I went into Captain Marvel with pretty high expectations. While I felt the marketing Marvel did for the film was subpar, this was still the Marvel movie I was most excited about this year. It was also the one I had the highest expectations for. Yes, I will be in line for Avengers: Endgame with everyone else, ready to see how the first generation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes to an end. But Captain Marvel’s the movie I was waiting for. With that in mind, I wanted to talk a little bit about the film (no spoilers) but also about the MCU in general After my first (and second) viewing of the film, I found myself contemplating how Carol Danvers was brought to life on the big screen and also what the future of the MCU will look like with her and Black Panther at the fore.
To begin, Captain Marvel follows Vers (Brie Larson), a Kree solider with no memory of her life prior to six years ago, as she fights alongside Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Korath (Djimon Hounsou), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan), Bron-Char (Rune Temte), and Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), to protect their intergalactic empire’s borders from shapeshifting alien terrorists known as Skrulls. When the hunt for Skrull leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and his army takes Vers to Earth, her memory begins to return in increasingly larger flashes. Alongside S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and retired Air Force pilot Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) – who remembers Vers as her best friend and fellow Air Force pilot Carol Danvers – she seeks the truth amidst two alien races ready to go to war.
So why is this the Marvel movie I’m most excited for this year? Well, in part, it’s because Avengers: Infinity War left me less than impressed, affecting my feelings going into Avengers: Endgame. Similarly, Spider-Man: Homecoming was meh for me, feeling more like a story about Iron Man Jr. than Spider-Man, affecting my excitement for Spider-Man: Far From Home. But Captain Marvel?! Captain Marvel has become quite an important character to me. She was one of the single biggest things to happen to the world of comics while I was away from them and one of the first characters I wanted to meet upon my return. She’s this brilliant new comic love of mine! So her movie, well most of the MCU thus far has featured characters I grew up loving. Guardians Of The Galaxy featured characters (save Gamora and Drax) who I’d never seen before. It was a world I’d never seen. But Carol Danvers was the first character I met exclusively since returning to reading comic books that I now got to see adapted for life on the big screen. So this make this movie feel extra special for me.
Also Captain Marvel is an important film for Marvel Studios, as it’s their first film starring a solo female superhero. It’s a sin it’s taken them over ten years to do this (especially when Scarlett Johansson should have been starring in her own solo Black Widow series no later than 2013 after Avengers came out (and honestly she should have had her own solo show after 2010’s Iron Man 2)). While Marvel’s been dragging their feet on letting their female heroes take center stage, DC beat them to the punch and then blew them out of the water with 2016’s awe-inspiring, genre-redefining Wonder Woman, a film that’s better than almost anything the MCU’s ever done. Their best entries – 2012’s Avengers, 2018’s Black Panther, 2008’s inaugural Iron Man – stand shoulder to shoulder with Wonder Woman in their quality but I’d be hard pressed to say any clearly surpass it.
Given the fact that Marvel doubted their female characters’ ability to carry a film on their own for over a decade AND the fact that DC got there first with one of the greatest films the genre’s ever seen, Captain Marvel becomes extra important for Marvel Studios. How would they do, now that they’re allowing one of their female characters to shine all on her own?
I adored the film! As soon as I left, I started thinking about when I could see it again. I will admit, the first third of the film was good-not-great for me. Now, this doesn’t mean it wasn’t a lot of fun. But it was par for the course with the other entries in the MCU. And Carol Danvers isn’t par for the course! She deserves more than that! As soon as the film hit it’s stride though, it elevated itself (going higher, further, faster if you will 🙂 ) above the Marvel pack. I felt they did a magnificent job honoring Carol’s character – getting around the “Superman problem” (a character being so powerful there’s no threat they can’t conceivably defeat) just as they do it in the comics (although it’s unclear if she’s as powerful in the film as the comics). Despite a power level that puts her in the class of Krypton’s last son, Carol Danvers is a fully human character. As such, she can’t do anything on her own because we can’t.
Human beings are social creatures! We need those around us to give us strength when we need it and help us up when we fall. No matter how super you are, if you’re human you still need this. And the film gives us a Carol Danvers who is fully human. Despite rippling energy blasts (visually the coolest and most unique power the MCU’s delivered since Doctor Strange’s spellcasting) and a badass confidence that makes you believe she could punch a god into the sun, Carol – played perfectly by Brie Larson – never loses her humanity. No human being, no matter how strong, can carry everything on their own. We need each other. We live, we love, we grow in community. We aren’t made for isolation. That’s they only way it works. So no matter how strong she is, Carol needs Maria, Maria’s daughter Monica (Akira Akbar), Fury, and even the cat Goose because she’s human. Her real strength, her real power, is anchored in her humanity. Captain Marvel does an excellent job highlighting all of this, situating itself in so doing alongside some of Carol Danvers’ best comic storylines.
But as I said above, it wasn’t just this movie I was thinking about on my drive home Thursday night or in the days (and second screening on Saturday) that followed. Rather, I found myself thinking of how Captain Marvel represents the future. No matter what happens in Avengers: Endgame, I can’t imagine a future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe where T’Challa and Carol Danvers aren’t the center of the story. Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, and Steve Rogers have carried us for a decade but it’s time for these new heroes to take us forward.
I see the Black Panther as the heart of the Avengers (or whatever team rises up in the wake of the final battle with Thanos). As the leader of Wakanda, it makes sense for T’Challa to be a primarily Earth-bound hero. But Captain Marvel? I can see her anywhere. Watching Brie Larson deliver Carol Danvers’ first adventure in the MCU – an adventure that obviously included Earth alongside alien planets – I saw how easily Captain Marvel can do it all. I’ve written before about how I’d like to see Carol protecting Earth via an orbital space station with Alpha Flight as she does in the comics. I’ve also written about how I can see her being part of a cinematic Infinity Watch, should the Infinity Stones survive Avengers: Endgame and should Marvel Studios decide to leave the Guardians adventures at an end, without James Gunn. I can still see either of those options playing out. But now I can see so much more.
I can see Carol co-leading the Avengers alongside T’Challa, the Natasha to his Steve (Shuri would obviously take over Tony’s role – “I just design everything…and make everyone look cooler”). But for the first time I also saw a future for the Guardians of the Galaxy outside of James Gunn. I’d presumed that franchise was done, the feel of those films being so intimately tied to Gunn’s imagination and vision that even some of the Guardians scenes in Avengers: Infinity War felt…off with the Russos hand on the steering wheel. But what if the Guardians continue forward in a very different way after Avengers: Endgame? In the comics, the Guardians of the Galaxy are a team with an ever-shifting roster, like the Avengers or the X-Men. In fact, we never see a team exclusively featuring the five original Guardians from the film until Gerry Duggan took over the title in 2017 and made the comic mirror the film.
So if the Guardians could have very different rosters with very different feels under Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and then with Brian Michael Bendis, why couldn’t the film take the team along another route too? As I watched Captain Marvel and as I thought about it after it was over, I kept imagining Carol leading a new iteration of the Guardians after the war with Thanos concludes. I see Carol, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and a few new members assembling to protect the cosmos. Maybe Nova? Maybe Nebula? Maybe Thor? Maybe they go way out there and give us another Thor in Beta Rey Bill. Who knows?? But for the first time since James Gunn left, more Guardians stories feel like a real possibility. And Captain Marvel was part of the Guardians during Bendis’ tenure already anyway!
One of the most exciting things Captain Marvel did was spark my imagination for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I can see so many different paths unfolding in my mind and I can see Carol Danvers as the center of them all. I can see her doing anything. Solo hero, Earth-bound team, cosmic team – I can imagine Carol at the forefront of all of it. No matter which direction the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes, with the arrival of Captain Marvel they’ve given us a hero who can lead the way. And that is certainly a feat worthy of Earth’s mightiest hero.
Still want to read about Captain Marvel? You’re in luck!
“MCU Phase Four? Bring on Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight” looks at making Carol and her command of the Alpha Flight space station, as Earth’s first line of defense against alien threats, a centerpiece of the next phase of MCU stories.
“Could the Infinity Watch Join the MCU’s Phase Four?!?” looks at what could happen should the Infinity Stones survive Avengers: Endgame and a new team of cosmic superheroes is assembled to guard the stones.
“Make Mine Captain Marvel” is my 200th post and it’s a celebration of Captain Marvel’s character and how much I’ve come to love her comics.