Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel is here. The first Marvel movie with a female lead, proudly following in Wonder Woman’s footsteps (Wonder Woman is a DC Comics movie). Let’s have a look.

The Story

Six years ago, Vers, a member of the Kree Starforce, lost her memory in a mysterious event. Now, she’s recovered from her ordeal and has almost mastered the powers given to her by the Kree Supreme Intelligence, an AI guiding the Kree.

The Kree are at war with the Skrulls, a race of shapeshifters that are trying to take over planets of the Kree. The Supreme Intelligence sends Vers on a mission to save a Kree operative from the Skrulls. The mission fails and the Skrulls capture Vers. They take her to a planet, C-53, where the Skrulls are looking for something related to Vers her memory loss.

Vers escapes, and it turns out that C-53 is Earth and the time is the mid-nineties, where she meets a young Nick Fury, secret agent of SHIELD. Things escalate from there.

The story has a lot in common with other hero origin stories, but I mostly think it mirrors Captain America’s with some twists. Both Captain America and Captain Marvel are people who want to do good, end up with the power to do so, but are held back by their self-doubt and surroundings. In other ways the stories are quite different, but this core is the same. Contrast this to Iron Man’s, Thor’s, and Dr. Strange’s origins, characters that were all selfish and arrogant, and needed to be brought low to become their heroic selves.

The Characters

Vers, played by Brie Larson, is destined to become Captain Marvel. This movie is her origin story. She has to learn to control her temper and overcome the self-doubt instilled in her by her (male) peers if she wishes to succeed. Part of the tension comes from the mystery surrounding her past.

Nick Fury, played by a CGI-youthened Samuel L. Jackson, is a cocky secret agent. Experienced, but not the master spy he is in (chronologically) later movies. He learns that the marvel universe is more dangerous than it seemed and that he can find help in the strangest of places.

Talos is the Skrull leader, played by Ben Mendelsohn, whose goal is to find something that is shrouded by Vers memories. I can’t go into his character without some serious spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that.

Then there’s Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Vers’s mentor and the leader of her Starforce unit. From the start its clear his mentoring isn’t always best for Vers. And again, let me avoid spoilers.

All in all a varied and competent cast. Nick Fury is always interesting to see, and Brie Larson did a bang up job. It helps that we’ve seen a dozen testosterone-filled Marvel movies, and this one is something fresh.

Some remarks on social context

Brie Larson threw down a gauntlet when she publicly declared she “didn’t need a 40-year-old white dude to tell her what didn’t work about ‘A Wrinkle in Time’.” She referred to the underrepresentation of women and people of color among movie reviewers.

So, of course, calls for a boycott followed, as did several conspiracy theories, and claims that Larson is ruining the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The only reply I have to that is ‘seriously?’. Of the 21 Marvel movies, it is the only one with a female lead. Fifteen have a male lead, and only five are mixed. And one could question if Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers are really mixed, given the male-female ratio is still abysmal.

Yeah, Captain Marvel has feminist undertones, but Iron man and Captain America have ‘traditional white male’ undertones and nobody ever bitched about that, did they? There’s fifteen movies with male leads, why go out of your way to boycott Captain Marvel?

I like diversity in movies. I liked Black Panther and Captain Marvel better than the last two Iron Man movies and Avengers 2, in part because it wasn’t another white guy with an origin story.

The fact is, the movie has some feminist undertones, and yes, they are a bit on-the-nose, but they’re still undertones unless you really can’t deal with a superhero movie with a female lead. In which case I say, ‘go f*ck yourself’, I want a variety of movies to watch and I liked Captain Marvel.

In closing

Captain Marvel isn’t the best movie in the world. It’s not the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe either, I feel, but it’s somewhere in the top ten, maybe even the top five.

If you like superhero movies, then you should go watch this one.

Author: Martin Stellinga

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands