2018 was a great year in film not only for humans, but also for dogs and horses. Whether it was Bradley Cooper’s actual dog, Charlie Cooper, lying outside a garage in the tear-jerking climax of A Star Is Born, or the horse named Pete in Lean on Pete ([whispers] that’s Pete), these animals were major parts of some of the most acclaimed movies of the year. And while some of these animal-heavy moments were, obviously, quite sad, they were also a reminder that stirring performances can also be turned in by those who walk on four legs.
But with all of the much deserved love being doled out to horses and dogs, it kind of feels like cats were being left behind, excluded from the Cuddly Zeitgeist. Sure, there was Towne, Melissa McCarthy’s cat in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and the incredibly named Mr. Belvedere’s scant yet thankfully unharmed appearances in Venom, but by and large cats had a tough year on screen. 2019 didn’t exactly get off to an auspicious start: Unprompted, the showrunners of Game of Thrones said that the boy king Tommen Baratheon’s beloved and much memed feline, Ser Pounce, had been brutally killed on the order of Cersei Lannister. Even for a series that revels in bloodshed, what the fuck? Can cats get some goddamn justice?
To answer that question: Yes, they can. Like a piece of string dangling from the edge of a couch, this weekend brought some hope and excitement. Just as it’s expected to revitalize a flailing box office, Captain Marvel is here to remind millions of moviegoers that cats are great, and every bit as special as dogs and horses.
In the movie, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) has a cat named Goose, a big-screen version of the heroine’s pet, Chewie, from the comics. (The main reason Chewie’s name was changed to Goose? Because they wanted to reference Top Gun, since Carol was a fighter pilot on Earth and Marvel wanted to gin up some nostalgia … even though Top Gun is an ’80s movie and Captain Marvel is an extremely ’90s movie.) An orange tabby, Goose was played by four different cats, because cats are difficult to work with due to their fierce independence, an undeniably and unequivocally positive trait. The cat that gets the most screentime and is most commonly associated with the fictional feline, however, is Reggie. I don’t know Reggie personally, but given his surprisingly calm, social behavior on the Captain Marvel red carpet, I can safely surmise that he is a uniquely lovely creature. [Fights back tears] He even wore a little tie to support his big movie.
You’re telling me Goose the Cat wore a tie to the Captain Marvel premiere and this is not the top news story for the night? pic.twitter.com/ggCzAcR3cf— Rachel Paige (@rachmeetsworld) March 5, 2019
Even outside the context of Captain Marvel’s plot, Goose (and by extension Reggie and the other little fellas that played him) was destined to be a fan favorite. Marvel even gave the kitty a character poster:
Alright I'm back in on Captain Marvel pic.twitter.com/q3h8M57cKs— Miles Surrey (@HKSurrey) January 16, 2019
Were that the extent of Goose’s greatness, that’d certainly be enough, especially on the heels of Thrones’ callous and unnecessary slaughter of Ser Pounce. But Goose is much, much more than a furry sidekick—he’s Captain Marvel’s secret weapon, and perhaps the movie’s MVP.
While Goose does indeed look exactly like a domestic cat, he’s not of this earth—literally. Goose is actually a Flerken, an alien species that just so happens to resemble house cats. (Marvel Comics is an undoubtedly creative company, but sometimes they come up with ideas like, “What if a regular-ass cat, but it’s also an alien?”) However, the distinction between cat and Flerken is key: When the Skrull leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) sees Goose for the first time, he freaks the hell out, as if he just saw two dudes playing catch with a hand grenade.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) finds Talos’s behavior amusing: What kind of alien weirdo is afraid of a goddamn cat? But Talos’s fear, and the fact he called Goose a “Flerken,” is our first sign that the little guy was more than meets the eye. And sure enough, in the film’s third act—after, amusingly, Fury is labeled by an alien scanner as a nonthreatening lifeform while Goose is considered highly dangerous—we find out that Goose has the ability to unfurl from his mouth a disturbingly large array of tentacles that can swallow large objects and beat bad guys to a pulp. Watching Goose unleash some kind of hentai nightmare out of his gaping maw is something that no written description could do justice: It must truly be seen to be believed. I can tell you, however, how watching a Goose attack feels: A little terrifying, and a bit amusing, especially once Fury realizes he had been repeatedly pressing his face against a creature that apparently holds kraken tentacles behind its molars.
Goose isn’t just an excuse to add a cute kitty to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: He’s a legitimate menace to anyone who means to harm Carol and his friends. And given his special talents, Goose is in many ways an amalgam of two Guardians of the Galaxy. Like Rocket, he has the cute visage of an earthbound creature. And like Groot, his adorable exterior throws you off of the fact that Goose is probably more capable in a fight than many Avengers. (No offense, Hawkeye.) And while Goose can be quite scary in a fight, he’s still very much open to ear scratches.
Given the hype around Captain Marvel, and considering the important part Carol Danvers will surely play in saving our raptured heroes in Avengers: Endgame, the world of Kree and Skrulls will likely factor into the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future. That should very fortunately include more cute, occasionally tentacle-y supporting work from little Goose. Which is great, because I need to see what other ties Reggie has in his closet.