You know how within the first half an hour of meeting someone new, you kinda get an idea of whether or not you like them or not? That’s because we like people whom we have something in common. Maybe they had a bad first date like you did, or like 80’s music like you do, maybe they also cried during Lilo and Stitch, but they sure aren’t perfect. Being perfect does not make a character in film cool. As an example of this, let’s compare two Marvel Studios properties, Star Lord and Captain Marvel.
Director James Gunn’s use of “Awesome Mix Vol.1” adds to the character of Star-Lord (Peter Quill). He sees the Walkman given to him by his mother as the only thing he still has of her, and uses the music to still feel close to her, as he could never move past her death. We see by the end of the film he has finally coped with the lost of his mother, and opening the gift she gave him revealing “Awesome Mix Vol. 2.”
Quill’s introduction, which uses Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love,” to his dance off to save the universe’s use of “O-o-h Child,” these small moments tell us who Quill is without using a single line of exposition. Clearly, Gunn uses music to build his characters. Captain Marvel clearly fails at understanding why this worked In Guardians of the Galaxy.
One scene in particular proves this. A fight scene involving Captain Marvel and Kree goons. Right before the fight scene happens, the script decides it’s a good idea to play, “Just a Girl.” This doesn’t work, at all. It does nothing for the story, it adds nothing to the character. The song is simply to the scene because as Co-director Anna Boden explained to Inverse.com, “The music is fun and a little bit of a wink to folks who grew up with that song. That kind of girl power anthem that it is.”
When asked why he added music in Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn stated many reasons, but talking to Marvel.com he said, “He [Quill] uses that [the Walkman] as a connection to his past and to the sadness that he feels of having left all that and lost all that.” The music added holds value to the overall story.
Along with that, making an emphasis on a character’s costume does not make the character more interesting or cool. In Captain Marvel, they take an entire portion of a scene for her to choose the color of her costume. The scene doesn’t make sense, but when she gets the colors she wants, they play triumph music to signify she’s earned something. Why? She’s earned nothing, there’s no reason for her to choose the colors (that actually someone else chooses for her) that are her new suit. This scene is only cool for the “comic book” fans who already know everything about the character, and in the context of the film, this scene serves no purpose.
While she has many character traits, Captain Marvel has no character. You can’t relate to, or understand her. Her “character,” is that she knows everything, only wants to do what’s right and can’t do anything wrong. In one scene, her old friend in the Air Force explains how selfless and brave Marvel was before she “died,” but wait? Why doesn’t anyone complain when a character like Luke Skywalker or Captain America has an element of their character be that they just want to do what’s right?
Well, this is because they are actual characters. You know about them and understand them by watching them, instead of having piles of exposition shoved down our throats.
As much as they did just want to do good, at the same time they didn’t. In A New Hope, Luke constantly goes off about how he wants to join the Rebellion and stop the Empire. He uses the Rebellion as an excuse to leave, he hates his planet of Tatooine, he wants to be with his friends. Captain America has been treated differently his whole life, and sees joining the army as a chance to be like everyone else.
They both aspire to leave their natural environment and do more, be more. Captain Marvel is given no reason to want to do anything good. Except that the script tells us so.
Guardians of the Galaxy finds a way to let us connect to an outlaw, millions of miles from earth. People can understand, and relate to Star-Lord because we’ve all, in one way or another, dealt with loss. No one can relate with Captain Marvel, because none of us are perfect. Audience members love characters because they have flaws, they struggle, and the audience can put themselves in their shoes. Within 5 years, Marvel Studios seems to have completely forgotten how to write characters, and Captain Marvel is proof of that.