As I write this essay , the final trailer for “Avengers-Endgame” has been online for 24 hours and has already registered over 50 Million hits and will cross a billion hits in a few days. In the trailer, Captain Marvel (starring Oscar winner/whiz kid Brie Larson) makes a special appearance and is seen as the “swing factor” in the Avengers ensemble which has been reduced to a fourth of what it used to be in the battle with Thanos. There are already conspiracy theories in the pop culture universe that Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel will lead the retaliation against Thanos with the rest of the Avengers. So it’s important to understand her and her world through her film. The film has been strategically released a month before the “Avengers-Endgame” debut on 26th April, 2019.
So how do you create a “female superhero” in the boys business of Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther, Spiderman, Captain America? Sadly, in the licensing/merchandise/consumer products business there are very few female characters who have held the tent pole position. In fact, licensing professionals globally talk of super heroes as a “boys” business. Blame it on the way comics and superhero evolution or the eyeballs/box office revenues, The genre of superheroes is essentially dominated by men. Although a few exceptions like Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Catwoman are popular and there are pivotal characters like Jean Grey, Mystique in X-Men, the female superhero area except Wonder Woman (Box Office: $821 Million) haven’t really caught up with the audience.
“Captain Marvel” has been specially created as a strategic and heavily marketed vehicle to initiate a paradigm shift in the female superhero universe.
Who is she ?
Captain Marvel was created in 1967 by legend Stan Lee and Gene Colan. Born as Carol Danvers, a US Airforce pilot, she is a colleague of the Kree (a human resembling alien race) superhero called Mar-Vell. Her DNA gets fused in an explosion with Mar-Vell’s and she attains unique superhero capabilities. She has her world sorted out between the conflicts with the enemy force called Skrulls, aliens who are shapeshifters and can assume the identity of any human being after getting in contact with them. She has ever since evolved into different avatars in comics and is now played by Brie Larson in the motion picture. She is also the inspiration behind the creation of “The Avengers Initiative” as her pilot nickname in the US Airforce is Pilot Carol “Avenger” Danvers.
In the comic books she is seen as an ally of “The X Men” as well as “ The Avengers” making her as one of the most influential and strategically important Marvel characters in the MCU. Her looks in the comic books were inspired by the legendary human rights activist Gloria Steinem.
The Movie and its Plot
“Captain Marvel” is directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Sugar, Half Nelson). It stars Brie Larson as (Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel), Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury with “Two Eyes”, Jude law as “Yon-Rogg” Danvers’ senior Kree warrior, Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, a senior Skrull soldier who is in search of Danvers, Annette Benning as (Wendy Lawson/Mar-Vell). The story talks of the Kree fighting a war with the Skrulls and their tentpole fighter Vers (Danvers in Kree form) crash landing on Earth. On Earth Vers is identified and recruited by Nick Fury in the S.H.I.E.L.D force. Carol keeps searching for her origins as she has encounter clues on Earth that hint at her being a human being and not a Kree. As she finds the fact out , she develops a great bond with Fury who is seen as a mentor to her and also establishes contact with her flying partner Maria Rambeau. She also encounters serious patriarchy while she is being trained at Hala (the home planet of the Krees) and assists Talos in finding the Skrulls a new home as their planet is no longer inhabitable. She also turns as the Earth’s biggest defender with her unique powers. Before leaving for her interstellar duties she sets up a permanent communication link with Nick Fury and ends up being “The Very First Avenger”.
The World of Captain Marvel and its aesthetics
CM is set in the 1990’s America and the planet of Hala. Hala seems technically far more advanced with state of the art devices, technologies but has a very regressive hierarchy. The Earth on the other hand is a happy go lucky place with lesser threats as compared to today in the MCU films. Danvers lands on earth by crashing a Blockbuster video store signaling the world of Video Cassettes and DVDs. She picks up a copy of “The Right Stuff”, a film based on space travel made in the 1990’s. There is also a scene shot at a Radio Shack store. These are the essential 1980’s and 1990’s. The preferred communication devices in the film are what fury calls “State Of The Art Pagers”. Pagers which might seem primitive today are seen as a big technical advancement in the film. The pager is upgraded in the end for interstellar communication by Danvers and is seen being used by Fury at the end of “Avengers-Infinity War”.
The film uses a lot of female centric music by No Doubt, Nirvana to bring a feminist feel to the narrative. Danvers is seen kicking ass, roughing up the “superior male” opponent with gusto. It’s almost a set feature in the film as she even rescues Nick Fury from the hands of Talos when he is determined to beat the hell out of him. Carol has a deeply patriarchal relationship with Yon-Rogg who considers her as “the weaker sex” while training her. She also had a flying buddy in Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) who gives her emotional support as well. But the stand out relationship in the film is with Nick Fury. She discovers Earth, her family and survives an onslaught at the S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters with the help from Fury. He becomes her mentor and friend in the film. The other striking feature is that Danvers does not have a love interest as opposed to Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. This amplifies the narrative of the film giving her the clarity of thought to build her origin story.
Brie Larson gives a spirited performance as Captain Marvel. She gives an impression of a lead superhero who is looking for answers. She is powerful but she is human just like any other Stan Lee creation. Jude Law shines as Yonn-Rogg and Anette Benning as Mar-Vell delivers a nuanced and yet negative portrayal. And Samuel L Jackson adds more humour than ever to the role of Nick Fury.
I give the film a 6.5 out of 10 purely for its strategic value in the Avengers Universe and for the fact it’s a well made film which propels Marvel’s biggest female hero into the big league.