There is a bit of debate at the moment whether the movie market is too over saturated with Superhero films. If this particular genre, so controlled by big Studio’s like Disney, and Fox, and Warner Bro’s, is somehow deafening the independent stories that film was once heralded for being able to tell? If it’s drowning out the voices that are consistently left out of the bigger picture? But I believe that superhero films have not only come into their own as a genre, but are now redefining what that genre means to wider society.
My proof? Captain Marvel.
What Black Panther did for people of colour, Captain Marvel has done for women and although it has taken a long time to get to here, the point is, we have. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck this is the first marvel movie to have a woman at the helm, both in front and behind the camera. The story was also written by the duo and whilst it holds onto certain cliche plot points like learning to control ones powers, picking a side, and a kick-ass climax, its really the subtext that makes the film pop.
There is an overall theme of getting knocked down and getting back up again. And before you say, “but that’s totally a cliche part of the heroes journey too!” This time there’s a feminine twist. In Captain Marvel it’s not about just getting knocked down psychically. It’s a consistent berating by sexist comments, being told your can’t do it because you’re a girl, that you will never be strong enough due to your gender, that you need to control your emotions. And this theme runs consistently through Carol’s (Brie Larson) journey.
That’s why when we reach the getting back up moment of the film it is much more powerful, especially for the females in the audience. It reminded me of the scene in Wonder Woman where she walks out into No Man’s Land (nudge nudge wink wink) blocking bullets with her wrists. It’s the same empowered moment of standing up and shaking off everyone that ever said no.
Carol Denvers is also a strong woman even before she gets her powers, so the concept of power in this film stands for more than just flashy hands. And although watching her take down and entire spaceship fleet single handed was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in cinema this year, the power ultimately is her inner strength and she has nothing to prove to anyone.
The female characters in this film speak volumes of how much the superhero genre has progressed since the first Iron Man in 2008. There’s obviously Carol Denvers brought to life with heart and spunk by Brie Larson, A badass Kree sniper with attitude played by Gemma Chan, and an independent and intelligent single mother pilot played by Lashana Lynch. Each one of these women has their own traits and personality and never once are objectified or just put in a scene as a token gesture. They are also diverse, which is something really refreshing to see in the world of blockbuster film.
Lynch’s daughter in the film is also a powerhouse at just 11 years old asking her mother what kind of example she would be setting for her daughter by rejecting the offer to join the final dangerous mission to stay at home and keep her safe. Initially it seems the perfectly natural thing to do, but the subtext of this scene reflects on the mothers that have put their goals (Careers) on hold in order to be the stay-at-home mum. This informs the behaviour of their children of what they should do when they have kids, and so on and on it goes. Leaving her daughter behind to fly into space my seem irresponsible by older standards, but what its really showing is that its okay to follow that dream because by achieving it you are setting a better example for the women who come after you.
You may be wondering why I haven’t really spoken about the “film” aspects of Captain Marvel in this review, and too be honest I don’t think I need too. Marvel has their formula pretty set. The film making is high quality and the effects are always impressive, even if at times you can see the story twist before it comes. The blockbuster market gets the biggest say in how society is represented in the media and Captain Marvel is the feminist manifesto of a superhero film that the world needed right now. I feel that this is far more important to be talking about. Yes, the film was entertaining, it had great action sequences, a nostalgic 90’s grunge soundtrack, and lots of Marvel easter eggs for the hardcore fans, plus it was empowering for women.
See…it’s really not that hard.