With the hotly-anticipated worldwide premiere of Captain Marvel, we set ego aside and admit that it is time the men stand back for the real bad-ass of the year so far, Carol Danvers and the rest of the powerful woman that make up the film.
In a particular Air Force One-inspired scene of Captain Marvel, Maria Rambeau, the wingwoman to Carol Danvers, dribbles a fast one against men. “Thought we’d show these boys how we do it. You ready?” she says, throwing the ball to Danvers who doesn’t flinch and fires back what will stand to be a recurring string of words to her narrative: “Higher, further, faster, baby.” With glints of gold rimming their pilot-approved sunglasses, they both look on and Rambeau finally closes with an affirmation, “That’s right.” Looking out and up to the horizon the future Captain Marvel rounds it out with an all-knowing smirk that says, “We got this.”
And guess what, she does.
WHERE IS THE MAN?
To be completely fair to the male species, Captain Marvel doesn’t position itself with a men-are-scum-of-the-Earth-evil type of sandbox farce. (Take that, misogynistic internet trolls who attempted to bomb the movie online with early flop reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. There is no room for toxic masculinity here.) In fact, Carol Danvers finds an ally in Nick Fury, and later on, an unlikely comrade that totally flips the switch of intergalactic perceptions. What the first female-led film of the 10-year old Marvel Cinematic Universe does is it champions the woman as a person of her own, with choices and doings that are independent to her. “The fact that she is just herself and cannot be contained is pretty awesome. It means she’s like, wild!” exclaims Brie Larson on the responsibility she bears portraying this monumental character. “I love that she’s unapologetic. I love that she’s not apologizing for her strength, first as a human in the Air Force. That she’s never trying to shrink herself because of who she is. She can’t even be someone else if she wanted to.” (Novelist and forefront at the feminist movement, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, would be proud.)
While there are facets to the film that are man vs. woman charged, which is a force of tension expected with an origins story of this sort, it doesn’t rely on it to propel the milestone movie forward. Sure, snippets of this tug-of-war is seen interspersed throughout her life, as seen in a childhood race with a boy gone wrong (“You’re too fast. You have to slow down.”) and her military training struggles (“You’re not strong enough!”), as well as it manifesting in her main beef with her of-another-planet mentor (“You have to control your emotions.” Vis-à-vis “You’ve come a long way, but you’re not as strong as you think.”), but it isn’t what makes Carol Danvers or Vers who she is completely. The plot reveals itself as a jigsaw puzzle of her identity, where the entire length is focused on her figuring out who she really is and how she fits in the grander scheme of the universe.
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It seems like a lot riding on her shoulders, but it is one that many women are riddled with on the daily. With a standard and stereotype set by an older society still lingering in the day and age of #MeToo and #TheFutureIsFemale, the issue of identity is still one that haunts and hinders many women from fulfilling their potential. “Imagine what can happen when I’m free,” mutters the thoroughly complex yet unassumingly relatable Carol Danvers (portrayed with just the right amount of sass, staidness, and spirit by Academy Award winner Brie Larson) at the exposition’s self-prescribed period of realization. At this point, the scrappy 90s nostalgia gives way to a self-awareness that spans galaxies and time-space continuums of worth. “I have nothing to prove to you,” she would later fire back, figuratively and unfortunately for some of the deluded and zealots of male characters, literally.
THE UNBREAKABLE BOND
Unlike other Marvel films, the titular character here doesn’t relent to the patronizing trope of rose-colored, stop-in-the-middle-of-the-film’s-climax-to-profess-love-or-kiss romance. In its stead, Captain Marvel heroes a different sort of relationship that is much needed in the general landscape of film, one that features women helping women. Because really, no matter how the strong the female is, she still needs help.
Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) fills the voids to the gaps left by the life-changing super charged transfer of energy to Carol Danvers, subsequently propping her up to be the hero that she was, is, and will be to her, her daughter, and within plain sight, the universe. This is the kind of camaraderie that needs to be reiterated today, especially in the face of woman-vs-woman-vs-man realities filling up our collective consciousness. In this bond, our protagonist finally figures out her past, thereby reclaiming her present and future. Higher, further, faster—together.
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“We’re not trying to make this movie about all women,” explains screenwriter and co-director, Anne Boden. “We can’t make it about all women’s journeys, but just really be true to this woman’s journey.” And it makes total sense, seeing as Captain Marvel is part and parcel different points of the woman’s story brought to a singular, beautifully compromised character. There will be at one point wherein you will shift in your seat and agree that you’ve met a Carol Danvers, Vers, or Captain Marvel in your life, and that they are for the lack of a more imaginative term, marvelous pillars and enduring testaments of strength, tenacity, and compassion.
This is what sets her apart in the pantheon of superheroes, especially in the threat of Thanos. But that’s getting ahead of the story.
ON THE UP AND UP
“When we talk about [Captain Marvel], we say: Everything about her wants to go up. Heart up. Chest Up. Chin up. Everything faces towards the sky,” reveals Kelly Sue DeConnick, the American comic book author and editor responsible for the modern iteration of Captain Marvel far, far, far from its male origins. Even in the midst of its brilliant use of the literary device of in medias res in the beginning of the film, which means throwing you right in the thick of things from the get-go, Captain Marvel employs a lot of allusions and metaphors to the word ‘up’.
Everything from looking up to he sky and space, which we see quite a lot of in her key dialogues with Fury, Rambeau, Yon-Rogg, her fallen mentor, Dr. Wendy Lawson, and even the Kree Supreme Intelligence. This positions the premise to what it can potentially do to disrupt the plane of Marvel’s prized cinematic universe, which is at 20 or so films later, the stuff of legends, really. There is nowhere to go but up, even in the midst of unbelievably high expectations, female-driven responsibilities, and the personal trajectory of Captain Marvel on her own damn accord.
Sure, she may just be a girl with a hell of a lot riding on her blazing trail in space and on Earth’s atmospheric skies, but she proves that can hold her own. (That climactic fight scene set to the familiar 90s grunge warble of Gwen Stefani with No Doubt is enough to make you go: Yup, she can totally she whoop some intergalactic butt…and then some.) And in the same vein, it is Captain Marvel herself who inspires the genesis of what would be the Avengers that we know of today. “I’m not fighting a war. I’m ending it,” Captain Marvel is heard saying all throughout different key points of the movie. Eventually, all that talk culminates in truth and reality, shutting down any more attempts at naysaying and further complications in the order of peace in the galaxy. She set out what she had to do, and she smashed it out into space—for real. Now, if that isn’t girl power, we don’t know what is.
“We’ll be back for the weapon,” says Nick Fury as he ogles at glass eyeballs on his desk at the final minutes of the 2 hour and 4 minute-film.
“The core?” asks Agent Coulson in curiosity, seeing as the extra-terrestrial threat and collateral larger-than-life force rendered in a geometric cube has been dealt with accordingly.
Without missing a beat, Nick Fury replies: “The woman.”
As things stand, no truer words have been spoken, because as the whispers and murmurs reverberate within the hallowed halls of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we haven’t seen the last of Captain Marvel just yet. Truth be told, she is barely getting started.
And look, did we need a man to save us from possible eternal damnation up until this point? No, not really.
Needless to say, Captain Marvel is the superhero we all need now.