‘As long as it’s a good movie’

As ‘Captain Marvel’ sparks gender wars online, Northeast Michigan just wants a decent flick

AP Photo A promotional image from the new movie “Captain Marvel,” in theaters now.

ALPENA — Can a woman be a superhero?

Well, $154 million says perhaps she can.

Friday marked the opening day of the newest installment of the popular, Marvel Comics-based series of movies that have powered into movie theaters for more than a decade. The latest Disney offering, “Captain Marvel,” features, for the first time, a female superhero in the lead role.

Launched on International Women’s Day, the movie is also the first in the franchise to be directed by a woman.

While “Captain Marvel” was eagerly awaited by many Marvel fans, an online backlash against the film gave evidence that some are not ready to accept a woman in a role traditionally dominated by white male heroes.

News Photo by Julie Riddle Moviegoers line up outside the State theater in downtown Alpena to catch “Captain Marvel” this weekend.

Days and even weeks before the film opened in theaters — before people could possibly have watched it — the movie review website rottentomatoes.com was flooded with negative reviews, comments, and audience scores, many of them misogynistic. By 8 a.m. on the day of the movie’s release, Rotten Tomatoes listed 58,000 reviews, more than the total of audience score reviews for “Avengers: Infinity War” for its entire theatrical run. The obvious trolling nature of the reviews led Rotten Tomatoes to remove 50,000 reviews within a few hours.

A social media response from the other side, promoted on Twitter, Instagram and Reddit, encouraged supporters of women in film to vote with their wallets by attending opening-weekend showings.

Similar “review bombing” efforts using the Rotten Tomatoes platform have been leveled at other recent gender- and racially inclusive films, such as “Black Panther,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and the all-female remake of “Ghostbusters,” with reviewers flooding the website with negative comments with racist or sexist overtones.

Those films survived the online attack, and “Captain Marvel” did, as well, based on box office sales for its opening weekend. As of Sunday afternoon, weekend domestic box office profits were on target to total over $154 million, with an estimated $456 million in revenue worldwide, Forbes reported Monday. Those figures establish “Captain Marvel” as the third-highest March debut of all time in the U.S., and the seventh-biggest Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of all time.

‘STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS’

The Northeast Michigan premier of the new Marvel movie brought many moviegoers out for opening weekend at AMC Classic State 3 in downtown Alpena. Friday’s three showings were well-attended, as were the five on Saturday. Only positive feedback and excitement had been received by the theater before the show opened, according to General Manager Kyrie Momrik.

Alpena has been supportive of strong female roles, in Momrik’s experience. The theater tends to receive complaints when a movie is seen as objectionable, but women in prominent roles has not raised red flags among the viewers at State 3.

In 16 years of managing the theater, Momrik has seen a shift in women’s roles in film. Females have had more equal representation in movies in the past decade, from the perspective of someone who keeps a close eye on trends in Hollywood.

“I’ve seen a lot of strong female characters being represented more recently, more women taking on more noticeable roles — more mainstream,” Momrik said.

The movies shown at the local theater are not chosen locally, Momrik said. A film-buying department at AMC headquarters makes such decisions based on where they think films will be most profitable.

While she does not choose the movies that come to Alpena, the general manager thinks women’s representation on the big screen is important, not just on a national level, but on a very personal one, as well.

“I have small daughters and I want them to see strong female characters being represented equally, wherever they are,” she said.

‘IT DOESN’T MATTER’

Two minutes before the show was scheduled to begin Saturday afternoon, a line of customers snaked outside the doors of the State 3. Seats were hard to come by for the 1 p.m. showing, but the cheerful crowd seemed happy to squeeze in together to enjoy a good movie.

On the way out of the dark room as the credits rolled, audience members rehashed favorite characters and funny moments. Some viewers noted ways the franchise addressed having a female superhero as the main character.

“You would never have heard someone tell a male superhero, ‘You’re not strong enough,'” said moviegoer Joshua Below, referencing a pivotal scene from the movie.

Three sisters, veterans of the Marvel and DC movies, said they’d enjoyed the show. The girls didn’t come to see a girl superhero movie, they said.

Perhaps representing a generation that is growing up with the expectation of equality, the girls shrugged at the fuss being made about a female hero.

“It doesn’t matter. If Captain Marvel was a girl I’d like the movie. If she was a boy, I’d like the movie just the same,” said Gabriella LaCross, 12.

Her sisters, Melody, 11, and Christina, 16, felt movies should represent women and characters of color.

“They don’t have to, but it’s OK if they do,” Melody said.

Unruffled by the thought of a female role model and the rallying cry of, “girl power,” the 16-year-old shrugged: “We don’t care about the gender, as long as it’s a good movie.”

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or jriddle@thealpenanews.com.