Whenever I see a big-budget movie like Captain Marvel in theaters, I always try to see it in IMAX. The most obvious reason being that yeah, the screen is bigger and it usually takes over my entire field of view, which just makes it easier to get engaged in the film and enjoy it! But if I plan to leave the house for a movie these days, I’d prefer that movie offer some sort of experience or technology I can’t otherwise get at home.
And more often than not, blockbuster movies have IMAX releases that are essential to the intended viewing experience or even directorial intent, but it’s a coin toss whether that footage makes it to home video, so I try not to chance it. Especially with internet streaming, so many movies are often cropped now to make it easier for the viewer, because on smaller-than-IMAX screens the jump between IMAX cameras and standard cameras in shots can be jarring to experience on say, an iPhone.
So, in November of 2013, I drove out with my dad from Pendleton, Oregon to Boise, Idaho to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at the closest 70mm IMAX screen to me at the time, which was essential to experiencing the film’s whopping 50 consecutive minutes of IMAX footage, a filmmaking record that wouldn’t be beat until last year’s Avengers: Infinity War; the first film to be shot entirely with IMAX cameras. For the last 50 minutes of Catching Fire, the protagonist Katniss Everdeen played by Jennifer Lawrence is dreading the impending second Hunger Games she’s being forced to compete in. And at this point in the movie, the beautifully complicated and woefully timely themes of media, youth, celebrity, and economics the Hunger Games is all about goes out the window completely when (SPOILERS) Katniss’s confidant and friend Lenny Kravitz gets brutally murdered right in front of her moments before she competes in a fight to the death her government is forcing her to take part in. And director Francis Lawrence illustrates this turning point and new pressure on Katniss by composing one of my favorite shots of really, any blockbuster film.
It’s at this moment the film transitions from its constrained, standard 2.35:1 aspect ratio to IMAX’s full signature 1.78:1 ratio, and sustains it for the rest of the film, gripping us to the action right from Katniss’ perspective. And it’s not a coincidence that this perspective and shot is wider, grander, and more engrossing than the rest of the film. The stakes and scope in the second Hunger Games are somehow larger, and this shot and choice subconsciously show us that, visually.
It’s a really good movie, and you should rewatch The Hunger Games series sooner rather than later.
But I have a strong memory of going to that film, standing in line with my dad.
He couldn’t really understand why I said things like “I identify most with Katniss Everdeen” or “She’s my favorite character” when there are perfectly fine male characters to identify with, such as Peeta or Gale or Woody Harrelson, and I wasn’t really able to articulate at the time what I meant by those things beyond just being engrossed by the female lead. Regardless of the gender, as the protagonist, it’s essential that we care about Katniss and whether she dies in the Hunger Games or not. Otherwise, the film wouldn’t work.
For the past few years now though, around when people realized Star Wars was going to highlight women and people of color, and that Ghostbusters would be gender-swapped for the changing times, there’s this super gross flurry of angry white guys on the internet who want nothing more than to see these films fail, and eliminate the possibility for tempered discourse or criticism of these important, ultimately progressive, blockbusters. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes even went so far as to eliminate their “want to see” feature because minority-led blockbusters are suspectable to fake review campaigns.
Though, if you remove yourself from your own perspective for a moment, and check out the Top 100 Highest Grossing Films of All Time for example and look for films with female protagonists, you’ll see exactly why studios have made it a priority to reverse engineer their franchises into more inclusive, diverse, films that ultimately reflect the world we live in.
Because it makes money, yes absolutely.
But also because there are infinite worlds and stories left unexplored that can truly only come from people whose experiences and imaginations are different from the people who have made and financed Hollywood movies for the last 75 years or so.
Which brings me to Captain Marvel.
As a film, Captain Marvel carries a lot of narrative weight not just as an origin story, but as a franchise-launcher, a preamble of sorts to next month’s Avengers: Endgame, and as a quasi-Hollywood statement piece. There are a lot of moving parts that don’t always align, but one particular thing I admired was how it actually utilizes the technique in IMAX that I hadn’t seen since Catching Fire. The aspect ratio would ebb and flow fluidly at optimal times to make the widening of perspective as fluid as possible. Something the film itself often works overtime to do, just to make bold shots and images less jarring to a skeptical audience.
From a marketing standpoint, touting Captain Marvel as the first Marvel Studios film led by a female superhero is immediately enticing for, like, at least half of its audience and the population. And, through her cult indie appeal and recent Academy Award, Brie Larson seems to be one of the best women and rising actresses to lead the charge on changing how blockbuster movies get made and who they’re made for.
Which was all she was doing when she made the comments that made internet manbabies so angry!
In case you have misogyny stuck in your ears, there’s a stark difference between saying white guys shouldn’t watch or review movies, than what Brie Larson’s saying here. The fact is, there are a disproportionate amount of white male film critics and therefore, white male perspectives usually dictate how movies are viewed critically. Like on Rotten Tomatoes. And, while media itself becomes more reflective of what the world actually looks like, a similar change must occur in film criticism too so that more minority filmmakers get their movies reviewed by minority film critics, dramatically increasing the likelihood of getting seen by mainstream audiences.
It’s not rocket science.
You can get annoyed by whatever hokiness you’re still feeling about all the Oscars Black Panther won, but Disney makes up for 40% of the Box Office now. Disney is the mainstream and yes, they want to make the most money possible, but they’re recognizing that they set the precedent for the rest of Hollywood and even if you don’t care for the groundbreaking movies they’re making, that doesn’t make them not worth recognizing.
So no, I don’t think it matters what white guys think of Captain Marvel. There’s plenty of time to pick apart the film while it does its groundbreaking. Like, if you’re thinking of writing a bad review of Captain Marvel before you’ve seen it, or you feel that ‘boycotting’ over ‘sexism against men’ is a valuable use of your time and Twitter characters, try instead widening your field of view and make your perspective IMAX sized.
Because your boycott didn’t work, and they aren’t gonna work.