Despite a bumpy first act, I left Captain Marvel this past weekend in awe of all it accomplished. There’s plenty of praise out there already for the film, and I stand alongside it. It’s a fun story seeing a junior Nick Fury having his first encounter with the spectacular, and an intriguing story that breaks the Marvel movie template by telling a bit of a Memento style amnesia story.
I want to discuss my two favorite aspects of this film, so this will be a little spoilery by default. Still, I’ll refrain from naming characters and specifics as much as I can to not give too much away.
First off, is the film’s clear positioning as an allegory for women in society/media/storytelling coming into their own power finally, and the opposition from single minded men they’re still facing. Don’t believe me? The plot’s conflict mainly comes from Carol not remembering her past, and being told by her male superior what to feel, think, and do at every aspect. He outright tells her to restrain her powers, to let go of certain memories, or not to worry about certain feelings she has. In short: Carol Danvers is explicitly and fully being gaslit by the villain of the movie.
At the climax when she has realized her full power and is saving the day left and right, what does this abuser try to do? Since he knows he can’t face her toe to toe, he tries to confront her on the same terms as before: refrain from using your power, the only way to defeat me is on my terms.
It’s a powerful message all around, and I’m so glad we’re in an age where not only can a story like this be woven, but much like Black Panther, I’m floored that we’re seeing this kind of story told by one of the biggest studios in the business. We’re finally in an era where female superheroes can headline a major film, and carry it to box office success, but with progress comes opposition. The vestiges of white male dominated media insecurity flares up and screams in its panic. The movie is saying not only is a female hero here among us, it’s saying that they’ve been here all along. With the coming second installment of the Infinity War saga, she’s coming back in grand fashion.
[WARNING, FOR THE SECOND PART OF THIS, I CAN’T HELP BUT BE MORE SPOILERY, SO PLEASE STOP READING IF YOU’RE AVERSE TO SPOILERS]
The second part I truly loved was the twist on villainy based on classic comics lore. We’ve long wondered why the Skrulls haven’t been present in the MCU, having seen the Kree empire already in the original Guardians of the Galaxy with no mention of their ages long enemies, the Skrulls, but here they are finally.
Captain Marvel does the neat retcon work of explaining why in present day 2000s MCU there are no Skrulls to be seen, but it does so in a way that forces us to consider the nuances of war, and perception of one’s enemies. In classic comics, the Skrulls are a metaphor for the insidious threat of the Soviets and their spies.
These days, we’re dealing with a man in power who’s telling us that there are threats trying to infiltrate our border with drugs and to commit crimes who are innocent people seeking asylum. In this, the Skrulls aren’t terrorists, they’re refugees trying to find a way to escape the persecution and genocide of a Kree Empire being run by a malevolent supreme power.
It was a fantastic twist (pun intended), and my favorite takeaway I left the theater with was the beautiful and subtle optimism the MCU is offering us that I think we need right now in the face of the actual malevolent figures in power: we know, thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy that the malevolent ruler is removed. We know the Krees have a brighter, more beautiful future ahead where people like Ronan are exiled. We just need to fight for it. We just need to believe in it and let our brightest stars, our own Captain Marvels, shine.