Spoiler Alert! This post contains major spoilers from the film.
In 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe announced its arrival into the film space with the first Iron Man film. And more than a decade later it finally offered its now loyal fanbase the first solo female-led superhero film in the MCU.
Even before its official release, Captain Marvel went through its unfair share of trolling and bombardment of sexist micro-aggressions. So it pretty much foreboded all the nitpicky macho outrage it was to receive. And it did.
While Captain Marvel is not the best the MCU has to offer and there is much room for improvement in several spaces, one can’t deny the importance and relevance of this film. As a comic-book fan, it’s amazing that I got to watch this film in my lifetime. And while it isn’t a revolutionary piece of filmmaking, here’s why it truly is a delayed gift to us fangirls.
Captain Marvel is MCU’s most powerful character, yet she’s so very real.
When it comes to sheer magnitude of power, Captain Marvel is close to invincible. She is the human (and part Kree) equivalent of a nuke, so to speak. And yet she isn’t an all-encompassing divine being that conforms to the Goddess trope. In fact, she has her vulnerabilities and weaknesses, the most obvious one being her loss of self due to her fading memories. While leaving much to be desired, her amnesia makes her the fish out of water who’s learning about herself along with the audience.
But as her character evolves, Carol literally learns how powerful she really is when she finally stops paying heed to the dominant male influence in her life. Her evolution literally involves living life on her own terms after shunning the supervision of a man (Yon-Rogg) and an AI supreme leader.
Here’s a superhero film that finally gets female representation right.
We’ve come a long way since female superhero films were shunned to the corner of sub-par cinematic scrap. With a film like Wonder Woman becoming the flag-bearer of the DCEU, things are finally changing in the comic-book-movie realm with respect to the once precarious relationship studios had with female superheroes.
In the comics, Mar-Vell, the one whom she gets her powers from, is a man. He also happens to be the original Captain Marvel who passes on the mantle to Carol Danvers. In the film, however, the strategic gender swap is a nice touch to the overarching theme of ‘girl power’ coming of age.
While it does spark a conversation about the overarching empowering theme of the film, the use of a woman Mar-Vell (Dr. Wendy Lawson) seems most natural and seamless to the plot. Completely quashing the damsel in need of a man to rescue/mentor her, Lawson/Mar-Vell is a Bechdel-approved nod to strong female influences we often need and have in real life.
The representation of female friendship is poignantly portrayed, yet very relatable.
The film isn’t bursting at the seams with characters. But within the few there are, it manages to include women with meaningful roles, relationships, and back stories. The best friend, Maria Rambeau, for instance. Not only is she far more than the typical dispensable token racially diverse best friend, she is vital to the plot.
In fact, Maria is the one thing that ties her back to her home — with her ‘humanity’ so to speak. She helps revive her memories and make up for lost times. Much like how our friends in real life help us become the best version of ourselves, Maria helps her find the missing link that would make Carol whole again.
The film subtly touches upon gender issues without trying to make a grand statement.
Reading into the underlying subtext of an empowering journey of a woman’s self-discovery, one can notice the subtle references to the real-life issues the film nudges. For instance, Yon-Rogg brainwashing Carol about her identity and altering her reality is an understated allusion to the act of gaslighting — something that is far too common among women in the real world.
A more obvious allusion to harassment comes when a textbook biker bro tells her to smile. Her silence spoke to every woman in the audience who is often helpless in a similar situation. However, the following subversion (of her running off with his bike) is a satisfying resolution to real-life micro-aggressions faced by just about every woman ever.
Without being a preachy powerpoint presentation on gender: 101, the film makes a statement. In a way, it reminds us of each of our own coming-of-age stories — rife with the occasional sexism and many a male egos holding us back in some form or the other.
The film reverses popular film tropes especially when it comes to gender.
While her relationship with the female best friend is rock solid, what is even more endearing is the brilliant buddy-cop chemistry between Carol Danvers and Nick Fury. There is a refreshing absence of a romantic arc and the reversal of the male saviour trope is seamless yet discernible. Captain Marvel is often the one who comes to Fury’s rescue and is his most trusted ally. This further delves into why Marvel is Fury’s go-to SOS call when the universe is under threat.
Not cinematic brilliance for sure and certainly not one of the best of the MCU films. However, Captain Marvel does hit the right notes as a spearhead for several more female superhero standalone films to follow.
It was perhaps best to title the film and the hero ’Captain Marvel’ — an earned title which is gender neutral and has a hint of the great magnitude of power that comes with it.