They tried to sabotage it. They tried to bring it down. They tried to make sure no one saw it. But Captain Marvel soared above it all. I’m sure you’ve heard by now of the smear campaign against Brie Larson and her new movie for Marvel Studios, but in case you haven’t, here’s what went down: following some comments from Larson about the lack of diversity on the press tour, and her effort to get more representation of marginalised groups in the pool of journalists, some bitter, mostly white, mostly male fans started a boycott campaign against the movie, giving it low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes before it was even released to try and make it tank. Well, it didn’t work: Captain Marvel had the all-time biggest worldwide opening for a female-fronted film, triumphantly introducing the newest hero to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As a superhero origin-story, the format is fairly standard, although unlike most other origin stories (such as those of Captain America or Iron Man) we don’t meet Carol Danvers (Larson) until she has already developed her powers. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck throw us straight into the middle of the story: when we meet Danvers, known as Vers at this point, she is a soldier for the Kree Starforce, in training for a war against the Skrulls but suffering from nightmares of a half-remembered life on Earth. The first act of the movie flits between several alien locations, and as a result struggles to find a solid grounding amongst all this unfamiliarity. It’s only when Danvers crashes down to Earth that the film really finds its footing. As she meets a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), she begins to question her past, as well as her role in the war between the Kree and the Skrulls, and we follow her journey to discover who she really is. Captain Marvel, then, is not the story of how Carol got her powers, but of how she became a hero, the powerhouse we all know and love. There aren’t really enough deviations from the standard origin story format to make it truly spectacular, but nonetheless, the narrative remains solid and engaging.
“Women and their relationships with each other are at the centre of this film”
The tone of Captain Marvel continues the studios’ recent trend of leaning towards a more light-hearted side, whilst still having an emotional heft to ground the film. Here, this is brought by the refugee narrative of the Skrulls, as well as Carol’s emotional journey. A large portion of the levity is achieved through the 90s setting, which is close enough in time for many viewers to remember it, but far enough away to bring the cringe factor – see the crash landing in a Blockbuster, or Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan) with a Nerf gun, for example. And then, of course, there’s Goose. The cat/Flerken steals every scene she’s in, and not just because she’s cute (although that is a large part of it).
What really makes this film special is what it represents. It has taken Marvel ten years and twenty movies to have their first female-fronted film, so Captain Marvel has been a long time coming. To see a powerful female superhero shouldn’t be an exception at this point, but when the only real comparison is DC’s Wonder Woman, it still feels thrilling to see someone like you kick ass. Not only is Captain Marvel a formidable heroine, but she is also flawed and real – and the film praises this. Yes, she can let her emotions get the better of her, but that’s what makes her such a strong and driven fighter. She refuses to be patronised, whether it’s by a motorcycle dude-bro who asks her to smile, or her former mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) who still thinks she needs to prove herself. Women and their relationships with each other are at the centre of this film – it’s Carol’s bond with Maria (Lashana Lynch) that reminds her of her power, and her respect for Dr. Lawson (Annette Bening) that started her off on this journey – and this solidarity and message of empowerment is one of the biggest takeaways, for any viewer.
Captain Marvel isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s a refreshing, funny, and empowering one that introduces the MCU’s newest hero with a bang. She’s powerful, she’s driven, and Thanos better get ready, because she’s coming for him.