel’s Phase Three and pay attention to how a comic book film should be done. It’s made Marvel buckets of money over the past 10 years. Obviously, someone over there has created the Super Soldier Serum of Movie Success and succeeded in perfecting it.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh@gaminginsurrection.com

Property review: Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War
Marvel Studios, 2016

A civil war worth fighting

No, this isn’t the “Late Unpleasantness,” but Captain America: Civil War is a bitter battle waged between brothers in arms. And it’s a fascinating look at that battle that has moral complications and implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large.

Civil War starts out shortly after the end of the excellent Winter Soldier (editor’s note: Read our review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 4Q2014) and Avengers: Age of Ultron. The titular assassin is shown in a flashback to a pivotal event in an Avenger’s history and is, in the present, on the loose after rescuing Captain America from the murky depths of the Potomac River. Also, the Avengers have been bolstered by the additions of new recruits with a few losses in the lineup because of events in Age of Ultron. They’re on a mission to stop Crossbones (also new after the Winter Soldier) when everything planned goes horribly awry. The aftermath is swift: The Avengers are called on the carpet and told to shape up, join the government’s version of oversight or be hunted and thrown in jail with no foreseeable release. Sides are chosen and the lines are drawn as to who is going to remain with no oversight and who will work with the government’s registration act.

We have to acknowledge the powerful secondary tale that springs up among the Winter Soldier, Captain America and Iron Man. The civil war really comes down to the layered conflict between Cap and Iron Man. This is what’s really driving the overall arching fight between teams, but on a personal level, these two friends are hurting on different levels because of each other. Tony can’t understand why Cap doesn’t get the need for oversight and he feels jealous because of the relationship between Cap and the Winter Soldier. Not to mention, a plot twist late in the game brings the latter relationship to the forefront and is essentially the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Tony. Cap can’t understand why Tony doesn’t want to operate as is, given that Tony is a past weapons manufacturer and operates well without someone standing over his shoulder and the follies that were S.H.I.E.L.D and Hydra. Civil War’s excellent and tight writing basically boils down a conflict between best friends whose visions have grown apart.

Despite Civil War being one of the longer films in the MCU, it never feels like it. The pacing is excellent from the beginning to end, and you’re drawn into the action quickly and efficiently, which there’s plenty of. The flow of story to action is great, the humor is deftly weaved in with a lot of inside jokes and nods to past events and easter eggs, and it’s the perfect mix to keep you interested in what’s going to happen next. The fight scenes alone are worth watching just to see the choreography and stylish nuance found in recreating the ensemble’s various super powers and abilities. Every fight scene — from the brawl at government headquarters, to the chase at the Winter Soldier’s apartment and the giant brawl at the airport — is worth watching repeatedly.

Character development is also handled extremely well. New superheroes are introduced and older characters are further developed, which makes the characterization easy and natural and their interaction believable. You grow to care about the new characters, which is relatively hard to do with a large ensemble such as Civil War. You also get a sense that you would immediately know what each Avenger would decide to do because you already know these characters, and the ones you don’t know, you learn who they are and why they make their personal choices.

There are several additions to the cast that make Civil War stand out. The first is Black Panther, who becomes an Avenger at a later point in the comics. Here, the character’s introduction was handled so well that we’re eagerly awaiting the announced spinoff film for him. The second is Spider-Man. Yes, the web crawler’s recent film outings have been done to death, but it’s his introduction here that is nicely done. It serves two purposes: to finally bring him home to the Marvel brand once again and set him up correctly within the MCU.

The story, by itself, is an interesting tale of freedom and choices. We understood why both sides chose their positions in the Civil War, and we could easily empathize with both sides. While the comic version of this story is similar in forcing a stance on issues related to freedom and responsibility, the change made to the incident that causes the conflict between superheroes in the film is a welcome one and more relatable.

Where the MCU goes from here is debatable because of the many angles that can be taken in Infinity War, but it’s a going to be a great ride thanks to the fantastic build up in previous films such as Civil War.

Like the comics?: 6
Casting: 10
Storyline: 10

Score: 26/30 or 8.6

HOW WE GRADE
We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.