Directed by: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law
The MCU has been building to this moment. Surprisingly on the heels of DC for the first time, probably ever, Marvel have released their first film featuring a female superhero and the release was timed perfectly with International Women’s Day. Carol Danvers, the titular half-Kree, half-human hero, is just what the MCU needs and just who the Avengers need to take the big purple Titan, Thanos, down.
Unlike DC’s Wonder Woman, Marvel failed to give Carol her proper and deserved first outing. Instead, they made Captain Marvel as much of Nick Fury’s origin story as it was Carol’s and that’s where the film lacked. Where Wonder Woman was all Diana’s story with some Steve Trevor thrown in for good measure, Carol was sidelined in her story by much more interesting side characters including Yon-Rogg (Law), Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), though Coulson had a diminished—though highly important—role in the film.
Vers (Larson) is a Kree warrior who is haunted by memories. She is told to harness her emotions by Yon-Rogg because if she doesn’t she won’t be able to be the warrior she needs to be. She is begrudgingly added to Star Force on Hala to fight against the Skrulls, aliens who can shapeshift down to the DNA level. When Talos captures Vers, he digs in her head to uncover the whereabouts of Bening’s character, a woman named Wendy Lawson who is the head of Project Pegasus on Earth.
Talos’ digging kickstarts Vers on her journey to discover her true identity as Carol Danvers, a woman from Earth who is strong, powerful, incredibly human, and wonderfully kind. Along the way, she meets SHIELD and forms a relationship with Fury and reconnects with her best friend, the amazing and tough Maria Rambeau.
The thing that sidelines Carol in her own story is what sets up her story, to begin with. Her amnesia and her search for answers were interesting but, in many ways, Carol felt like a side character in what was supposed to be her big reveal.
Fury and Talos and even Yon-Rogg were key players, all men, of course, in a way that Carol wasn’t. Without Talos, Carol might have never realized how terrible the Kree were. Without Fury, she might have never found the answers she was looking for. Without Yon-Rogg, Carol might not be alive to be badass.
Here is a woman of incredible power who is “made” by all of these male side characters. Only toward the end, does Carol become the hero she needs to be and does Captain Marvel become the movie it needed to be.
It is worthwhile to note that on Earth before she became half-Kree, Carol was a warrior in her own right. She stood up when others tried to knock her down and she did many things that women weren’t “supposed” to do. She had a beautiful friendship with Maria and the two kicked ass when others told them no. It’s Maria’s proper introduction in the movie and Carol’s returned memories that makes the film finally click. Once Carol is no longer fighting with a hand tied behind her back, the audience (and Carol) sees her empowerment flame to life which she immediately and wholeheartedly embraces. This empowerment happens with about 45 minutes left of the film.
With the amnesia gone, Larson and Carol can have more fun and it’s made obvious very quickly that Larson struggled against the first two-thirds of the film and the limitations of the script and the character. When she’s finally let loose, Larson becomes Carol and for the audience, it’s a delight. The final fight in the film is a bombastic joyride that gives us a glimpse of exactly who Carol is and how she will help the Avengers defeat Thanos.
Carol is the lynchpin of the MCU. No spoilers, but the final moments of the film show just how important she is, and it makes me wonder why we didn’t get her story sooner.
Captain Marvel is still a treat despite its treatment of Carol. The film is hilarious. Jackson is still on the top of his game as Fury. Coulson’s inclusion is tiny, as mentioned, but we understand why Fury went through what he did to bring Coulson back after The Avengers. There’s a trust between these two characters and when there’s a sequel to Captain Marvel, here’s to hoping it’ll be set in a time before The Avengers, so we get more of Fury and Coulson teaming up. Here’s to hoping that a sequel will also give Carol a story that doesn’t put her on the sidelines and develops her character with a script that puts her front and center where she belongs and where she’ll truly thrive.
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