Well, is she marvelous?
"Captain Marvel" is a fast-paced, entertaining, action thumper. The 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe stars Oscar winner Brie Larson as Vers, aka Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. The latest superhero romp, which opens nationwide Friday, will likely make gobs of money for Disney's Marvel Studios. It also serves as an appetizer for the upcoming behemoth that is "Avengers: Endgame," which debuts on April 26.
"Captain Marvel" is the first Marvel movie featuring a female lead (although DC Comics beat them to the feminist punch with "Wonder Woman" in 2017). "Captain Marvel" is also the first Marvel production with a female director — Anna Boden co-directed with Ryan Fleck, and co-wrote the screenplay.
Larson is terrific, and the movie, which also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law and Annette Bening, provides a lot of bang for your buck: fighting, chases, explosions, planet-hopping, laughs and a super-talented cat named Goose. (Here's a link to my review on Ohio.com: https://bit.ly/2H3dfhA)
So why has this movie engendered such negative snarking?
Because men are dolts. Well, some men anyway. Some men who spend their days posting derisive comments online.
Hey, with this whole freedom-of-speech thing, we have to take the good with the bad. But anyone who has spent more than three minutes on the web is aware of the level of vitriol that can spill over regarding certain topics — health care, climate change, Trump, Obama, LeBron. And, yes, comic books turned wide-release films.
Through the decades, Hollywood has routinely made crummy movies out of our beloved books — or short stories, or plays, or comic books. No sacred text is safe. Many a writer has been screwed over by the pages-to-screen machinery, many a fan woefully disappointed.
One segment of complaints about "Captain Marvel" was from that school of thought — that Marvel was taking wanton liberties with what was originally a male character, and making the gender flip just to fulfill some sort of make-good for decades of male-dominated films where women are often eye-candy afterthoughts.
I would need about 87 paragraphs to deconstruct the extensive comic books history of the Captain Marvel character. Let's just say there have been a lot of changes, from the original male alien to a female Marvel who wore a decidedly nonfeminist thong. The new movie is largely derived from Kelly Sue DeConnick's more recent spate of stories, in which Captain Marvel (aka Air Force pilot Carol Danvers) is a brave, ass-kicking, girl-power superstar.
Girl Power vs. Trolls
But "purity of the comics" was not the only rant. Criticism quickly veered into the anti-women realm. In February, the movie-tracking site Rotten Tomatoes, which posts reviews from critics and fans, was flooded with a rash of negative comments as part of its pre-release audience rating section.
Some of it was fueled by comments from Larson about how she wanted to use the press tour for "Captain Marvel" to promote more diversity of the people who write about and review films. The 29-year-old actress, who has starred in such films as "Room," "Short Term 12" and "Kong: Skull Island," said she kept seeing the same white males at various press junkets, and wanted to encourage more women and people of color to have a seat at the table.
According to www.inverse.com, the comments on Rotten Tomatoes (since taken down), included:
• “Have no interest in watching movie starring a man hating feminazi.”
• “Once Brie went on an anti-White male tirade I lost interest in this movie. What should I pay to see a woman who hates White man. She can wallow in her own hate filled life.”
• “Disney has already killed the Star Wars movie franchise. This looks like it will be the final nail in the MCU coffin. Not interested in seeing another SJW propaganda film.”
SJW is short for Social Justice Warrior. Part of the problem, of course, was that no one had seen the film yet. But the comments continued to grow with people criticizing Larson, the movie and Marvel.
Late last month, Rotten Tomatoes countered by changing its policy: It will no longer allow fans' comments until after a movie actually opens in theaters. The site had experienced similar ugly posts before the release of "Black Panther" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."
In the wake of Larson's comments, and following the ripple effects of the #MeToo movement, this year's Sundance Film Festival, America's most influential film gathering, took strides to diversify by creating gender parity among its programmers, and offering media credentials to a broader range of journalists.
"Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam said that the festival was horrified to realize it had been admitting 'mostly white male critics,' " according to Variety. “ 'This lack of inclusion has real-world implications,' Putnam said. Sundance shook up its critical ranks to the point where 63 percent of the press is from underrepresented groups."
As of this writing, "Captain Marvel" is designated 83 percent "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes. It has 119 positive reviews by professionals, and 25 who deem it "Rotten."
Peter Travers gave the film four out of five stars in Rolling Stone, saying its "low-key charm and quirky humor grow on you and create a rooting interest in what happens next."
Mick LaSalle was less impressed, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle that "Captain Marvel is a bland character ... when she comes into her power, she comes into too much power. If there’s one thing worse than a superhero who can’t do anything (Batman), it’s a superhero that can do absolutely everything."
Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post gave it a mildly positive review, saying, "it manages to reach its destination with confidence. In the end, Larson sticks the landing, albeit with something more muted than absolute triumph."
And even though I am of the male and white persuasion (an especially pale shade this time of year), I think Larson is wonderful. I liked her movie, too.
Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.