This opinion piece looks at Captain Marvel, not only as Marvel’s first female cinematic hero but also as a game-changing movement, showcasing a more realistic and approachable female hero that girls of today’s generation can look up to. For the review of the film itself, scroll down to the header “Captain Marvel Review”
Growing up in the 90s, I was surrounded by heroes. My formative years were filled with watching the likes of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Captain Planet, Xena and the like. Looking back, I recall never being taken with the female characters in these shows. Whenever I pretended to be a Power Ranger with my friends, I always chose to be a male character. It was the same with comic book heroes. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Cyclops, Wolverine; these were the heroes that were top of mind whenever someone asked who my favourite heroes were. Notice the trend? As a young girl, there just wasn’t any female characters that stood out to me. Not even the likes of Wonder Woman, Supergirl or Batgirl.
Sure, there were certainly plenty of female characters for girls to be inspired by, however, the portrayal of these characters in popular media such as film and television just wasn’t strong enough to overshadow that of the central and dominant male characters. And where there was a strong, dominant female, like Xena for instance, they were typically portrayed as ‘butch’ and almost masculine. Of course, there was also the other extreme, like Sailor Moon, a prominent female character who was portrayed as extremely feminine. Heroines like Wonder Woman, on the other hand, were either over sexualised in their personality or attire, or portrayed as secondary to their male counterpart.
Thankfully, a slight shift can be seen in recent years with there being a push for strong, dominant, female leads in popular media who are just…heroes. Not a manly female, not an ultra feminine character and certainly not one that is secondary to a male hero.
Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman is a shining example of a film with not only a dominant female lead, but also a cast of powerful women. We’ve also seen some examples of courageous and tough women in Marvel films, such as the Dora Milaje and Shuri in Black Panther and Black Widow in the Avengers. However, these female characters aren’t as easy to aspire to be like. Wonder Woman, an Amazon warrior, is like a God, full of stoic pride and a largely unapproachable presence. She’s the heroine that one is typically in awe of but too far out of reach to even strike a laid-back conversation with. Black Widow, on the other hand, is an assassin, and one who stands more as a sidekick to the likes of Iron Man and Captain America, rather than a hero in her own right.
Marvel’s newest big screen heroine, however, challenges the status quo and sees a much more approachable, attainable and ‘just-like-you-and-me’ character take the lead, which gives me hope for the girls of this generation and all those in the future.
Captain Marvel Review
Higher, Further, Faster
Captain Marvel, Marvel Studios’ latest superhero film, which releases in cinemas this week, is a game changer and should be applauded as Marvel’s message to society: “Who run the world? Girls!”
Marvel’s latest film takes place well before the events of Marvel’s past decade of films. Set in the early 1990s, Captain Marvel is technically the first film to occur in the Marvel films’ timeline and in doing so introduces us to the beginning of SHIELD and the Avengers Initiative.
Like previous Marvel films that introduced a new titular character, Captain Marvel is an origins story that gives us our first look into Carol Danvers’ history and the story behind her status as a intergalactical superhero.
The film begins with a rather inexperienced Danvers (Brie Larson), filled with unimaginable power and bursting at the seams to be a hero. It sets up the familiar narrative of a war torn Universe, in which the Kree, a great warrior civilisation ruled by an Artificial Intelligence programme known as the Supreme Intelligence, are at war with a species of invaders known as The Skrulls, shape shifters who assimilate into societies and take over from within.
One would imagine that this predictable narrative would see Carol Danvers fighting The Skrulls and saving the day, right? Wrong. The film is far more sophisticated, with a brilliant narrative that includes plot twists that are so subtly crafted that there are no awkward changes in pacing, something that I often find annoying in some films.
The pacing of the film is as smooth as a baby’s bottom, making it a delight to witness on screen. Every scene was necessary with no added fluff or padding to the narrative, making it an enjoyable watch with never a dull moment.
Being set in the 90s was absolutely fantastic, especially for someone like me who grew up in that era. The trip down memory lane brought back fond memories and a feeling of nostalgia that had me grinning through various scenes of the film. From seeing a cut-out of True Lies at a Blockbuster store to seeing Carol using a Game Boy and payphone, the throwback only elicited positive feelings towards the film. Certainly a smart move as retro is making a comeback.
Of course, adding to these positive feelings is witnessing a very different Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) along with fan-favourite, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Whilst Coulson only played a minor role in the film, being a brand new addition to the SHIELD team, Fury had a much bigger part to play. In fact, Fury featured more in this film than he has in any other Marvel film in the past, which made for an entertaining watch.
It was refreshing to see Fury with both eyes and a brighter outlook on life. There were plenty of smiles, laughs and sass that the current, disenchanted, I’ve-seen-terrifying-things Fury, no longer has. It was also rather heart-warming to see the friendship, trust and respect that grows between Fury and Danvers.
Danvers, herself, was a sight to behold. Though starting off as a lost soldier, unable to recollect her time prior to being rescued by the Kree Commander, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), it was inspiring to watch her grow into the hero, Captain Marvel, and the flashbacks she had as she struggled to recollect her past acted as an important reminder about the inequality between genders in our world, along with the largely patriarchal society we live in.
Her character development and recollections of being put down by the males around her throughout her life, were what truly stood out to me. The way in which Danvers was treated prior to gaining her powers acts as inspiration for young girls and women to challenge the status quo and push beyond gender stereotypes. Danvers’ penchant for always getting back up on her feet despite being pushed to the ground acts as a powerful message for all of us, not just girls and women. It reminds us that mankind’s greatest ability is our ties to our emotions and our determination to ‘get back up’ whenever we fall.
A New Hero For A New Generation
As a hero, Captain Marvel is a much more realistic character to aspire to. The film shows, more than once, that she fails. It also portrays her as a character who struggles with herself, unsure at times of her worth, and of course, being able to make light of difficult situations and laugh. Unlike Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Danvers is approachable, a character that, despite being all powerful, is just like you and me. She’s just…human, and that, is what makes her special and a monumental role-model for this generation’s girls.
However, it’s not just Danvers that is a strong female role model in the film. Annette Benning’s Dr. Lawson, the brilliant scientist behind some of the Air Force’s plane technology, proved that women in science and technology played an important role not just in public society but also in the military, though it was made evident that she was the only one who took a chance on Danvers and allowed her to fly. There was a rather sexist quip in the film by a male pilot alluding to the reason behind the term ‘cockpit’ that would have annoyed any female…but I digress.
Another, not as prominent, but equally strong as a role model for girls is Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), Danvers’ best friend and fellow pilot, who is also portrayed as a single mother. The film not only illustrates Rambeau as a fantastic pilot, worthy of giving any male pilot a run for his money but also an incredible mother, who seemed to have single-handedly raised her young daughter, Monica (who Marvel comics fans everywhere will know full well of her importance) to be an intelligent, courageous young girl.
Familiar Faces & Connection To Other Films
While watching the film, Nick Fury and Agent Coulson weren’t the only familiar faces from previous Marvel films that fans will notice. Being set in the past, it was rather ‘trippy’ to see a younger and not nearly as ‘dark’ Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) and Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou), who fans will recall as being integral in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1. Having these characters return plays a big part in creating the link between Captain Marvel and the other Marvel films.
The characters weren’t the only connection, as you’ll see during the crux of the film. I won’t spoil this any further but certainly keep and eye and ear out for a very familiar little ‘thing’.
The Disney Factor
On top of the 90s throwback and fantastic character portrayals, I couldn’t help but notice the incredible visuals of the film. Marvel Studios has a great track record of creating stunning and beautiful worlds, the likes of Asgard (in Thor) and Knowhere (in Guardians of the Galaxy), along with utilising incredible CGI effects to showcase some mind-bending visuals, like that in Doctor Strange.
Captain Marvel is no different, with the eye-catching illustration of the technologically advanced world of Hala, the capital of the Kree civilisation as well as the many visually appealing scenes in space.
Being a story about intergalactic war, ship battles in space was almost a given. What I noticed, however, was the very Disney/Star Wars way in which these space battles took place. The method of lightspeed transport (i.e. the way in which ships arrived at a location) was incredibly similar, not only in style but also sound, to that often seen in Star Wars. Similarly, the ship chase scene towards the end of the film, felt oddly reminiscent to the Pod Race in The Phantom Menace. Perhaps the throwback to my childhood had me thinking back to that particular scene and associating it with that in the film, but throughout the entirety of Captain Marvel, I just couldn’t help but think “oh I saw that in Star Wars!”
The Star of the Show
Whilst the Marvel films of old tended to include characters that had some kind of romantic attachment, like Thor and Jane Foster, Vision and Scarlet Witch, Captain America and Peggy Carter , Star Lord and Gamora, (and Black Widow and The Hulk?), so on and so forth, it was incredibly satisfying and refreshing for there to not be a typical romance develop in Captain Marvel. Instead the focus in this film was that of family and friendships, which I personally find much more important. As alluded to above, the friendship and develops between Fury and Danvers becomes extremely important for the Avengers Initiative and as fans will recall, Fury sent a signal to Danvers at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.
Though this friendship and connection plays an extremely important role, it is the relationship Fury develops with Goose the cat, a.k.a. the star of the show, that really takes centre stage and plays an even larger role in the entire Marvel films history. As you watch the film, you’ll see why (if you stay for the end credits).
Captain Marvel – Worth It?
Overall, Marvel Studios managed to reignite something that it hadn’t done in quite some time, since Captain America: The First Avenger, which is adding heart and realistic humanity into its film. Captain Marvel is a breath of fresh air that finally puts the pieces of the films over the past decade together.
It isn’t just a superhero film that introduces us to Marvel’s first female cinematic hero, but a movement of sorts, finally setting us up with strong, inspirational role models that young girls are able to truly admire and look up to. Just by having No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” playing in the background of a crucial fight scene speaks volumes as a metaphor for Carol Danvers being an over-powered superhero that’s ‘just a girl’. It is the subtle ways in which the film ‘tells us’ about just how valuable and capable girls and women are that truly captured my fancy. And what better way to highlight this message than to have the film release on International Women’s Day and during Women’s History Month.
The impact the film has on today’s society is profound and will likely see a massive change in the way female heroines are portrayed in popular media.
A film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, while showcasing a fantastical world with an intriguing narrative and unexpected plot twist, Captain Marvel will leave fans wanting more, especially leading up to Marvel Studios’ Phase Four.
I, for one, have felt a renewed sense of interest and eagerness to read comics again after watching the film. I, hope that many others do too.