Film Review: Captain Marvel

“Captain Marvel” presents a unique perspective on the meaning of strength and redefines the role of emotion as it pertains to heroism.

Marvel Studios’ latest addition to its superhero lineup, “Captain Marvel,” packs a calculated punch with its subtle and satisfying handling of themes such as gender and systematic oppression. The film takes place in the ’90s and tells the origin story of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), beginning with her time as a Kree soldier on the alien planet of Hala, where she is known as Vers. There, she possesses incredible powers that allow her to shoot photon rays from her hands, a quality that her superior officer, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), insists she must learn to control. However, when a mission goes wrong, she finds herself stranded on Earth without guidance, all the while uncovering shadowy fragments of incomplete memories hidden in her mind. In an effort to uncover her past, Vers teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and the pair set off in pursuit of intergalactic peace.

This highly anticipated film arrives at the end of the tense, year-long aftermath of “Avengers: Infinity War,” and only a month before its sequel, “Avengers: Endgame,” set to release this April. Captain Marvel’s presence is alluded to at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War,” but this film takes place years before, uncovering the backstories of numerous mysteries of the Marvelverse including (but not limited to) how Nick Fury lost his left eye and clues pertaining to the establishment of the Avengers. These smaller details might pass unnoticed to the unversed eye, but there are plenty of features that Marvel fans will recognize, including two post-credit scenes. In fact, these small additions to the collective Marvelverse knowledge are what fans seem especially excited about.

And yet, the film was released amid a cloud of controversy. In the months leading up to its release, the film gained an unprecedented amount of criticism due to lead actress Brie Larson’s outspoken advocacy for feminism. Many male netizens were upset that the Marvelverse, a highly male-centric territory, would soon be infiltrated by an incredibly powerful lead female protagonist, especially one portrayed by an actress who believes in gender equity. As a result, the film’s “Want to See Rating” on Rotten Tomatoes took a hit. Nevertheless, the cast has released statements reflecting their indifference to these negative comments, choosing instead to use the controversy as a platform for a message that the film ironically mirrors: female strength and resilience.

Captain Marvel is lauded as one of Marvel’s most powerful superheroes, so it is unsurprising that the film should focus on the origins of her incredible skills. Throughout the film, the audience witnesses her inexplicable ability to effortlessly take down enemies. However, in the end, Captain Marvel’s true powers boil down to her emotional will, empathy, and her resolve to get up each time she is knocked down. Without question, the most enticing aspect of the film presides in this message of emotional investment as a necessary motivator of strength, not an inhibitor.

Some may say that Captain Marvel’s unstoppable powers allow her to succeed unchallenged, or that the film lacks the volume of hand-to-hand combat scenes we might expect from a Marvel film. However, it isn’t that Captain Marvel lacks obstacles, but rather that her struggles are rooted in the fact that others expect her to fail, an aspect that many, especially women, will undoubtedly find relatable. Still, she refuses to validate these sentiments of failure and, ever so humanly, chooses to keep going, no matter the barriers, societal or physical, that may stand in her way. “Captain Marvel” emerges as an unstoppable modern force that marks the foray into more diverse understandings of the hero archetype.

Grade: A
Release Date: March 8, 2019
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law
Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Rated: PG-13

Image courtesy of IMDB.

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