Since 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has released 21 feature length films, grossing over $17 billion worldwide and becoming one of the most well-known franchises in the history of cinema. With the release of “Captain Marvel,” the studio finally delivered a long overdue movie with a female lead.
Academy Award winner Brie Larson takes the reigns as Carol Danvers, an ex-Air Force pilot turned superhuman living on a distant planet called Kree. After a failed attempt to stop the Skrulls (alien shape-shifters) from infiltrating yet another planet, Carol (or Vers, as she is called at this point in the film) is abducted by the Skrulls and finds herself alone on planet Earth, where she must protect its inhabitants from Skrull-infiltration.
A lot, I know.
Like any MCU film (or any superhero film, for that matter), “Captain Marvel” has its ups and downs. For those viewers who aren’t super into it, it takes a while for things to come together. For the first half hour, I had virtually no idea what was going on, but this tends to be the case for almost every superhero movie I’ve ever seen.
Being the first female-led MCU film, it would have been easy to distract the plot with exaggerated messages of female empowerment and surface-level feminism. Not to say that would be a problem, but it wouldn’t be a step forward in the fight towards gender equality.
Thankfully, “Captain Marvel” treated Carol the same as any other one of their male characters. She wasn’t strong “for a woman,” she was just strong, in general. She didn’t only fight (and beat) women, she took down mostly men. One particular scene showed Carol getting back up after falling down (literally) at various stages of her life. The moment may be criticized for being cheesy, but it felt genuine—and it’s something that young girls will undoubtedly benefit from seeing.
For a Marvel film, the story was genuinely entertaining. It had the usual predictable reveals, though one that sets off the latter half of the film actually took me by surprise, which is something that rarely happens with the MCU. Character development is still something that the franchise struggles from, but that may be getting a little nitpicky for a superhero movie.
Larson shines as Danvers. She is able to capture her outright confidence, but also her insecurities. When she lands on earth, a planet she has no memory of inhabiting, she doesn’t go for the “lost, dumb girl” route, but instead immediately does what she believes needs to get done in order to work things out and get back home.
Speaking of earth, Carol arrives back home in the ‘90s, crash-landing directly through the roof of a Blockbuster. From this to other ‘90s staples, like a Henry Winkler lunch box, the nostalgia isn’t in your face, but instead slipped in subtly. Enough to garner a few chuckles from older audience members, but not enough to overwhelm you.
Where the film misses the mark, completely, is the relationship between Carol and her “best friend” from her life on earth, Maria (Lashana Lynch). The two refer to each other as “best friends” so many times that it actually becomes humorous. I’m not saying that the characters and their relationship was queer-bating, specifically, and I don’t have any background information from the comics, so I do not know what would and would not be accurate, in this film adaptation—but I really thought they were together, and it really hurt every time they felt the need to drive home the point that they were JUST! FRIENDS!
“Captain Marvel” is yet another sign that superhero movies can actually be pretty entertaining, if said superhero movie strays from the usual formula. Representation matters, and despite major pushback from some women-hating diehard Marvel fans, the film opened with over $400 million. Hopefully, Marvel takes this as a sign to keep moving forward with female-lead films. Plus, then we’d get more fight sequences set to “I’m Just a Girl.” A win-win for everybody.