Why was Captain Marvel a bad film?
Let me be clear, I’m not saying that this film failed and I am making no comment about the acting ‘talent’ in this film.
However, going forward this is not going to be a film that people watch over and over.
So why is that?
Every story is told in five parts; Begging, Arising Action, Character development, Conclusion and the Continuum.
Captain Marvel left out something very important from this formula - character development.
Let’s compare it to Iron Man.
And I will try to keep it to a single film for the most part to be fair.
Tony Stark is something of a warlord. A bad guy with a long list of faults.
The arising action is him being abducted and realizing that his weapons are with the ‘bad guys’ and not just who he deemed were the good guys.
His character development is tied to something else that is show to us- and I’ll get to that soon.
Breaking free from captivity, seeing someone first hand sacrifice their life for him takes it’s toll and ever after he has escaped, Tony clearly sufferers from PTSD.
We see his character evolve and change during the course of the film.
Carol Danvers on the other doesn’t have this. We are introduced with an event and brought into this movie from the ‘amnesia’ angel.
This can be an interesting point of story telling - Wolverine being an example of this, but even with James Howlette; if the writers keep going back to this it’s tiresome and very boring.
With Captain Marvel we see this very brief moment of vulnerability and then BOOM! We have something pretty close to a Mary Sue.
The sparing between Danvers and Yon-Rogg is actually pretty good.
We see two very skilled fighters and with Danvers we are seeing a woman who uses fighting as a form of therapy is a really interesting take. We also see her anger issues. She can’t win the fight without using her special powers and this could have been a real path to growth towards the end of the film.
Anyone who teaches anything about story telling will almost always say the same thing - Show don’t tell.
We are shown that Stark is a genius. We see the reaction he has when he sees that the weapons he made are in the hands of the bad guys. We can see how he reacts to the death that has been caused around him and from that, we see the warlord become a hero.
We are shown that Tony isn’t playing hero for a vanity project, he is doing it because he can’t tolerate his weapons ever falling into the hands of bad guys ever again. That is why Tony became Iron Man, not to be a hero- but to make things right.
Carol Danvers has a different motivation. She is a solider and as a result she feels it is her duty to serve. This is the last interesting note that we are shown. The rest is very simple, ‘I am better. I am angry.’
Her arising action is a mission that brings her back to earth. Old memories breaking through. There is a little emotion shown but there is a very important scene that takes place.
Carol - after playing the role of the show boating Mary Sue, finds her former bestie and her bestie lists of a long list of character traits.
She is brave and so on and so on.
The reason why this scene is important is because none of these traits have been shown. We haven’t been able to see character development and because of this, the character doesn’t feel relatable.
I don’t want to fall into the trap of saying the character is unlikeable - though in the comic world Carol Danvers hasn’t really been a smash hit, but it is hard to build an attachment to her.
Adding to this issue is that she is a Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is not a character that people can relate to.
For this we look at the Matrix. Neo has many faults at the beginning and while could be pretty amazing, for most of the film he is grounded.
At the end of the film, Neo becomes a Mary Sue, but this is after the relationship has been built between him and the audience.
In addition when we go into the sequels, Neo being able to do anything and everything lead to the films being less well received.
I’m not saying that you should never have a Mary Sue- they can be written really well and add a lot to your work, but they can’t be the center of the narrative you are telling if you want people to relate to them.
At the end of Iron Man’s first film, he barley wins his fight. The tables start to change when we see Tony outsmart Stain. Something that we were shown he was able to do during the course of the film.
The final winning blow didn’t even come from Tony himself- it came from Pepper! The hero in the armor by himself wasn’t able to beat the villain in the bigger armor. Sure it was his idea- but Tony as just an inexperienced man was not able to take down the big foe of the film.
Let’s swing back to Captain Marvel, her final fight isn’t won by any development. She burn the inhibitor that was in her neck but we saw at the start of the film that she was able to beat her villain by using her powers. The power boosts didn’t really come from any self discovery. There was no acknowledgment of the colder character that she had shown herself to be. There was no team building it was simply told to us that there is a team and they are all so close and happy.
Captain Marvel falls flat for two very simple reasons. There is no development to Carol’s character, she is the same person at the beginning of the film as she is at the end. And she is a Mary Sue whenever she uses her abilities- which is almost from the start.
As a video game this would work. As a film, Captain Marvel fails.