Captain Marvel recently passed the $1 billion mark in the box office, making it one of the most commercially successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies to date. It was also the first Marvel movie headlined by a woman, but, honestly, I was not that excited to see it. First, there are too many MCU movies, and going to see them has started to feel like a chore. Second, I am a big comics fan, and I do not like Captain Marvel much as a character. I saw Captain Marvel because it was necessary for Avengers: Endgame. However, it is a good superhero movie. A really good superhero movie, and a really good movie for the MCU moving forward.
Captain Marvel certainly suffers from the same pacing issues that plague many of its MCU counterparts, with action scenes that go on far too long and shots that linger more than they should after a joke. The opening act feels important upon first viewing but, in the context of the overall plot, accomplishes little. However, it does not detract from the movie too much, because the action is engaging and makes interesting use of the characters’ unique abilities.
The movie’s major twist, that the Kree are actually evil, is not too surprising in the context of the wider Marvel canon (Agents of Shield has an entire season about genocidal Kree enslaving the human race). However, Captain Marvel’s take on the Skrulls was not something I saw coming. Unlike in most Marvel media, the Skrulls are straight-up the good guys. They are not locked in a never-ending war with the Kree; they are just looking for a home. They are called terrorists, but they are just refugees. This depiction of the Skrulls is certainly a change, but not an unwelcome one.
There is a problem, though. Captain Marvel both contains a pacifistic plot point and is unflinchingly militaristic. It lionizes the US Air Force, with extensive glamour shots of pilots and fighter-jets (unsurprising, considering the extensive production assistance and financial support it received from the Air Force). The dissonance is striking.
Marvel movies do not always have the best plots, but I have never left a movie not caring about its characters like they were my own children. The characters’ wide range of personalities and deep interpersonal connections are what make the MCU great by providing something in which fans can become deeply invested. Captain Marvel does not disappoint. Nick Fury is at his most Nick Fury yet, except he’s a low-level agent fighting the bureaucracy one piece of scotch tape at a time. The dynamic between Fury and Danvers is believable and entertaining.
Captain Marvel also has plenty of strong female characters. Beside Captain Marvel herself, there is her best friend Maria Rambeau, and her daughter, Monica. Captain Marvel highlights the enduring power of female friendship, and it does not try to shove in a love interest that would have certainly been unnecessary. Also, there is a cat, and he is awesome. I want a plushie of that cat.
Carol Danvers’ arc is not conventional for a superhero movie. It is not about learning to control her powers, or even finding her true self. Sure, it has some of that, but it’s fundamentally a movie about overcoming gaslighting and lies, and breaking free of others’ control.
Carol does not obtain her powers at any point in the film, since she already had them. She also does not need to learn to control them, she just needs to let her powers free, then blast everyone. When she learns the truth about the Kree, she does not hesitate to do what is right. She does not owe the Kree anything, because they lied to her, used her, and tried to control her. She is repeatedly told by Yon-Rogg that she must suppress her emotions in order to be her most powerful. When she has finally regained her abilities, and therein her agency, he challenges her to defeat him hand-to-hand, to prove herself once and for all. At this moment of what would be, in a regular movie, a character-defining duel full of passion and macho posturing, she tells him simply, “I have nothing to prove to you.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, because, to me, that is the message of Captain Marvel – that Carol Danvers, and women everywhere, have nothing to prove to you. She is powerful in her own right, she can overcome the gaslighting and she gets right back up when she’s knocked down. This movie made me love Captain Marvel. I definitely cannot wait for Endgame.
Lyra Gemmil- Nexon ’22