Rewriting Captain Marvel

I Like My Ideas Better, #3

So I’ve only seen the opening scene of the latest MCU movie, and I’m going to show how it could be way better. I’m not a huge fan of Marvel movies, although the Mother of Skaith is, and my interest in this one was purely and solely piqued by the fact that Jude Law was in the trailer and looking really buff.

 


Ahem. Where was I? Anyhow, I probably won’t be watching the rest of it until the DVD quality rips come out and my mother wants to see it. Why? So I’ve mentioned that I have a five-minute, ten-minute, and fifteen-minute quality test. If nothing interesting happens in the first five minutes, the movie is suspect. If there is no sense of immersion in ten minutes, the movie is already a failure. If fifteen minutes pass and no (main) character has: done something striking, funny, admirable, exciting, or interesting, the movie gets turned off. It had its chance.

So, opening scene: the movie opens with a flashback nightmare by main character, Carol. She is surrounded by flames, but has no readable reaction. In the present, Carol wakes: she is in Hala/Halo/Hell/something or other city, the capital of the Kree empire, or something. (1) She then wakes her mentor

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Pity he hasn’t had a good movie since Gattaca

(Jude Law), ignores his protests that it’s Freaking Early O’clock, and spars with him in the gym. Jude Law, AKA Yon-Rogg, questions her about the dream; admonishes her for being emotionally bound by the past. Carol banters with him, but is also losing the sparring match. She starts to trigger her glowy-power fists (2), and is warned not to by Yon-Rogg. Since, you know, they are sparring hand-to-hand, not wizard-power to wizard-power. He tells her to control herself, and continues with the beatdown (3). Carol responds by blasting him with a glowy fist, and then, off his pained reaction, making a face I can honestly only describe as “That’s what you get!” There is then a scene change, with the duo aboard some kind of sky train. Carol is questioning (4) Yon-Rogg about (something or other), which he responds is a sacred Kree belief which is personal and private to each individual. Carol, archly, continues to pry, and it was at this point that I turned it off.

There are only two problems with these scenes:
1. The actress can’t play it off. Angelina Jolie could have played the character with humor, a sense of actual physical danger, and charm. I’ve never seen Brie Larson in any other movie, but the consensus is that she’s a good actress grossly miscast. She absolutely lacks the lethality and charisma which Jolie could have brought.

2. The script as written makes Carol an insufferable brat….and my proposed changes to each of the four beats marked above, would change this. And, I feel, advance the feminist message of the movie even more effectively.

So, starting at the beginning. Carol wakes up her mentor after having had a rough night, spars with him in the gym, and cheats to win. I’ll point out how this comes across as written, show how it could have gone, and then show a third way, how I would have done it.

How it comes across: not well. First: calling somebody else out of their off hours to help you work through your emotional issues is the act of character type “self-absorbed superior who doesn’t care about their subordinate’s well-being or comfort.” It’s the act of a prima donna. And it’s the very first action Carol takes in the movie. Second: she’s apparently not doing it to a subordinate, but to a superior, her mentor. [I think. I’ve only watched the first scene and a few critical reviews]. That’s the act of an entitled prima donna. Thirdly, as mentioned before, the main attitude Carol exhibits in the two scenes I’ve seen is: arch. An entitled, arch, prima donna isn’t a good way to garner audience sympathy and recognition for your protagonist, if she’s supposed to be tough but beautiful, dangerous but nightmare-haunted, warrior woman. It doesn’t match up.

How it could have gone: Carol goes to her mentor because she is haunted and troubled, knows she needs help; she tries to lighten the mood with a little flippancy, and yet fights and fails to win because her suppressed emotions are running far too high–to the point where she accidentally blasts Yon-Rogg… basically, the same thing as in the movie, only written a little better and with a bit of effort on the actress’s part to look emotionally affected, and without any stupid banter.

How I would have done it: Carol wakes up from a nightmare, and it’s revealed that she’s being closely monitored. Yon-Rogg shows up at her door, and, ignoring her protests that it’s Freaking Early O’clock, drags her off to the gym to spar. The action is broken up into three rounds: Yon-Rogg wins the first, lectures Carol that her emotions are the reason she a) loses b) is troubled, and that she needs to forget the past. Carol replies that she can’t remember the past, the dreams are getting worse, and feels that remembering would help. The second round commences, Yon-Rogg pushes a lot harder this time; Carol is on the defensive. He notes that Carol is not exerting herself, and points out that she can do better–she always does, when she’s in a simulation; in effect, when she’s playing, not fighting. Carol, her fists involuntarily starting to glow, can only warn: “Stop pushing me.” Yon-Rogg keeps coming, at an even higher intensity. Carol warns him again to back off, and then, with her back against the wall, blasts him out of sheer instinct. Reversing from his pained reaction, the closing shot is her feeling ashamed, angry, and frustrated.

I’d use this to set up two themes: one, that Carol doesn’t want to use her full strength unless she’s truly threatened or unless there’s something that she feels needs or deserves it….such as when the plot reveals that it’s time to step up and be a hero. Second, it would hint that Carol subconsciously doesn’t see the Kree military as one of those things that is worth using her full strength for. Thirdly, reversing the power dynamic between Carol and Yon-Rogg, puts Carol in the underdog role…and underdogs are sympathetic by default. Also, no one likes being dragged off to the gym first thing in the morning, cough, cough, cough.

So, I’m not going to bother going any further. Those are my thoughts on the first (checks) wow, it was only five minutes….of Captain Marvel.

Rated: Jude Law was the best thing about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, too, but I’m not watching that again, either.

5 thoughts on “Rewriting Captain Marvel

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