Captain Marvel: Groundbreaking, but Bittersweet

By Abeer Khan

Edited by Elaine Nguyen

Whether they are portrayed as sexual objects or as damsels in distress, it is unquestionable that women are often seen as subordinate or reliant on men in Hollywood. This trend has been a constant in the film making industry since its inception and very few have sought to incite change. This is why a film like Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel is so important and revolutionary for female audiences.

The film centres around Carol Danvers, a Kree warrior who gets caught in a war between her people and the Skrulls. Set in 1995, it follows Danvers’ journey in understanding her true self. Her story reflects one of determination, power, and dignity; she learns how to control and master her power and use it to help the greater good.

Like all origin stories, it features all the cliche roadblocks heroes have to battle before achieving success. Brie Larson does an exceptional job in her role as Captain Marvel and exemplifies class and poise both on and off the screen. Carol Danvers is a noble character who gains the audience’s respect instantly, and promotes female individuality exceptionally through her determination and power.

The diverse cast also strengthens the experience of the film, with amazing performances from Gemma Chan, who plays Doctor Minerva, and Lashana Lynch as Danvers’ friend and co-pilot Maria Rambeau. From start to finish, the film exudes girl power, showcasing self-sufficient and powerful women.

Rambeau’s character helps normalize single-parent households and highlights their functionality, while depicting Rambeau as strong instead of helpless. Danvers and Rambeau’s friendship also emphasizes the misogyny prevalent previously in the US Air-Force, where women were often sidelined and deemed too “weak” to fly planes they were capable of flying.

Furthermore, the film addresses harassment and manipulation faced by women at the hands of men everyday. Many female viewers resonate with the scene toward the beginning of the film when Danvers brushes off unwelcome advances from a stranger. At the end, when Danvers’ commander tries to make her prove herself to him, his taunts are disregarded and played for humor, establishing that women have nothing to prove to men. The film highlights female experiences that are often excluded from conventional big screens and calls out toxic masculinity in society.

Although the film does address issues of great importance, the plot itself seems underdeveloped. Unlike Marvel’s Thor, Captain Marvel fails to establish the importance and workings of the Kree civilization as well as it might have, leaving fans to inference a lot of facts they should have been told. The Kree planet “Hala” resembles Thor’s Asgard, but the film fails to go into detail about its role and significance in the galaxy. Instead, it relies on past information revealed in the MCU to inform this film, instead of providing sufficient context within the film itself.

This speaks to the timing of Captain Marvel’s release date and the studio’s lack of attention to the character prior to her pending appearance in Avengers: Endgame in April 2019. This film is long overdue and its timing seems to capitalize off of the women’s movement that has taken centre stage in recent years. In the era of the “Me Too” movement, it seems like Marvel thought it was most profitable to cash in on Captain Marvel now.

As the first MCU film with a female lead, it has become both a milestone and a bittersweet moment.

Nonetheless, Captain Marvel is a ground-breaking trailblazer that smashed the box office, making a record-breaking US $153 million on its opening weekend. It was made for women and addresses feminist issues like abolishing the “weak girl” stereotype, while reiterating the notion that women have nothing to prove to men, and instead are valid individually.

As a woman of colour, I recognize the importance of the strong role model I was able to see in Danvers, along with her best friend and co-pilot Maria Rambeau. The film finally gave women a chance to see themselves represented in the MCU, and will pave the path for countless young girls to idolize more strong female role models in the future.

Captain Marvel broke boundaries and presented women as powerful and autonomous, which has not traditionally been the case in the MCU. Its message of female empowerment remains essential in today’s time and provides women with the strong female superhero they have been longing for. The anticipation for Avengers: Endgame is now in full swing as we await what Carol Danvers will bring to Marvels most anticipated film of the year.

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