Growing up as a ’90s baby, I didn’t really have a solid female superhero icon. My favorite shirt was a tank top with a faded Spider-Man print at the front, tattered because of how often I washed and wore it. I remember my six-year-old playmates; how they used to tease me about looking like a tomboy for wearing my Spider-Man shirt all the time. They used to say only boys were supposed to like superheroes–as if being strong and heroic are exclusive to a certain gender.
But I wanted to be a superhero too.
When it was announced that we were getting a female superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I knew it was going to be revolutionary. Captain Marvel was going to be the forefront of new ground in the MCU and so many young girls were finally going to have a superhero to look up to. With Brie Larson set to be the female lead of Captain Marvel, I had high hopes that it was going to be an awesome addition to the MCU.
“It’s such an honor to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and be part of this legacy of characters and storytelling that is so incredibly meaningful to people,” says Brie. “These films are part of what’s shaping our culture, who we are, what morals we value. It’s incredible. I don’t think that I fully understood the scope of what it meant in the cultural zeitgeist until the announcement came out that I was going to be playing Captain Marvel. I’ve slowly started to grasp the vastness and levity of it all.”
Before Captain Marvel even hit theaters, there were already a vast number of online anger towards the female-led film.
As the first female superhero of Marvel, especially coming from the success of Black Panther that represented Black superheroes, the standards for this one was at an all-time high. What was unfair, though, was the kind of critique it was getting before it was even out. From the trailer alone, some had already commented on how she needed to smile more, that she looked too weak to be a hero, or that she wasn’t sexy enough for the male gaze. Majority of these criticisms were from men.
It’s almost funny how the film captures sexism so accurately.
Women are told that they’re too emotional, reek of hormonal anger, or can’t have the same ambition as men. But after watching Captain Marvel and seeing all the little girls at the red carpet, dressed in their costumes, and excited to watch the movie, I realized: this is exactly why this movie was made. To empower these young women and remind them that they, too, could be heroes.
But did Brie Larson reach the standards for Captain Marvel?
Warning: this is the part where I spoil the movie a little bit.
I went into the cinema without having any idea what Captain Marvel was going to be about. I didn’t read the comics and I tried to avoid knowing anything about the movie apart from the official trailers. But I did wonder if it had any connection to Avengers: Endgame.
That was my first mistake. Like any standalone superhero movies, Captain Marvel is an origin story. It certainly filled in some missing parts of the MCU continuity, but I’ll talk about that later on.
The film is set in the ’90s, with our hero’s journey starting with Vers (Brie Larson), dealing with vivid memories of a life she couldn’t remember. While most origin stories begin with the hero as a normal person, we first saw Vers with The Krees, an intergalactic civilization.
The Krees are introduced as these intergalactic heroes who are at war with shape-shifting aliens called the Skrulls. Yon Rugg (Jude Law), Vers’ mentor, trains her to become a powerful fighter. During their training, Yon Rugg tells her that the key to becoming a good fighter is not through her photon-blasting fists, but through controlling her emotions.
On a rescue mission, Vers gets abducted by the Skrulls. Her memory gets invaded by these Skrulls while they seemingly and desperately seek for information that was in Vers’ mind. However, Vers was able to escape to planet C-53 or Earth, where she eventually meets young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and eventually learns her past identity as Carol Danvers.
Later on, we discover that Carol Danvers, an aspiring pilot, was once a stubborn child that didn’t listen to men who wanted to put her in her place.
Brie Larson’s portrayal of Captain Marvel not only exceeded cinematic storytelling standards but created a new one that fits the social context we live in today.
We used to have a battle cry that what men can do, women can do better. This means women can succeed for as long as they share typical “masculine” traits like being tough, abrasive, or even difficult. But what Captain Marvel proved is we, women, have nothing to prove or explain to anyone. We can simply just be as we tread along this life long process of self-discovery. This isn’t just some female superhero movie that was made because it was ‘long overdue.’ This film came at perfect timing with its socio-political undertones.
Apart from the feminist perspective, it has beautifully captured the essence of empathy towards people who may not share the same background or physical features. With the current political turmoil that the US and other populist countries face, this film is clearly a statement. In this universe, diversity has gone intergalactic.
Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel is now showing in PH Cinemas.