Marvel Studios shows a few more details in the backstory of Captain Marvel.
LOS ANGELES – A familiar blue awning stands tall in a desolate strip mall near Hollywood, emblazoned “BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO” in bold yellow letters.
Inside, nostalgic nuggets include VHS cases for “The Right Stuff” and “The Lion King,” movie posters for “Dazed and Confused” and “Babe,” and snacks such as Choco Tacos and Jolt Colas.
So what gives this Mockbuster away?
For starters, the gaping hole in the store’s ceiling. And the lack of actual tapes in the videocassette cases. Also, the space is in the middle of a Marvel Studios movie shoot.
But, really, this is the biggest giveaway that you haven’t been transported back to 1995: The movie’s star, co-director and a number of crew members are women. There are no macho Chrises in sight.
It’s a spring day on the set of “Captain Marvel,” the long-awaited movie (in theaters March 8) about a woman who must rediscover her humanity, all while coming to terms with the fact that she may be the most powerful hero in the galaxy.
That aforementioned video store? It’s where Carol Danvers, the titular hero played by Oscar winner Brie Larson, drops to Earth after an intergalactic battle.
As the comic-inspired story goes, Carol has been fighting the alien Skrulls on behalf of the alien Kree. She has superpowers she doesn’t fully comprehend, including beams of energy that shoot out from her fists. This is indeed an origin story.
First reactions to ‘Captain Marvel’: ‘It’s retro & trippy, mysterious & dorky’
“Captain Marvel” takes place before the events of all the “Avengers” movies, before the team of heroes even gets its name, and before Samuel L. Jackson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. super-spy Nick Fury starts wearing his signature eye patch. It’s the first solo Marvel film starring a female protagonist (who will return in “Avengers: Endgame”), and she’s a compassionate, strong-willed pilot who never shows her cleavage.
Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck made sure that their movie is “a big, wonderful collaboration between men and women, as you can see here,” Boden gestures to Fleck, and a female camera operator and female second assistant director are nearby. “It’s important to us to have women represented and included in the crew, our story conversations and creative positions.”
That representation pays off: The movie will later earn huge applause in an early screening for a climactic scene that feels deeply personal to womanhood and finding one’s sense of agency.
Back at the Blockbuster, Larson, clad in head-to-toe teal armor that only slightly gives away the fact that she has been working out for nine months to do many of her own movie stunts, stands up, disheveled. Her character has just crash-landed on Earth after being in the midst of that aforementioned alien war. Feeling confused and vulnerable, she shoots the first thing that looks threatening.
“Fire in the hole!” a crew member shouts, loudly enough to be heard over earplugs that everyone has been advised to wear. A cardboard cutout of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis from “True Lies” lights up as if shot by a force out of Larson’s arm. A glass wall shatters.
In the next scene, after she gets sawdust powdered on her arms for extra discombobulation, Larson strides out of the store and over to a policeman (played by real Marvel security director Barry Curtis) parked nearby. She knocks on his car door, so steely-eyed she almost looks robotic, and asks him, “Where can I find your communication equipment?”
He points to a RadioShack storefront, also made of Marvel movie magic, two doors down from the Blockbuster.
After a take, Larson checks out a replay of the scene on the directors’ monitor.
“I’m like Britney Spears in a ‘Toxic’ video,” she coos, impressed with the smoke machine and lighting that make her space-agey suit pop.
She asks for feedback: How can she look strong in the way she’s standing? She wants to make sure her character’s every frame shows a protagonist who’s a powerful role model.
“Captain Marvel” doesn’t have a sidekick, unless you count Carol’s pet cat Goose.
On the next take, she walks with more swagger and leans over the officer’s car a bit more.
Playing Captain Marvel is a responsibility and a privilege, she says. To get through long days of shooting like this one, “I reflect on my life every day,” Larson says. “I was an introvert with asthma before this movie. … I’ve been able to see that I’m capable of more than I thought possible.”
The mysterious red juice she sips between takes also seems to help with alertness. Other methods of staying fresh: jumping up and down (to get some air in the less-than-breathable suit), push-ups and running (to give an endorphin rush).
“I do that because (Captain Marvel) is on top of it. Every minute you see of that in the film is like a day’s worth of work. It’s tough to keep up with her.”
Larson displays most of her high-energy methods in between takes of another scene that day, with Jackson’s Fury. The two – with him wearing dots all over his face but notably no eye patch – talk right after her video store break-in.
“You know anything about a lady blowing up a Blockbuster? Witnesses say she was dressed for laser tag,” Jackson says as the sarcastic Fury, raising his eyebrows at Larson’s Danvers.
“I’ll get out of your hair as soon as I track down Skrulls infiltrating your planet. I don’t have time to explain basic biology to a bunch of toddlers,” the no-nonsense Danvers replies. Another teal-suited Danvers (Larson’s double) looks on, out of the shot. She doesn’t need to be called in this time, but she’s ready.
After running through their exchange several more times, the scene is shot. Larson and Jackson break into smiles and high-five in front of a building that has fliers for ’90s bands. (Danvers will later rock a Nine Inch Nails shirt.)
After the scene, Jackson, 70, is still wearing the dots that help the visual effects team make Fury look about 25 years younger than the actor. Jackson doesn’t mind the temporary facelift.
“They do a couple things with tape and prosthetics,” Jackson says, gesturing toward his face. “(My cheeks) are kind of pulled back already from here,” he says, pointing to his neck area where there’s a nearly invisible strip of clear tape. It doesn’t interfere with the work.
At least not the way that wearing Fury’s eye patch does in the “Iron Man,” “Captain America” and “Avengers” movies. He really can’t see out of that thing.
“When I play Nick Fury in the present, I have to cover one eye when I learn the lines, because it changes the whole dynamic of what my memory process is,” Jackson says. “It’s a very weird phenomenon.”
For this movie, he learned his lines with both eyes open. And did some Pilates.
“I just want to stay limber. Get my core together. I don’t want be that fit,” he says, referencing Larson.
“She had one video where she was powerlifting like 250 pounds. She sent another video of her pushing a Jeep up a hill,” Jackson says about his friend, “Kong: Skull Island” co-star and “Unicorn Store” director. He’s a fan.
“She’s done slammin’-(butt) drama, got her Oscar (for “Room”). The Amy Schumer movie (“Trainwreck”) showed she’s got humor chops. And now she’s becoming an action hero, which gives her the opportunity to do any and everything that comes at her. … That’s a great career trajectory.”
If only child actor Larson, now 29, had known this is how her career would play out.
“From when I really started acting at like 7 or 8, I bought a shirt that was way too big for me, and it was going to be the shirt that I auditioned in to play Princess Leia,” Larson says,
These days, the shirt actually fits.
“And so the idea of being able to embody and become something, in the same way that Carrie Fisher was for me, feels profound.”
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