Caution: spoilers below!
Buckle up boys, the girls are taking over! That’s right: on International Women’s Day, Marvel released the one, the only Captain Marvel. This will not be a review, but rather a reflection on what I took from the film and how it affected me personally. That being said, for all you who haven’t somehow seen it, buckle up and go see it now! For those who have already seen it, go see it again!
What I have discovered from my own viewing experience is that Captain Marvel is a movie that you need to rewatch to truly appreciate. When I first saw it in theaters, I sat there, not quit able to determine how I felt about Vers, aka Captain Marvel. The movie was set up as a prequel, so the audience, if they were up to date on the Marvel franchise, already recognized certain details and elements that in a lot of ways took the suspense out of the plot. The design of the movie was meant to highlight how Vers got her powers. We see her struggling to control her emotions as the Kree, the primary race of the planet Hala, keep reminding her that she needs to keep her emotions in check if she wants to see any action.
Due to the subdued nature of Vers’s character, I was left feeling unsatisfied in my first watch. Usually after watching Marvel films, I sit down with my own personal Marvel expert, being my father, who has raised me on these films. When we both saw it for the first time, we both were unsure about Vers and how she developed throughout the narrative. There seem to be something lacking about her, but after round two of viewing, I was really able find the depth in her story. I was able to, finally, really enjoy her character.
On watch two, I started picking up the beautiful nuances of Vers’s, or Captain Marvel’s, characterization. Vers had this sort of carefree attitude about her, even in the heat of battle– cracking a smile or making a witty remark. She would walk into a situation with confidence, knowing she was a power house, but she didn’t use her title or power to get her way.
She was a leader, like Captain America. And that, in itself, is where I think people get turned off by the character. People have this expectation that she will be a carbon copy of Steve Rogers: the man, the myth, the supersoldier.
The primary difference that I’ve identified is that Steve Rogers wanted to become a hero. He got dirty and fought side by side with his fellow soldiers in World War II. When superior officers tried to hold him back, he ignored them and stormed into battle to save his best friend. My dad kept pointing out that Vers wasn’t like Steve in this regard. She listened to the people who held her back and didn’t rebel like Captain America.
What I was quick to tell my father is that Vers was conditioned to hold back. In order to see the action she wanted, she was forced to listen to the Kree. There was no bending or breaking the rules. They had manipulated her into thinking that her powers where a gift from the Kree and that they could be taken away, so she remained obedient. Even Vers’s mentor and only friend told her to remain under the thumb of her superiors.
So let me ask you, What would you do if, in order to be like everyone else, you had to hold yourself back?
I asked my dad this question and he said he wasn’t sure, and that’s ok. I’m not 100 percent sure myself. But if I was being honest, I suspect that I would hold myself back just like her, because she truly believed in the Kree and in what they were doing.
The thing is, all Vers ever wanted was to help others. Despite having little knowledge of her past, she followed orders to a T, hoping that she could make some kind of positive change in the universe. Once she learned of the Kree’s true evil nature, she didn’t hesitate in switching sides– in turning around and fighting back against those who stole her life and manipulated her memories. It didn’t matter that they had ben her only friends, her only family, for years on end. She fought for what was right.
Vers was no more. Captain Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, had arrived.
As I was watching the film for the second time, I found myself crying at a number of scenes that had originally left me with dry eyes. Whenever bits of Carol’s past were shown on-screen, my eyes would water. She was always shown being told to slow down– as a child and in the Air Force. The men that surrounded her doubted her ability even after she had, for all intents and purposes, proven herself. One guy in the film was even bold enough to ask her, “You know why they call it a cockpit, right?” But those comments didn’t stop her from getting back up, from pushing past the challenges in her life.
It was the scene where the Supreme Intelligence tells her she is only human, however, that really struck me. Because Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, is human. But the thing is, she was a hero way before she could shoot photon blasts from her fists. Even when pushed to the ground again and again, she got back up again and brushed the dirt from her knees.
“I’ve been fighting with one arm tied behind my back, but what happens when I’m finally set free?”
That was the moment she became not just a hero, but a superhero. The realization that she wasn’t Kree, but rather human, was just another moment of falling and standing up once more. She allowed herself to be wild, to be messy, to be emotional and outrageous, and that’s what ended up winning the battle for the good guys.
Carol Danvers is not Steve Rogers. They are two different types of heroes, and two different types of people. Yet they are both human, and they both made difficult choices. They wanted to serve for the greater good, but they both got a bit lost along the way.
Captian America is one of my favorite heroes because I got to watch a boy become a man and a man become a soldier for his country. He was the leader the Avengers needed before Infinity War– someone who was willing to stand with his friends and sacrifice himself for the world, but now, the Avengers need Captain Marvel. They failed in Infinity War. They lost– they fell down. It’s Captain Marvel’s job to help them stand up again.
By Maggie Christianson