Prove your humanity

It has taken 11 years and 20 male-hero movies, but finally Captain Marvel, the first female-led Marvel movie has hit the screens. I didn’t think the wait time could ever possibly be justified.

Thankfully, it has turned out to be a great movie; Brie Larson kicks ass and the writing is hilarious.

It’s fun, it’s celebratory, and it’s empowering; it rises above the ridiculous controversy generated by the film world’s favourite critics—internet trolls. All because the main character is female, and naturally having a female hero is considered as shoving social justice and political correctness down our throats. It seems as though they don’t like that the lead, Brie Larson (Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel), speaks her mind when it comes to certain subjects, such as the bright white lack of diversity in the predominantly male press pool interviewing her. Most revoltingly of all, apparently  her character simply doesn’t smile enough, or “isn’t even sexy in the costume”. . Because we all know that’s what’s truly important when it comes to a superhero film.

Rant aside, Marvel takes us back to the 90s, with plenty of fun references to Game Boys, grunge, The Fresh Prince, Blockbuster, and the infuriatingly slow internet. The soundtrack—a punchy mix of classic Marvel scores and 90’s classics like Nirvana, Hole and No Doubt–is a perfect backdrop for battles, betrayals, and kicking butt.

And Carol Danvers doesn’t just kick butt, she blasts it out of the damn atmosphere. She owns her new, albeit controversial, title as the most powerful Marvel superhero to grace our screens. Trained as a member of the Kree’s military unit, Starforce, her mentor Yon-Roog (Jude Law) tries to teach her that her emotions should be kept in check if she wishes to defeat her enemies. A pretty powerful topic for a film with an evidently female soul, as it battles the question of whether emotions are a strength or a weakness, and illustrates the common perception that emotions are an inherently female flaw.

Throughout the film, Carol seeks to piece together who she is within her broken memories, and understand what fighting for the ‘right side’ really means. There are no drawn out flash backs or clunky expositions, we simply learn about her past at the same pace she does. Swarmed with questions, Carol crash-lands amidst the fantastic throwback that is mid-90s Earth to meet a much younger, two-eyed, and all-round happier Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The two form an unlikely and witty duo, with a 41-year age gap and nothing in common except a strong sense of justice and mutual respect. At last, we are gifted a heavily guarded glimpse into Fury’s backstory.

Before the eye patch and the jaded sarcasm, there was a smiley S.H.I.E.L.D agent who sang while washing dishes and cooed at cats. “I’m gonna give you all the love and hugs you need,” was never a line I expected to hear from a tough and guarded, ‘I’m too old for this shit’, Nick Fury. And we finally learn the story behind the iconic eye-patch – it’s far better than you could ever imagine.

The villains Fury and Carol fight together are shapeshifting extra-terrestrials called Skrulls, bent on infiltrating and destroying planets, and are currently on the hunt for a new superweapon. Unlike Fury, their leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), is terrified of cats and is surprisingly casual when conversing with the enemy. He also has a fantastic Aussie accent that makes every line he’s given absolute comedy gold.

The banter between good and evil, as great as it is, often allows the viewer to forget the high stakes of the film. An intergalactic war is raging, and the villains are about to get their hands on the ultimate weapon. The entire premise of the film and Captain Marvel’s true purpose is encapsulated in one powerful line: “We don’t fight wars, we end them,” which involuntarily/amusingly makes me think of the famous line from Disney’s animated Aristocats: “Ladies don’t start fights, but they can finish them.”

With such a powerful sentiment, despite internal struggles and her search for answers, Captain Marvel portrays a confidence and a capability that showcases her strength. She’s not concerned with catering to the comfort and cravings of many male fans; she’s too focused on rising to her full potential and whipping out bare-footed martial arts moves that would make the Marvel boy’s club sweat.

However, Larson doesn’t want the sex of her character to be a factor, and for the film to just be what it is, a film about a superhero. She is right, it shouldn’t have to be a factor, but considering we haven’t had a female-led film in the Marvel universe until now, I think it’s okay to celebrate this moment as signifying the first of a hopefully much more equal universe, much like the one we aim to create in our own world.

All in all, Captain Marvel is a story of empowerment and courage. It advocates for not allowing anyone to control the power you possess and for embracing your more human or ‘flawed’ qualities. It may be a little heavy-handed in its execution, and may not be as conventionally thrilling as other Marvel films, but when I think of the kids that will benefit from watching this movie, its strengths far outweigh its flaws. In the words of Weniel Ma, “If young girls can grow up identifying with this insanely powerful female hero, then how can anyone really argue with that?”

Captain Marvel is out in selected Perth cinemas now!