Kaleidescape Curator Notes
Remember when superhero movies used to be fun?
For the past two decades, most entries in this genre have trended toward gritty, dark-themed films where main characters struggle under the weight of their responsibilities and antagonists are (almost) sympathetic, at least in their motivations. We’ve come a long way since the campy films of the last century – Adam West using an “oceanic repellent bat spray” to fend off a shark while hanging from a helicopter in 1966’s Batman comes to mind.
Movie studios shifted gears with their franchise films after 1999’s The Matrix and 2002’s Bourne Identity won critical and commercial success with darker takes meant for adult audiences. The cultural juggernaut of Chris Nolan’s 2005 reboot Batman Begins kicked up the trend that continues today. Spiderman, Iron Man, and Superman all spend significant time on screen lamenting the consequences of their actions. Captain America even attends a support group in Avengers: Endgame (2019) to console others who lost loved ones in Thanos’ “snap” that wiped out half of the life in the universe. Depressing.
Captain Marvel, on the other hand, injects fun back into the genre. In fact, you could argue that the titular character is the one symbol of hope for the Marvel Universe as we know it. By the end of the film, she had Ronan the Accuser in retreat and gave Fury a “bat phone” to use in the event humanity was in danger.
One of the latest titles to emerge from the studio franchise, Captain Marvel comes at the lowest emotional moment of the story, released between Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame. If Captain Marvel had been introduced to audiences in chronological order, it would have been just the second title in the franchise. Knowing Captain Marvel existed while watching the slow unraveling of the Universe would have been a different experience, giving audiences confidence – some of that same swagger Fury carries through the entire story arch. And why not? He has Captain Marvel on speed dial. As a film, Captain Marvel keeps the emotional beats light and fun, tempering any moment that risks becoming overly serious with a sarcastic line or a catchy 1990s pop song.
The film stars Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, with Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as SHIELD Agent Nick Fury. Rounding out the main cast are Annette Bening, Ben Mendelsohn and Jude Law. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck wrote and directed the film.
Preferred Pairing: Glou-Glou wines, a style of wine that’s light, fresh and low in alcohol. The term is French and refers to the sound of liquid being poured quickly, roughly translated as “glug glug.” Glou-Glou wines are all the rage among hipster wine drinkers – a perfect accompaniment to a lighthearted superhero movie. They can come from any region and include a range of varietals.
When to Consume: Glou-Glou wines should be consumed liberally without contemplation (that doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoyable or delicious). This makes it a perfect complement to Captain Marvel, and the same can be said for deciding the best time to watch the movie. Light and fresh, it’s a title that can be enjoyed any time you desire – and more so if you need some 90s nostalgia. Just make sure it’s before the “Blip.”
Body of Work
Captain Marvel hit theaters in 2019 as the 21st movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the main character debuted late in the series, she plays a pivotal role in the ultimate battle to save the universe in Avengers: Endgame and is a cultural icon in her own right, as the movie became the first female-led superhero film to gross more than $1 billion.
Despite such weighty considerations, the mood is bright and the pace is fast. Rarely do characters get bogged down in serious existential conversations so prevalent in other superhero movies. Instead, viewers are treated to an intergalactic romp and a trip to Los Angles in 1995, the setting for a majority of the film. Further aiding the film’s sense of delight is the natural camaraderie between Brie Larson and her co-stars. The actors seem genuinely to have as much fun in their scenes as the audience does watching them.
Captain Marvel follows a familiar plot structure to other MCU movies, where the hero learns to harness their abilities through a series of challenges and setbacks, and ultimately saves the world once their power is fully realized.
When we first meet Captain Marvel, she is living on an alien world as a Kree warrior training to go to war with another race, the Skrulls. She has a unique ability to fire proton blasts out of her hands, but can’t control this ability well or remember any of her past.
Skrulls capture her in battle and probe her mind, which causes Captain Marvel to remember fragments of her former life. After she escapes and crash lands on Earth, she pieces together her past as fighter pilot Carol Danvers. Teaming up with Nick Fury, the pair learn about a secret project Danvers was involved in (without her full knowledge) to develop a light speed engine to help the Skrulls. Danvers and Fury make new allies and enemies as they try to locate the missing engine and end the war between the alien races.
In the most poignant moment of the film, Danvers is told she can’t beat her enemy because she’s only human. Memories of all the times she crashed, failed a mission, or was knocked down flash before her eyes. This pivotal moment drives the realization that her true strength comes from her very humanity, from her ability to get back up and accomplish her goal. With this figurative restraint erased, Danvers can now remove a literal restraint on her powers and become Captain Marvel. Viewers then get to watch as she plows through scores of enemies both in space and on earth.
Captain Marvel doesn’t shy away from what it is – a superhero blockbuster movie – and as a result leans into what makes it such an enjoyable film. The cinematography showcases alien worlds, such as the futuristic Kree planet Hala, and a dark, murky world where Danvers is captured by the Skrulls. The battle scene showcases the vivid colors of the green and blue-skinned races with their glowing weapons and laser shields. In sunny California, scenes are drenched in bright light, bringing realistic detail to hand combat on a subway and an aerial chase through the desert.
For audiophiles, the movie doesn’t lean as much on precisely locating sounds around its audience, but Dolby Atmos nicely contrasts big, encompassing explosions with the more precise noise of flying sand and debris. A few dogfights alternate between horizontal plane and a vertical chase. The score is soaring and triumphant when it needs to be.
Captain Marvel is a fun ride, with plenty of action scenes, laugh-out-loud jokes and interesting characters and set pieces to keep you entertained for its 2-hour plus runtime. The 1990s nostalgia and (slow) technology from that era add to the humor. The movie is family friendly and brings back some of the silliness from 20th century superhero films, without veering into camp.
Like fine wine, there are always moments that shine in a movie, scenes that stand out in our A/V sensory palate. For Captain Marvel, we asked Steve Elliston, President of Elliston Systems & Design, to walk through the demo scenes in this movie to share some dealer “demo notes” and personal insights. The following scenes available in the Captain Marvel movie script on Kaleidescape are often used to showcase the latest A/V gear, ensuring the technology delivers an optimized performance.
Escape from Skrull Custody: 00:18:41 – 00:21:52
The scene opens as a Skrull taps Danvers’ head and a clear image pops up momentarily on the monitor. “Oh, that did something… do it again,” he says. You may not understand the humor if you weren’t born in an era of rabbit ears, but these inside jokes are perfect in a throwback movie.
Starting a scene just before the heavy hitting effects allows you a moment to test the clarity of the dialogue, which can often be compressed when streaming. With Dolby Atmos and a proper calibrated surround sound system we hear the Skrull speak softly over the sizzle of her arm restraints. This scene is a great example of the soundtrack’s dynamic range.
As Danvers makes her way through the corridor looking for an escape route, viewers could easily get lost in the fight itself, but the use of HDR colored highlights brings texture and shape to the dark scene.
You clearly hear the distinct sound layers as every punch Danvers makes has a distinctive thud. The weighted restraints hold her back, yet the pulsating lava red glow around her hands symbolizes a power that can’t be contained. The scene peaks both visually and sonically as she bursts loose and proton beams blast from her hands, destroying the Skrull attackers. As she realizes the hull of the ship is crumbling around her, you hear crackling from the left, then from the right, putting you in a moment of suspense before she is exposed to the silence of space. The scene creates a sense of immersion in the action that is unachievable with a soundbar or compressed audio soundtrack.
The Black Box Recording: 01:05:39 – 01:10:17
We start with a CD-ROM forever loading to play a simple audio file, delivering another classic reference to the terrestrial technology of the 90s. By the time you lean over to explain the phenomenon to your kids, we have already jumped into the recording as an intergalactic dogfight begins. The sounds pulsate around us, followed by the distinct differences between Danvers’ classic metal bullets, and the far more advanced laser cannons that can even shoot backwards. Again, we are surrounded by sounds, putting us right into the middle of the action and the detail in the sound design of the alien ship and its fire power, you sense she is outmatched.
A losing battle against much newer technology, Danvers’ plane crashes, and we get to see the capabilities of a 4k UHD HDR scene: the pristine beach destroyed as sand, rock, and metal all come crashing towards you. The bright blue sky becomes clouded by the heavy smoke of the crash, yet Kaleidescape’s uncompressed visuals allow the energy core explosion to come through with a spectacular brightness and clarity not available when the color compression of streaming muddles the director’s intent.
Carol vs. Kree Starforce: 01:33:21 – 01:36:01
The darkness in this scene becomes the perfect backdrop for the director to play with the light and shadow that HDR allows. It’s a demonstration of how the purity of source material and the display work together, revealing enough detail that the blacks aren’t crushed into one undefined blob, but shading the weapon just enough for both audience and enemy to be duped. We see the gun pulled on Danvers and don’t question it until the soft dart is fired, and we immediately recognize the bright orange and green of the Nerf gun.
As the action gets under way, we hear not just the score, but an anthem. Thor: Ragnarok nailed this with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” and in this film they pull a similar emotional heartstring with Gwen Stefani’s “I’m just a Girl,” an appropriate anthem for the first woman-led MCU movie. This is where a proper Dolby Atmos system pulls you deep into the action. The song sits right at the forefront, a true soundtrack to her story. Yet we clearly hear and feel the blasts coming from every direction as the uncompressed Atmos surrounds draw you in and Danvers enjoys figuring out the limits to her new super-sized powers.
Every exceptional wine review brings a little something extra to the table, be it personal insights from the master winemaker or the team of vintners who helped produce the final product. The artistry that goes into movie making deserves the same recognition. In this section of the review, we reference “film vintners” to bring some added texture to what went into creating the artistic flavors of the film.
In a March 2019 interview conducted by A Sound Effect, supervising sound designer and re-recording mixer, Christopher Boyes, gave insights on how they sonically harnessed Captain Marvel’s power.