by The Collected Mutineer
What makes a superhero a superhero? We think about this often. We ask each other what superpower we would want—flight, invisibility, super strength, and so on. What incredible, otherworldly power would make us better than we are?
Yes, winning epic battles against terrible forces is much easier if you have super suits and alien tech and god-like abilities. But true strength is revealed in what heroes do without their powers. Like Steve Rogers before the serum, or Thor banished from Asgard, Captain Marvel, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, shows us that you can be a hero all on your own. After all, it’s not how often you fall down, but how often you get up that matters.
**This review is relatively spoiler-free.**
In a slightly different origin story than what is presented in the comic universe, audiences are introduced to the character of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) through the eyes of a woman who doesn’t remember her past. In 1995, “Vers” believes she is part of the Kree Empire Starforce. On a mission against enemy Skrulls, she is captured and subjected to a mind probe where she experiences strange visions of a different planet and sees the same people that she’s been having nightmares about back on Hala—primarily a woman called Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening), who appears to have tech that the Skrulls are desperate for. Vers escapes from their ship only to find herself on Earth, where she attracts the attention of SHIELD.
Enter Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, with both functioning eyes). Despite the odds, they find themselves teaming up in order to uncover the truth about Dr. Lawson, the history between the Kree and the Skrulls, and Vers’ own life before the Kree Empire took her as one of their own. Their actions lead Vers to learn about her true identity as Carol, reconnect with her old friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), and tap into her powers that the Kree had attempted to suppress. And it’s all set against a backdrop of glorious 90s music, badass special effects, and an amazing supporting role by Goose the Cat. Winning? Winning.
To some viewers, the film is probably just an origin story before Carol joins the Avengers in the upcoming Endgame. But for many women in the audience, the movie is about far more than how Carol became Captain Marvel. It’s about what it means to be a girl. As a child, Carol fails over and over at various activities like baseball and racing. As a young adult in boot camp, Carol is laughed at by her male peers for not having the same strength that they possess. And as a member of Starforce, she encounters more of the same— Yon-Rogg, her mentor and commander played by Jude Law, challenges her powers and taunts that she would be nothing without them. In words that we’ve all heard from the men in our lives, he orders that she prove herself to him. In other films this encounter would have resulted in a drawn-out fight scene. But what does Carol do? She punches him in the face and that’s that.
None of us—not Carol, not me, and not you—need to prove ourselves to anyone else. Before Carol had her powers, she proved herself to HERSELF. She got up again, and again, and again in every way that matters. The powers she gained completely by accident have nothing to do with the strengths she already had on her own: kindness, resilience, ingenuity, and so much more. Being “just a girl” is enough. She didn’t owe Yon-Rogg anything. She doesn’t owe any man anything.
In 2017, DC’s Wonder Woman showed us that YES representation matters and that YES a female-led superhero film can do well at the box office. It’s two years later now, and we don’t need a repeat—we need to go (dare I say) higher, further, and faster. We need a film that makes us emotional for different reasons, that shows us the next step on our continuing journey. For me, Captain Marvel is that film. It checked all the boxes to make me feel not just empowered, but good enough the way I already am.
And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want an epic fight scene with No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl” playing in the background? Trust me, you need this in your life.
Captain Marvel is now playing.
P.S. Stay for the two post credits scenes, obviously. We know the drill by now.
P.P.S. Take tissues for the opening Marvel fanfare. Trust me.