Captain Marvel Is a Step in the Right Direction
But therein lies a fault: the fearless pilot turns out to be more of an intermediary and less of a heroine in her own story
Higher. Further. Faster. Sure, but ultimately, this could have also been better.
Captain Marvel is a good movie and well worth watching. But a good movie isn’t enough to bear the torch of being all of Marvel Studios’ first female-led Superhero origin story, the prequel to Avengers: Endgame and the penultimate film in the much-beloved third phase; especially since it includes the groundbreaking Black Panther and the iconic Thanos’ Snap which spawned more memes and tears than even the villain probably intended.
Academy Award winner Brie Larson shines (both literally and metaphorically) as Captain Marvel––flaunting neither cute squeaks nor sexy groans when in the midst of war, but primal screams and bulging veins fit for the most powerful being in the universe. Though prior to her demonstrating this uninhibited strength, the film starts off with Larson as Vers, the unassuming mentee of Jude Law’s Kree Commander Yon-Rogg. In her training, he explains that she should be lukewarm and void of any emotion in order to reach her full potential.
The message that we expect to be told through the film becomes clear: Women are too often instructed to restrain themselves. It’s simple, clear and undeniably necessary.
However, as the movie unfolds, it seems that the biggest strengths of the film––its core message along with Brie Larson’s ability to portray its titular character––becomes restrained as well. The tale of Carol Danvers’ self-discovery gets caught in a crossfire between a war story that humanizes its soldiers and the tale of the Avengers Initiative’s humble beginnings.
Narratively, these aspects of Danvers’ story had to be told, but the introspection and emotional journey which is expected to occur is never fully realized. Here, we have a lost amnesiac who falls through the roof of a Blockbuster store and later morphs into the mighty Captain Marvel. This part of the storyline, regrettably, suffers and is reduced to a backdrop to supposed footnotes in the namesake’s bigger story.
The answer to why the film struggles with this issue is told by Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau: “You were the most powerful woman I knew even before you could shoot fire from your fists,” she tells Danvers.
“The character has indeed been made out to be a well-rounded, powerful individual, but the problem is that she has been that way since the beginning: The transformations that are left to occur are borderline superficial”
The character has indeed been made out to be a well-rounded, powerful individual, but the problem is that she has been that way since the beginning: the transformations that are left to occur are borderline superficial, as her progressions get demonstrated in how cool she can look. She starts off as an out-of-place alien donning a suit mistaken for scuba diving gear to a motorcycle wielding 90s grunge girl in a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt and, finally, to a full-fledged heroine dripping in gold. Unlike these outfit changes, not much of the emotions and vulnerability that Yon-Rogg has been telling her to control were put on full display. The result is a film that collapses upon its own message, leaving the audience made aware of the lead’s greatness, but also wishing that it had been showcased in all its unrestricted glory. The eponymous heroine very much worthy of the spotlight ended up being the one to point it instead, and while noble, the film is entitled Captain Marvel.
Photo: Film Frame© Marvel Studios 2019
The exposition and the resolution of the film also leave room for improvement, as the first 10 minutes go by in somewhat of a haze, and the dénouement struggles to rise above the Endgame anticipation. Towards the end, I found much of my headspace preoccupied with thoughts of what awaits as soon as the credits finish rolling.
Trying to picture a plane of reality wherein Captain Marvel had been released pre-Black Panther, pre-Thor: Ragnarok and pre-Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse leaves room for pondering. Would the film have been more impactful had that been the case?
Whether you hate them, love them, or think they’re just okay, it’s undeniable that the recent Marvel films have really made an impact as cultural juggernauts. Marvel Studios, there’s no denying, has been on a roll breaking barrier after barrier each time they are expected to––but its momentum slowed down with Captain Marvel. Getting back to this plane of reality where the movie had only rolled around in 2019: the film had already been long overdue, making it more susceptible to underwhelming audiences. As naturally as Brie Larson slips into a character who walks the tough line between being a lost amnesiac and one of the strongest beings in the universe, the film is a straightforward thing to digest. It ticks off all the right boxes (coming from the folks at Marvel Studios whose weakest films are okay at best but forgettable at their worst), but this is precisely why, as the film ends, one could easily be left wanting more…not because of a surplus of satisfaction, but a lack of it.
Photo: Film Frame© Marvel Studios 2019
The extent of Captain Marvel’s power, both in the superhero I-can-shoot-fire-from-my-fists way and her ability as a self-actualized individual who can help everyone and everything around her reach their true potential, became a hindrance for the film in its end-goal to focus on the heroine. We see her as somewhat of a mediator for majority of the film: connecting with and saving all kinds of beings in all kinds of ways, but never seeing how she is able to save herself from her false identity at the beginning. We get to witness what she can do, true, but it would have been nice to know how she gets to this point.
Captain Marvel is a good enough movie and an enjoyable ride. Still, it’s difficult to deny that it’s disappointing to watch a film champion strength in vulnerability only to display a lack of it.
Words Danielle Francisco
Art Alexandra Lara