Ava DuVernay was originally considered for the directing role of “Captain Marvel.” (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
“Captain Marvel” was burdened with heavy expectations even before the film’s much-anticipated release. Marvel Studios made the choice to wait ten years and twenty movies before granting a female hero her own stand-alone film.
The studio has featured a variety of notable female characters since its initial phase of releases, including heroines such as Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and The Wasp, who were all passed over for their own origin films. Marvel’s procrastination allowed their competitor, DC Entertainment, to beat them to the punch and take the credit for the first blockbuster film starring a female hero with its 2017 release of “Wonder Woman.” The film became a highly-praised commercial success as well as a groundbreaking moment for female superhero fans everywhere, only increasing the frustration of female Marvel fans and upped the demand on the studio to catch up.
Even without the pressures of the studio’s first female-led film riding on its shoulders, “Captain Marvel” still would have come at a critical point in the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the tense year between “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” while the studio’s fan base waits in anticipation to discover the fate of the entire cast of characters Marvel has spent the last ten years building, the stakes are high for any movie the company puts out in the meantime.
The movie had to introduce an entirely new character, tie her into the already complex web of the “Infinity War” and “Endgame” storyline and ensure their first female protagonist was well-developed, original and empowering in order for the film to truly be a success.
The film’s trailers were met with mixed reactions –Captain Marvel was clearly a force to be reckoned with as she is seen flying through space in a no-nonsense battle suit, shooting fire from her fists and punching an elderly lady in the face on a train. However, the focus on Carol Danvers’ lost memories and confusion of identity, along with Larson’s flat delivery of various lines, bordered on tacky, sparking worry from fans that Marvel had forced a token woman hero just so the studio could say it had released a heroine origin story to satisfy its fan base.
Thankfully, that was not the case.
Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel is an excellently crafted character, who showcases just the right blend of heart and might to make the perfect superhero. She deals with discrimination at every step of her life on Earth – everyone from her father to her childhood baseball teammates to her fellow Air Force pilots constantly question her abilities – but Danvers does not let this criticism define her. Rather, she crushes it underfoot and emerges stronger than before.
Marvel wisely chose to omit a romantic subplot from the film. The absence of a love interest allows Carol Danvers to focus on piecing together her past, as well as solidifying her confidence in herself and comfort with her superhuman abilities.
Rather than forcing a romance into the mix, Marvel chose to instead focus on the humorous dynamic between Danvers and the young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), as they bicker and exchange sarcastic remarks as Danvers drags Fury through his first battle against aliens, and Carol’s unbreakable bond with her longtime friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch). These two relationships are some of the most well-crafted, interesting and genuine friendships seen in the MCU thus far.
Although Captain Marvel is a powerful hero, Carol Danvers is not stripped of her humanity. She is not an emotionless fighting machine who shows no humanity, but rather a character with heart and personality. She is not a cookie-cutter token female hero, but a unique individual with her own story to tell. Carol Danvers is a character who showcases strength and determination and she embodies what it means to be human – to be knocked down by everything life throws at you, but the determination to stand back up after every fall.
“Captain Marvel” does not feel the need to hit its audience over the head with its feminist message by explicitly announce that its protagonist is a strong and capable woman worthy of the title hero like her male predecessors; her actions, motives and choices speak are a clear enough sign in and of themselves.
“Captain Marvel” is not only a great female superhero movie; it is a great superhero movie. Hopefully, Marvel and fans of geek culture alike have learned their lesson and there will be much more of films like this to come.
Final Grade: A