REVIEW: “Captain Marvel” Ruined By Ceaseless 9/11 References

A tragic waste of potential

Marvel Studios has a lot riding on Captain Marvel, an action-packed origin story set in the 1990s. It is meant to be the grand premiere of Marvel’s grande dame; the introduction of the new leader of the Avengers post-Endgame; and the blockbuster that proves sexist Internet trolls wrong re: the badass movie-carrying viability of female superheroes. And it is all those things! But, I feel I must break my NDA to warn you that, despite its good attributes, there is one crippling flaw: every single scene makes prophetic call-forwards to 9/11.

SPOILERS AHEAD!


That’s not hyperbole: every scene features at least one reference to the world-shattering events of that fateful day. It’s inescapable, and completely distracting. I cannot for the life of me figure out why Marvel chose to do this. Here’s an example bit of dialogue, from the full version of scene that’s been partially featured in recent trailers, where Captain Marvel (aka Carol Danvers) & Nick Fury meet up in a bar. In it, Fury & Carol grill each other to ascertain whether the other is a member of the insidious shape-shifting race known as the Skrulls:

FURY: Hah! You wanna get personal?
CAROL: Where were you born?
FURY: Huntsville, Alabama. Although technically, I don’t remember that part.
CAROL: Name of your first pet?
FURY: Mr. Snoofers.
CAROL: Mr. Snoofers?
FURY: That’s what I said. Did I pass?
CAROL: Not yet. On the morning of September 11th, several years from now in 2001, will you be a passenger on United Airlines flight 93?
FURY: Hell no! And I think we both know why.

They then shake hands, each apparently satisfied that the other is human. This actually would work, as a very dark joke, if it happened in just this one scene. One of Fury’s strongest characteristics is that he always has more intel than anyone else in the room, & Carol can travel through time. So if anyone would know about 9/11 in advance, it’d be these two! But, just prior to this dialogue, Carol arrives to the bar on her motorcycle, with the license plate “NSYDEJ0B.” We see this same motorcycle several times throughout the film, and every time a character inquires about its meaning, Carol launches into a 7-minute, Loose Change-esque lecture about who “really” is responsible for the attacks. This happens no less than 11 times throughout the film, & is delivered to 9 different characters (both Fury and Danvers’ wingwoman, Maria Rambeau, hear it twice). These lectures add over an hour to the runtime! It is, in a word, exhausting, just like talking to actual 9/11 truthers. I have to give them a point for realism, I suppose.

Anyway, in the scene immediately following the bar encounter, Kree captain Yon-Rogg (played by Jude Law) complains to the Kree Supreme Intelligence (voice & performance capture by Annette Bening) that “Kree society is collapsing under the Skrull threat, even faster than the Earth building known as ‘Tower 7’ will collapse on the morning of what they will call ‘9/11.’” This is completely ridiculous. It’s so unnatural and out of character. Why wouldn’t he use a Kree saying? Why use an analogy for an event that the rest of the galaxy surely wouldn’t even notice? It’s clear that it has nothing to do with the character, and was a belabored insertion by the writer. Moments like those — and there are many, many such moments — really take you out of what should have been a spectacular film.

You know, the deeper I dig about just how Captain Marvel was allowed to wind up like this, the more questions & fewer answers I find. For example, the film was directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, a husband-and-wife team out of? You guessed it: New York. They met, in fact, at New York’s famous art school Tisch…circa 2001. None of the tasteless references in the film could have made it in without their approval. Why would they want them? What are they trying to tell us? Whatever it is, they certainly couldn’t have done so without the OK of Kevin Feige, the man in charge of the entire MCU enterprise. What’s his role in this? Does it have anything to do with the fact that Black Panther was one of the first films permitted to be shown in Saudi Arabia, after a 35-year ban on cinema? Just how did Feige wrangle that? One has to wonder. And why was Osama bin Laden given an Executive Producer credit? I don’t know. I’m just asking questions.

Overall, Captain Marvel fails to live up to the high expectations set for it by Marvel & the fans alike. Yes, it showcases for chauvinist throwbacks that female superheroes are, indeed, awesome. It lays out a great blueprint for how Marvel can innovate on its formula, & leaves you hoping they play around more with showing us different eras of this universe. Sadly, the feverish & unyielding references to 9/11 kill any hope this film has of breaking box office records for anything other than “Most Sept. 11th References Per Minute.” I just can’t see how anyone is going to enjoy this like they did Black Panther.

Still, it was better than Justice League. Two Stars.