Writing Tips and Film Critique

Re-Imagining Captain Marvel (The Importance Of Set-Ups And Payoffs)


This post will not at all discuss the SJW versus anti-SJW controversy surrounding the film. Frankly, I’m tired of all that useless shit. What I’m going to talk about here is simply how I would’ve changed the film, hopefully for the better, had I been a script doctor or at least seen a rough cut of the movie. Everything I mention below will be issues that could’ve been addressed in post-production (editing) and already scheduled re-shoots.

First, my opinion of Captain Marvel is that I found it a bit flat. The action scenes lacked energy, and since Carol could already use her powers, which were already enough to stave off any threat, I didn’t feel a sense of danger or urgency throughout the film. Even though the film told us, through flashbacks, that as a child she was consistently called a failure, we weren’t shown an adult Carol Danvers who really felt that all her efforts may be inadequate in the situation she finds herself in, and this is where the film fell down, in my opinion. In fact, adult Carol was depicted as a fighter pilot who didn’t at all seem like a failure.

So, how do we fix this?

I would’ve begun Captain Marvel with the scene of her crashing through the Blockbuster Video, arriving on Earth, and yes, I would have written her, at the start, with a cliché memory loss. This would have immediately placed Carol in a vulnerable position, and the movie could’ve had an interesting angle to it if we were discovering who she was, along with her, as she battled through and survived the various challenges placed in front of her while on Earth.

So, the scenes of Carol on the Kree planet, in my mind, were best suited as recent memories shown later in the film, to relate her story to us, rather than as a try at establishing her character at the beginning of the film. For example, the scene that has her sparring with her squad leader, Yon-Rogg, would’ve made for a nice memory that would lead us down a path of believing that he’s a good guy, which is what the film did as well. The difference is that, in my version, he would’ve been a stranger to her the moment she first saw him while on Earth, and she would see him as that good guy from what she can remember.

See, I would’ve had both Kree and Skrull leaders attempt to approach Carol, on Earth, once they found her. Yes, the Skrull would initially chase her, and she would run from them, obviously, but they wouldn’t fire a single shot at her, not if she was not firing back, which she wouldn’t because without her memory, she wouldn’t have awareness of her power. This would ground her as someone who must survive with what she currently knows she can do, like the rest of us. The discovery of her power will come later as the mysteries of who she is and who is chasing her and why are solved.

For now, though, the Skrull chase and the Kree squad attempt to intercept the Skrull as if they’re trying to save Carol from the Skrull threat. This puts Carol between two sides, and as she’s wearing the same type of suit as the Kree, this leads her to wonder if she’s on their side. Her memories of Yon-Rogg are of the two of them sparring and him offering her advice and words of wisdom concerning control of the power she holds inside. She also has memories of hanging out and laughing with the other squad members. Of course, as she’s met Nick Fury by now, Fury would advise her not to put her trust in anyone until she, herself, can remember the truth. As Fury would put it in my version, “Even our own incomplete memories can betray us.”

My version of Captain Marvel would play out the same as the original film in the sense that Carol would recall Dr. Lawson and work alongside Fury to find her as Carol believes Lawson can tell her what’s really been going on. Carol then has a memory of Maria, her fighter pilot friend, who Carol finds. When Carol meets her, though, she turns out to be Talos, the Skrull leader, in disguise. Having heard Carol explain that she has amnesia, Talos reveals himself to Carol, attempting to gain her trust. He explains the situation and reveals his connection with Dr. Lawson. However, this still doesn’t convince Carol to join his side. Instead, Yon-Rogg finds the hidden refugee ship in Earth’s orbit, and the attack on that ship is how Talos brings Carol to finally agree to come with him and help stop the attack.

With Carol boarding the ship and becoming aware of the Skrull refugees, Yon-Rogg and his team turn on Carol as they invade the ship with the intention of personally wiping out the Skrull refugees. Everything plays out the same as the film now, only Carol comes to realize her full power potential not by a sudden change of heart about the device stuck to her neck but by finally remembering who she is, who she has been all this time, who she can be without the AI and Yon-Rogg advising her to hide her power so as to seem like a normal member of the Kree squad. This would’ve been revealed in her final memory before she realizes her full potential, and Yon-Rogg, when confronting her, would tell her that it was for her own good, to hide her from the Skrull, because he knew they would pursue her once they surmised the origin of her power. The huge space battle, now, would be a true payoff to a set-up of Carol’s memory loss not allowing her to know that she has this power inside her that others have restrained her from for what she would now understand is their own benefit. It wouldn’t be a matter of simply pulling a device off her neck that she obediently wore because her powers were bad for some reason. Hiding her from the Skrull would be a good reason for the Kree to keep her from displaying her powers in battle and train her to fight without her powers. Otherwise, why wouldn’t the Kree have had Carol wipe out the Skrull, using her powers, because the Skrull were evil, according to the Kree?

It shouldn’t be a matter of, “People are holding me back, and now I know better,” that changes Carol. That’s not terribly interesting. Instead, I feel that a bout with full memory loss would’ve given Carol the opportunity to see others from a fresh perspective and decide who she wants to be once that truth is revealed. I also would’ve made the Kree/Skrull conflict more gray instead of black and white. With a gray conflict, Carol’s choice of which side to back becomes much more difficult. She has to decide if saving the Skrull refugees is the right thing to do considering the evils committed by the Skrull. The fact that the movie paints Talos as an innocent victim really subtracts from what could’ve been a tough decision for Carol. Heck, maybe Carol wouldn’t take either side and simply do what she can to stop the fighting.

In addition, one major difference my version of Captain Marvel would have with the original film is that Carol would fight Yon-Rogg without use of her powers, as he challenges her to do (because she could never beat him in a sparring session without using a small bit of her powers). Having to fight Yon-Rogg would allow for Carol to be hesitant and unwilling to fight. It would open the door for Carol to be depicted as someone who doesn’t want to harm her now former squad leader, the man who was her mentor for such a long time, even through his goading of her and swings he takes at her to incite her into battle against him. This is the moment that not only would she have realized the full potential of her power in the space battle that had just taken place, she would also understand, through this journey she has been on, that she is more than her powers and that she doesn’t need to rely on them: She is strong and capable on her own.

This is the major point that I feel the film was missing, and while the writers seemed to want to place such a message into the movie, I’m not sure they knew exactly how to do it which is why the film felt flat. As I’ve said to other people, I think the movie lacked set-ups and payoffs. One set-up would be Carol unable to defeat Yon-Rogg in their sparring sessions because she uses her powers as a crutch, and the payoff would’ve been, at the end of the film, rising to the challenge of fighting and defeating him without her powers. This is the type of thing that the film lacks, set-ups and payoffs, and had the movie included them, I feel the movie would’ve been more interesting as a result. It would’ve given us a real journey to follow Carol on, especially if there were mysteries to her that both she and the audience could discover together. It would’ve allowed us to think about what she’s learned on that journey. Our takeaway from the film, as viewers, would’ve been what makes her a hero and how we can use that to reflect on ourselves to find what makes us heroes, as well, in our own daily lives.

Anyway, that’s my slight revision of Captain Marvel. Did I enjoy the movie? Yes. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think it can use a bit of improvement. No movie is perfect, and that’s actually a good thing. It allows us, the viewer, to use our own imagination to discover how we would change the film for what we feel is the better. This is a wonderful way to interact with movies and exercise our ability to re-imagine. 🙂

So, what do you think? Do you like my version of Captain Marvel? Is there anything you would change about the film? If you say, “Get rid of the cat,” I will throw popcorn at you. Really. If you say that, popcorn is so being thrown in your direction.

One thought on “Re-Imagining Captain Marvel (The Importance Of Set-Ups And Payoffs)

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