There are few things on this Earth — they way Tracy Letts says “Doritos,” Mary-Louise Parker in Red Sparrow, my dad describing Laura Dern — that bring me more joy than Annette Bening. I have loved Annette Bening with my whole heart since she lost the Best Actress Oscar to Hilary Swank in 1999. I have spoken to Annette Bening three times over the course of my life and have told her almost everything but this: She is, quite possibly, the greatest actress of her generation. There’s an impenetrable quality to every Annette Bening performance, an underlying sense of mischief, like we’re in this together. If you believe in life, love, and Annette Bening’s melodious chuckle, this is for you: the Annette Bening stan’s guide to Captain Marvel.
If you are serious about Marvel movies and their lore, this is not for you. This is a safe space for everyone who loves Annette Bening unconditionally. Beware: Light character backstory spoilers are below.
Our long national nightmare is over! Annette Bening is starring in a new movie. What’s the deal with Captain Marvel?
First of all: I appreciate your energy here. Was Annette Bening in two movies in 2018? Yes. Do I need Annette Bening in two movies every day? Also yes.
Most of Captain Marvel is about introducing a human turned alien turned superhero named Carol Danvers (Brie Larson). Danvers is trying to fill in the blanks of her past: For the past six years she’s been living on the planet Hala and working as an agent in their military. When a mission goes haywire, Carol finds herself on Earth, where she realizes that she has a whole history that she knew nothing about. She’s putting together pieces of her past, trying to figure out how she ended up on Hala and got her powers in the first place.
So what’s Annette’s role in all of this? Is she the latest grinning, devilish Marvel villain? Is she causing a ruckus and wearing Eileen Fisher sweater sets? Is she smoking on a street corner with Oscar Isaac again?
As much as I would like to see Annette Bening walking around Earth and causing destruction in her path, that is not her role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She’s Carol Danvers’s “Supreme Intelligence.”
For Krees, the Supreme Intelligence is the greatest, smartest mind. Like their Beyoncé, or their Michelle Obama. The Supreme Intelligence appears as a different person for every Kree, taking the shape of the person you most admire. (Mine, for example, would be Annette Bening; Oprah’s might be Gayle or Maya Angelou.) When Carol Danvers consults with the Supreme Intelligence early in the movie, she’s puzzled when it takes the human form of Annette Bening, a woman she’s never met.
What happens during that meeting? Does Annette tell her who she is, or how they know each other?
No, much to Carol’s chagrin. Instead, Annette — still a mystery person of an unknown relation to Carol — reads her. To filth! Carol Danvers has a temper and tends to fight and react with her emotions, not with her real skills. “You struggle with your emotions,” Annette Bening says firmly. (Yes, I do struggle with my emotions, Annette Bening!)
Carol Danvers promises to not let Annette Bening down. “We’ll know soon enough,” Annette Bening sniffs. “Serve well and with honor.” Has there been a better character introduction in all of Marvel Phase 3? Frankly, no. Only one woman is allowed to read my greatest flaw 20 minutes into a Marvel movie, and that woman’s name is Annette Carol Bening!
Wait, so who is Annette Bening? Is she just … herself?
Okay … expert gif usage … but … please answer my question …
Annette Bening’s role is dual: In flashbacks to Carol’s life pre-Kree, Annette Bening is a human scientist named Dr. Lawson. Later, Carol discovers that Dr. Lawson is actually a Kree engineer named Mar-Vell who was hiding out on Earth as she created the famous Marvel Tesseract, which is basically just a glowing blue cube about the size of a large engagement-ring box that is superpowerful. Dr. Lawson was Carol’s mentor, and through circumstances I won’t spoil here, Annette Bening is the HBIC who gave Carol Danvers her powers — a superhero is born!
As the Supreme Intelligence and Carol Danvers’ mentor, does Annette Bening get to do anything fun? Is she fighting?
Her best scene is late in the movie when Carol Danvers has a crisis of faith, and starts to question her identity: Is she more Kree or more human? And are the Krees the good guys anyway? She reckons with these questions with her Supreme Intelligence, Annette Bening in a brown leather bomber.
But Annette Bening is a Supreme Intelligence, not a licensed mental-health professional! So she doesn’t really engage with these questions. Instead, she just fishes for compliments on the stylish bomber and does a little shimmy, which is how you know things are about to get real. The two women fuss a little bit, but then Annette Bening, with little more than a flick of her wrist, tosses Carol against a wall. Slam! “It’s cute how hard you try,” Annette sighs. Not since Michelle Yeoh in Crazy Rich Asians have I been so desperate for a woman in her 50s to talk down to me.
Anything else I should know?
At least twice in Captain Marvel, one character tells Carol Danvers that they want her “to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.” This is not all that important to the plot or to Annette Bening’s role in the movie, but both times I whispered, ever so quietly, “What if this is the best version?”
Irrelevant, but okay.
Okay, but most important: Will Captain Marvel get Annette Bening the Oscar she has deserved since she closed those blinds and chanted “I will sell this house today” in that one American Beauty scene?
I am so sad to report that no, probably Captain Marvel will not be the movie that will let Annette take home the Oscar she so clearly deserves. But does that mean I will not hand-make For Your Consideration ads in her favor? Of course not! I need something to do between now and her new movie The Report.