Captain Marvel is good but less than marvelous.

I caught the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel, this weekend. It runs along the same quality as most of the origin stories: not terrible but not as great as Thor or Iron-man. What disappointed me most in the flick was that Brie Larson, who played Carol Danvers, failed to live up the feminist film hero. Since this movie was one of very few female superhero-based ideas, the story should have equated her with Wonder Woman in terms of icon status. It did not.Cap Marvel

The movie starts on a distant planet where the Kree rule. Carol Danvers, simply known as Vers at this time, wakes from an Earth-related dream and deals with it by training with her Kree mentor (Jude Law). He teaches her to fight and control (i.e. suppress) her abilities. Her power comes from energy jets that blast from her fists, but she is also mastering martial arts so she can fight without using her special ability. As the movie progresses, we learn that Vers, who considers herself an amnesiac Kree, is really an Earthling survivor of an incredible energy explosion. Hence the origin of her power.

The Plot

The story was engaging. We saw the amnesiac go through the emotional discovery of her past as the real Carol Danvers emerges. Several wicked plot twists have her questioning everything she knew. In the end, she learns her closest companions have lied to her for six years. She alone must learn the truth of who is the enemy and the victims. One of the best feminist scenes in the film was when her male enemy is yelling “come on! Let’s fight! No powers!” (not a direct quote). She pops a power blast into him that sends him spiraling across a field and into a rock. When she stands over him, she states, “I don’t have to prove anything to you.” Something most women should say to men who challenge their worth.

Part of the disconnect for me was in the setting. I thought I was going to see an Earth-hero movie. When the movie started and stayed for a while in the Guardians of the Galaxy setting, I then had expected some of the lighthearted banter that Guardians had perfected. Not in this film. The audience saw familiar faces and strong enough references to know this was set before the first Guardians film. Even though the director added some of the same pop-music feel, it didn’t come off successfully. This movie was simply a dark view of the galaxy.

The Characters

In addition, Brie Larson never took Vers’ or Captain Marvel’s emotions out of grim fuming mode. We saw fuming-but-unsure and fuming-but-confident but very little else. For example, when she was at the crisis point of the plot, fighting for her life, we saw no strain or focused emotional depth to show us that she was maturing from doubtful soldier to rebel powerhouse. I suspect this is a director’s decision and not the actress’s doing, yet it made the character less likeable. Although her best friend states that Carol Danvers is “funny”, the director never proved it to us. This is unfortunate since the plot had plenty of opportunities for small comic highlights for her.

In addition, she didn’t come off as heroesque and certainly not as a “defender of the Earth.” What I mean is that Larson doesn’t have the physical look that audiences (or at least that I) have come to associate with comic book movies. After all, Captain America, Wolverine (yes, I know he isn’t part of the MCU), Thor, Iron-Man in his suit, Superman, and even Wonder Woman all come off as visually larger than life. Even Black Widow, though average size, carries an aura of more-than-everyday-hero attitude. These heroic proportions are at the very heart of comic book art. True, Spider-Man and the Flash aren’t necessarily tall and brawny, but their characters and powers  dictate they be young and wiry, rather than beefy. Larson is shorter than many people in the movie and even in costume doesn’t look all that heroic without her glow.

Other Origin Stories

Captain Marvel is also a thin origin tale for Nick Fury, played by Samuel Jackson with a computer-enhanced young-looking face. We learn about his early days in S.H.I.E.L.D. and where the idea of the Avengers Initiative comes from. Jackson’s ability to deliver great lines and infuse humor is one of the best aspects of this movie. The one problem with young Nick Fury is that, although he looks in his early thirties, the body’s use in action scenes still screams a 71-year-old man. I love Sammy, but his ability to move swiftly and deal with fighting looked off.

Ladies, check it out.

Despite the negative review, I suggest fans of the Avenger comic movies go see Captain Marvel for completeness. She will figure prominently in Avengers: Endgame as indicated by the sneak preview at the end of the Captain Marvel movie. In fact, that is the only reason I think this movie was made. The resolution of the Thanos problem should not look like a cheap magician’s hat trick. Plus, I want ladies to see it to encourage more use of women in top hero roles. The days of the damsel in distress are over. They flocked to Wonder Woman for that reason. Captain Marvel, even flawed, should inspire the same rallying cry.

One final note. The producers or director had fun putting in light references to other great movies. Just for fun, see how many other films and comic books shout-outs you can catch. The producers created a wonderful homage to Stan Lee in the opening credits, and they dropped in some other nods to great movies as well. Here are some hints: References to previous versions of the captain, Men in Black, Independence Day, and Top Gun.

Why Water on Mars is Cool

As I write this, the gray skies overhead have opened up and released their heavy load in the form of a drenching rain. I listen to the white noise pounding of it and know the ground is sucking it up, my well is being replenished, and my garden plants are filling out wilted leaves that begged for a break from the heat.

This is the glory of planetary water.

Though highway drivers and many sports fans may curse the rain, we need it for the forests, animals, and ourselves. Just ask anyone facing drought or forest fires. Rain is always good.

Why is water on Mars a good thing?

As  scientists stated in the Space.com article, “Mars’ South Pole May Hide a Large Underground Lake”, finding water doesn’t automatically assume life. In this case, they believe the water is very salty and therefore unable to sustain even the most salt-oriented of microbes. However, water can be purified, which means that if we ever settle Mars, one of the basic components for human survival might already be there in large enough quantities to support a colony. Plus, if we found one source of underground water near the South pole, then the possibility of finding others increases. That is exciting news for future explorers and settlers.

Terraforming Mars?mars

Although many experts say terraforming Mars is impossible, I could argue that we simply don’t have the right technology yet. Yet a basic ingredient in colonizing any planet is water. The problem? Water is incredibly heavy. Weighty enough that lifting it out of Earth’s gravity well is prohibitively expensive. Sending up a desalination plant that uses local water sources could solve the issue for future colonists.

Basic needs of humans

When I started writing about settlers in the Asteroid Belt, I knew I had explain with how they received or developed basic resources: air, water, food, shelter, and energy. Food can be grown in the right conditions as shown in the movie “The Martian.” If we have sterile dirt, we can infuse organics to make it fertile soil.

In addition, water can be made from a number of chemical reactions, but it is better to have it in the place already. In my book, the big company ships take water from wells on Ceres, the largest asteroid in the field. In reality, Ceres is a huge block of possibly salty water surrounded by an outer shell of dirt. Since water can be used as rocket fuel, I can easily picture it as a solar system gas station as well as a water source for colonists.

The wonderful thing about water is when you split it, you get two powerful elements: oxygen and hydrogen. To support life, oxygen must be mixed with other gases to make breathable air because none of us can tolerate pure oxygen. We need an Earth-like mix that includes large amounts of nitrogen along with some water vapor and carbon dioxide. In that mix, oxygen is the only one that humans will use up so we need a way to get more.

This element also can be turned into burnable fuel if controlled properly. Hydrogen as well is combustible. The problem is that they both can explode. Remember the Hindenburg! comes to mind. However, they are potential energy sources for rocket fuel and heat if controlled properly. All space ships will need some kind of fuel since the further they get from the Sun, the less solar power will work. Therefore setting up a series of system “gas stations” along the way just makes sense.

So no matter what you use it for, drinking, breathing, or fuel, water is an essential source for any human presence.

Conclusion

Man in space

So you suppose this “refuel attendant” will wash the windshields?

That is why I’m excited about Martian water. Its presence brings us one step closer to the ability to colonize Mars. After all, if mankind plans on expanding to the stars, he will need to do it in colonial leaps through our own solar system. This includes having places established on Mars, in the Asteroid Belt, and  some distant moons. Each of these settlements can serve for refueling, resupply, and rest stops as we make our way to distant starts. The first step in this grand plan should include lunar and Martian colonization in our lifetime. Finding water on other worlds makes human expansion easier as we reach for the stars.