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'Captain Marvel': Brave New Suffragette
By Michael S. Goldberger, iBerkshires Film Critic
12:43PM / Thursday, March 14, 2019
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Unless you're a card-carrying, dyed-in-the-wool devotee of comic-book film extravaganzas like "Captain Marvel," they can be extremely difficult to follow. Each is chockfull of series lore, a veritable encyclopedia of minutiae that aficionados of the genre demand, and from which they deliriously kvell when given the slightest opportunity to relate in oral treatise. While too lazy to submerge my gray matter into the seemingly endless intricacies each example of the filmic breed holds, I am respectful of the passion, even if it's just to prove I'm not as much a fuddy-duddy and beside the point as I actually am.
 
As a stranger in a strange land, my modus operandi is to stay calm and not despair just because I don't have a built-in libretto and have absolutely no idea what's going on. Rather, I let it wash over me and, like a fisherman in a fast-moving stream loaded with salmon, am thrilled whenever I catch just one discernible thought or motivation. Proud as a cat brandishing before his master a mouse he has just nabbed, I might take a celebratory break from the action to visit the concession stand and, whilst purchasing my box of Goobers, offhandedly relate, "Yeah, they just figured out the force field was a ploy by the Pythagoreans. So, it'll be a while before Xenon and his Antithetical Accelerants establish a foothold on the new planet, thus freeing the Mendacities from their Past Memory State. But excuse me, does that Supreme Bucket Popcorn for $11.99, the one listed as 'best value,' come with unlimited refills even if you take it home and bring it back with you next time?"
 
These films are packed with metaphors and, to protect myself from trivia overload, I delineate the various factors. Thus, I established, after it becomes evident, at least to me, that Brie Larson's Captain Marvel, superheroine and women's icon extraordinaire, represents everything that is good about America. Whereas the poor, misunderstood Skrulls are the immigrants demonized by the Krees, an aggressive faction masquerading as patriots but in their evil hearts just a bunch of would-be supremacists disingenuously wrapping themselves in a pseudo veil of justice and freedom.
 
Naturally, Captain Marvel's path is populated, in a high-tech way, with an "Alice in Wonderland"-like cast of characters — some bad, some good, and some falling into the gray area, if only to dangle that redemption is always possible. There is much buzz about energy forces, and our gal goes through a crucible of identity crises on her way to earning title character status.
 
Obscurity reigns. But I've almost come to embrace the confusion, wafting about in the mystifying abyss of the Brave New World in which I've been thrust. Once I'm sure Captain Marvel is who we think she should be, albeit hassled by the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening) who would demand her loyalty, I fix my compass in her direction. She might as well be the Statue of Liberty, representative of what the Founding Fathers had imagined back in 1776, and not some newfangled, alternative fact baloney meant to obfuscate the true meaning of democracy.
 
Thus concludes the sociopolitical, diatribe portion of my film criticism. Now, on to the glitz. For those only concerned with the bread and circus aspect of what a moving picture might offer them, rejoicing is in order. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck generously dump metric tons of cutting-edge special effects into the public trough. Wiz-zoom-bang go the rocket ships, the weapons of the future and the magical superpower rays that emanate from pretty Captain Marvel's fingertips. She's really something, a stunning force for good, unmatched except maybe by the current freshman class of young congresswomen. She is our Jean d'Arc in a spandex jumpsuit, making Gloria Steinem proud as she follows in the heroic ethos Gal Gadot's "Wonder Woman" (2017) recently seared into pop culture, and once again striking an emblematic example of the lyrics, "Anything you can do, I can do better."
 
You don't have to be the dad of a little girl to have a cheering interest in the awesomely positive message that "Captain Marvel" blasts across the screen. However, fathering a daughter does give you a front row seat at the injustice that's been perpetrated ever since Oog told Marge that her place is in the cave, cooking mastodon and sewing loin cloths. So you hope that the Great Unwashed will get with the program and realize that our civilization needs all hands on deck.
 
Prejudice, whether meant to stultify the progress of a race or a gender, is the evil handmaiden of oppression, and "Captain Marvel" convincingly gives notice that she'll have none of it.
 
"Captain Marvel," rated PG-13, is a Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and stars Brie Larson, Jude Law and Samuel L. Jackson. Running time: 124 minutes
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