Brow Beat

The New Trailer for Captain Marvel Looks Great, Which Means It Completely Fails to Capture How Crappy the 1990s Were

Brie Larsen in Captain Marvel.
Flawless victory!

Marvel released a new trailer for Brie Larson’s upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe film Captain Marvel on Monday, and it looks like it’ll be an entertaining and lively superhero film. It also looks like the filmmaking team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who co-directed and co-wrote the screenplay, have decided to downplay the period aspects of their movie, which is set in 1995. The film’s first trailer back in September looked like it had a chance of capturing the era: it opened with a shot of Larson crashing through the roof of a Blockbuster Video with newspaper racks outside, then mostly focused on outer space, except for a shot of a pager. But the new trailer gives us more shots that are ostensibly taking place in America in 1995, and everything looks a lot better than it ought to. Take a look:

That is just not what 1995 looked like, and not only because we didn’t have Kree and Skrull throwing lightning around with their bare hands. This is more than an aesthetic mistake, but possibly a plot hole: the trailer establishes that Larson’s character has forgotten a past life on earth, that she presents herself to people on earth as a superhero, and that she has at least two superhero costumes, one of which seems to be a uniform, leading to the possibility that she designed the second one after arriving on earth. Where would someone with no knowledge of earth’s culture turn when designing a superhero outfit like the one Larson is running around Los Angeles in? Well, maybe that person, Kree, or Skrull would look at the second-highest grossing movie of the year, a dark meditation on heroism and fashion called Batman Forever:

None of the Captain Marvel characters seem to be moviegoers; Jude Law’s outfit doesn’t even seem to have a codpiece? You could argue, of course, that Batman Forever was meant to be a documentary about life in the year 1995, not an instruction manual for superheroes who have forgotten their past life on earth, and that having a Marvel character watch a DC movie for style tips would probably be a licensing nightmare—but then you’d have to ignore the wildly ahistorical way the movie treats its most carefully reconstructed 1990s artifact: Samuel L. Jackson’s face. There’s not much reliable documentation about what Captain Marvel was actually wearing in 1995, but we know an awful lot about what Jackson’s face looked like around then, thanks to this trailer for Die Hard With a Vengeance:

The main difference between the actual face of Samuel L. Jackson in 1995 and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s period recreation is not hard to spot: the real-life Samuel L. Jackson became an actor, at least in part, because he had a gift for making facial expressions that conveyed thought or emotion. Beyond that, though, the crowd shots and Jeremy Irons’ sunglasses in the Die Hard With a Vengeance trailer do a pretty good job of conveying how terrible everything looked, and how disrespectful Captain Marvel’s relatively cool-looking 1995 is to those of us who survived through those horrible days. For more on what a superhero movie that realistically grappled with the aesthetics of 1995 might look like, here’s the trailer to Mortal Kombat:

And now, for more on what a superhero movie that realistically grappled with the aesthetics of 1995 might sound like, here’s the theme song to Mortal Kombat:

This is not just a thin pretext to remind people how horrible the Mortal Kombat movie and its soundtrack were, but a very important issue of historical blindness with far-reaching moral and political consequences. Someday America will have the distance and moral courage to honestly face the things we did to our culture in 1995. Someday, a film will tell the real story of the way Americans lived in that awful year, as a desperate warning to future generations. Judging from the new trailer for Captain Marvel, that day will not be March 8, 2019, when the movie arrives in theaters.

It does look pretty fun, though.