Although not a cinematic breakthrough like Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017), Captain Marvel (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck 2019) still made quite a splash in the world of cinema, in my opinion. Why is that? Here are a few reasons.
1. It is a story about an imperfect hero…who’s a woman
Is this a big deal? Some may not think so. But I do.
Captain Marvel upset a few critics by its striking lack of a “feminist agenda”, but even still it seems to have done well in the box office so far. However, although the political message around the film is subtle, if present at all, I personally think that it sends some really powerful messages to everyone – including women.
Unlike Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel focuses on a heroine who doesn’t start off as naive and unsure. In fact, Carol Danvers (known as Vers through the first half of the film) is a soldier who is headstrong and smart, as well as witty and downright hilarious. There are several moments in the film when she reacts in ways which we don’t usually get from the regular super hero, and it’s great. I found myself rolling around laughing, and for the first time in a long time, I really felt like here was a hero I could relate to.
Wonder Woman is one of those films I will go back to again and again, because I think we all want to be a little like Diana, with her godlike power and her unbeatable sense of destiny and optimism. But Captain Marvel is a film about a hero who meets us where we’re at, and I fell in love with the narrative for completely different reasons.
I think the most compelling aspect about Carol Danvers’ character is that she is imperfect, but not in ways we normally see “imperfect” female characters. In fact, I found myself thinking that if we put a male in her place, we would have almost the same story, and it would be just as awesome. This is a huge win for Marvel.
In addition to this, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the directors, didn’t go out of their way to show the audience that this was a female hero who was just as good as a male hero. What they did was give us a narrative that let us come to our own conclusions…and that was completely awesome.
2. There was no love interest.
As soon as Jude Law showed up on screen, I groaned a little internally.
I assumed that he was the love interest. But he wasn’t. He serves another purpose in the story (go watch the movie to find out) but it wasn’t as a romantic counterpart to the narrative. This was a refreshing surprise, as I’ve rarely come across a mainstream movie where the main character isn’t compelled to action by their significant other. Although Danvers is tried again and again in controlling her emotions, they weren’t gushy ones. They were, actually, hurt and rage. It appears that Marvel has realized women have more emotions than hysteria.
(Was that sarcastic? My apologies)
Actually, instead of featuring a love interest, we saw an equally valid relationship: the completely platonic, yet powerful and heart-wrenching, love between two best friends. As a girl living in real life, I can say with confidence that this type of relationship is more compelling to me than anything inspired by an SO.
Not to say that romance in movies is bad – I myself am a sucker for the good love story. But it was refreshing to see a character in motion who’s life was more complex than the her love interests. Boo-yah.
3. There was a political message, but it wasn’t the one you’d expect.
Recently in the cinema and literary worlds, I’ve come across a very strange phenomenon: every work I’ve read or seen featuring a female protagonist has required a feminist agenda.
Although I don’t think there is anything wrong with supporting strong women in our society today, I think that we need to come a place where a female lead does not necessarily mean that the entire work is about being a female lead. What Captain Marvel does here is more subtle. Instead of focusing entirely on the fact that the protagonist was female, they gloss over it to another issue. In this way, the whole thing feels natural. Our protagonist looks and feels although she is in the right place.
So what’s the issue here, then?
My personal opinion? It’s about racism, immigration, hate crimes, and political brainwashing.
Although I don’t want to give away the plot entirely, I want to point out that it didn’t turn the way I was expecting. Marvel did something, well, marvelous here with their not-so-little red herring, and it took me by surprise. When the truth was revealed, I felt a little of what Carol Danvers must have felt: confused and betrayed. This movie pushed me to want to look at my default settings a little more closely. What do I mean by that? Go watch the movie and find out.
4. “I don’t have anything to prove to you”
The biggest spoiler in this post is this one. I’m sorry. But it’s my favorite line, and when I heard it, I wanted to cheer.
So often in movies, the bad guy eggs on the hero until they give in and fight the ultimate fight. Compelled by their rage, they unlock a massive amount of power and defeat the villain. But in real life, this isn’t what happens. Anger and rage lead to violence, and violence doesn’t help anything, as we all know. So you can imagine my reaction when Danvers delivers this gut-punch answer to the villain who wants her to lose control.
And it’s true. To all the nay-sayers, to people speaking bad things into your life, you don’t have anything to prove. If you don’t prove who you are to yourself, you aren’t going to win anything.
5. Not perfect, but still beautiful.
A few things which bothered me about the movie were the responses I saw from other people. Although a few of these comments came from non-credible sources (reddit, for example) , it still appalled me to read that some people thought Brie Larson (who played Danvers) wasn’t pretty enough to be a super-hero. In fact, she didn’t think she was pretty enough, either.
Not only is this untrue (she’s gorgeous) but it encases the issue with media in a nutshell. In fact, it expands to the entire film: Captain Marvel is automatically compared to all the Marvel films which came before it, and for this reason it seems to fall a little flat in the eyes of the fans. I have a problem with this.
Although the film isn’t like others in the past (even Wonder Woman, a comparison I’m guilty of even in this post) it still stands alone as a spectacular piece of cinematography. It has a solid plot. It is part of the Marvel Universe, but you don’t need to see the other films to understand or appreciate it. And it is a beautiful moving image.
It’s not perfect, but it’s beautiful.
It made me feel good. It made me feel empowered. At well past midnight, I left the movie theater skipping and grinning like an idiot, because I felt like I could do anything. And believe me, I haven’t felt that way in a long time.
However, don’t let me be the one to tell you. If you hated it, that’s perfectly valid. But I think this film deserves more credit than its currently receiving.
So what do you think? I’d love to know! Haven’t seen it yet? Tell me when you check it out!