Warning: The following contains minor spoilers for Carol Danvers' origin story!
While journeying back to the 1990s in the MCU’s Captain Marvel, some eagle-eyed fans noticed that the film contained what appeared to be a few nods to one of that decade’s most iconic films, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. A shot of Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos sipping a shake through a straw was reminiscent of hitman Jules menacingly washing down Brett’s Big Kahuna Burger with a Sprite. And shots of Nick Fury and Phil Coulson in their car looked very similar to shots of Jules and John Travolta’s Vincent Vega driving through the Valley in a Chevy Nova.
Given that Captain Marvel is set in the 90s and Samuel L. Jackson is in both films, these Pulp Fiction nods seemed intentional. But that might not be the case. Speaking exclusively with CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast, Captain Marvel cinematographer Ben Davis addressed the apparent Pulp Fiction nods:
I think those are more coincidences. I mean the fact that Sam [Jackson] is driving the car [laughs] may be a reason why — There’s only so many places you can put a camera to cover a car scene. And a young Samuel L. Jackson’s driving the car, I think that’s purely coincidence. Ben [Mendelsohn] drinking the shake, I think that was pure Ben. And, you’ll have to ask him that question, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he wasn’t riffing on that idea.
Ben Davis seems to think that it is perhaps the coincidence of seeing Samuel L. Jackson driving the car and looking younger that creates a natural association in your head with one of the prolific actor’s most iconic roles. And as Ben Davis told ReelBlend, there are only so many places you can put a camera to film a shot of two people in a car, so the similar framing is more a product of practicality than anything else.
You could probably find shots from a dozen other movies that look just like the one in Pulp Fiction, but they didn’t have a young Samuel L. Jackson driving a car so the possible reference wasn’t noticed. As far as Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos drinking the shake in Maria Rambeau’s home, Ben Davis suspects that action was purely the product of Ben Mendelsohn, who was a highlight of the film as the Skrull Talos.
Ben Mendelsohn may have had that iconic Pulp Fiction scene in mind but if so he wasn’t made aware of it. Though Ben Davis concedes that these nods may have been intentional:
No, there are — well there may have been between Ben, and Anna [Boden] and Ryan [Fleck]. That may well have happened, that conversation, but not that I was aware of. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all.
If there was a conscious effort to pay homage to Pulp Fiction, it seems that Captain Marvel’s cinematographer wasn’t let in on it. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t the case though. As Ben Davis said, the framing for the car scene was one of a limited number of setups you can do but it is possible that directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck gave Ben Mendelsohn the direction to emulate Jules from Pulp Fiction.
You can listen to Captain Marvel cinematographer Ben Davis’ entire conversation with ReelBlend below.
If intentional, this wouldn’t be the first Pulp Fiction reference in an MCU movie either. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury’s tombstone has part of the quote from Ezekiel 25:17 that Pulp Fiction’s Jules recites before putting a cap in someone and philosophizes about at the end of the film.
Ultimately, even if there was no plan to reference Pulp Fiction, the shots now stand as a happy little accident, evoking a 1994 classic in a film set in 1995. But if Carol Danvers shows up in Avengers: Endgame and shoves a needle full of adrenaline into someone’s heart, you know someone at Marvel is probably stoked to see Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.
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