Captain Marvel: The Missing Piece for the Marvel Universe Lore and the Representation of Female Empowerment (A Movie Review)

Valerie Arias, Writer

(Quick Note: There will be a lot of spoilers, so be warned before proceeding!)

March 8, 2019 marked the release date of the latest Marvel Universe film, Captain Marvel, a movie that tells of a woman named Vers (other known as Carol Danvers and Captain Marvel, but I shall be referring to her as “Vers” for the time being for accuracy) and her struggle to find out who she really is. The film follows the journey of Vers (played by Brie Larson) as she is exposed to memories of her past life, and uses these clues to find out more about herself and her powers.  At the current moment, the film has made a staggering 215 million dollars at the Box Office, and has been praised as a feminist film showing female empowerment through its powerful female lead that overcomes her trials and moments of discouragement by remaining stronger and fighting harder. Captain Marvel (Vers or Carol, whatever one chooses to call her) is a media icon that shows little girls that they, too, can reach for the stars and go “Higher, Further, Faster”.

The film is set in the 1990s, approximately 20 years before the current time of the Avengers: Infinity War film. Vers, a girl living in the world of Kree (a technologically advanced planet full of a powerful “intelligence”, works as a warrior for the Kree in the war against the Skrulls. She often has nightmares that she cannot seem to explain, and result in her being exhausted. On a mission for the Kree against the Skrulls, Vers is hurt by a Skrull and taken into a lab where tests are performed on her. They hook her up to a machine that is able to access her memories, and there she sees small glimpses of memories of a past life. When she breaks free, she runs off and refuses to believe that what she was shown was fake, and whilst escaping, ends up on Earth.

While on Earth, Vers notifies her Kree comrades on her whereabouts, and whilst waiting for their arrival, takes it upon herself to confirm if the memories are true. Through the help of Nick Fury, a secret agent, Vers is able to use the small memories she has to uncover her real name, occupation, and her best friend, but also the truth of the Kree vs Skrull war.

Representation is shown often through the movie, starting from when Vers gets insulted by a man of the Air Force in a flashback. In the scene, the man looks at Carol Danvers with uninterest as he proclaims “there’s a reason why they call it the cockpit”, showing the discrimination that women face joining the Airforce. Multiple men approach Carol in her lifetime at the military to let her know that she should not be allowed to fly, with the only two people to give her support being from the scientist Dr. Lawson and her best friend, Maria Rambeau. Dr. Lawson provides both Carol and Maria the opportunity to fly planes, and help in the Air Force, an opportunity that other military instructors and their male colleagues would have disapproved.

Unfortunately, an incident would occur that would result in the death of Dr. Lawson and the supposed death of Carol, as their plane crashes due to Kree interference. Carol would later come to learn that this was the place where she obtained her powers, for part of the tesseract was absorbed by her and granted her the powers she has today.

Female empowerment is not limited to just the protagonist, though, as her best friend has her own brave story. She is an independent, single mother that was able to raise her daughter, Monica, through the assistance of Carol. After Carol’s supposed “death” (which will be explained later), Maria ensures that Carol’s belongings are kept safely, and becomes extremely shocked when she sees that her partner is alive. Together, they decide to go to a Skrull area to join Talos (a Skrull) in the battle against the Kree seeking to kill them. Both girls show immense power, as Maria fights multiple enemies in order to protect Carol, and Carol uses her powers to protect the tesseract. They fight to protect the world together, as they had once done in the Air Force, without paying mind to the male figures that attempted to discourage them in the past.

Throughout the movie, recurrent memories are shown to the viewer of Carol’s past; they contain multiple scenes of Carol falling down onto the ground  multiple instances in her life. The first scene is shown in her childhood, crashing her go-kart and getting an injury. The second time is shown when she is playing softball and falls onto the ground. The last two are shown when she falls during her military training, and when she lays helpless upon the impact of the blow from the incident. Time and time again, these scenes are used to express the hopelessness that Carol had felt in the moments where she failed. Moments where she felt that she should have given up.

Towards the end of the movie, Carol realizes that her longtime friend in the Kree Intergalactic Force, Yon-Rogg, is actually evil and was behind the incident that had killed Dr. Lawson. When Vers had been with the Kree, she saw Yon-Rogg as an older brother that would help her train. He would caution her against using her “full power”, for it only made her weaker. In Captain Marvel, Carol’s experience with Yon-Rogg and him holding her back show the oppression placed onto women by those who want to feel superior to them. When Carol unleashes her true powers that she had been holding back because of him, the iconic line “I’ve been fighting with one arm behind my back. What happens when I’m finally set free?” is said, showing how long she had been holding back due to oppression about her gender. The scene then cuts to the flashbacks to the moments where she had fallen, but now she stands, rising and ready to continue going. This perseverance is what many little girls need to see; in order to know that one should never give up and that they can still continue fighting.

Upon seeing Carol’s transformation into Captain Marvel, Yon-Rogg responds with “I am so proud of you”. He said this to make her feel weaker, to make her happy that she had finally received his approval, and he tells her to stop using her powers so they would fight a fair battle. Marvel pulls an unexpected move in this scene. In prior movies, superheroes would not use their powers to give their opponent an “equal” fight. Carol knew that she would have lost against him had she not used her powers due to the fact that he was aware of her weakness, and instead responds powerfully with “I have nothing to prove to you” as she slams him into a wall with her power. Here, female empowerment is shown, for it shows girls that you have nothing that you need to prove to anyone except for yourself. Here, Carol becomes even more powerful and helps to attack the Kree forces to keep the Skrull people safe. This scene gets even more mesmerizing as “Just a Girl” by No Doubt plays in the background, a feminine anthem that becomes a smash hit as you literally see enemies being, well, smashed!

Captain Marvel exposes Marvel fans to a strong, female character that fights past limits and breaks through stereotypes about the female gender. She is not only a hero in the universe, but a hero to all girls seeking to soar the skies, but being held back by those who do not support them. Britney Tran, a student at Central Regional High School, spoke about the significance of Captain Marvel showing the hard life of Carol Danvers, stating “I think it was amazing how many young girls can see Carol as a role model for who they want to be. And how Marvel shows that not everyone will support you, and that’s okay. Carol’s father never supported her, and yet she persevered; I feel it is important that girls stay determined and keep moving forward despite whatever obstacle life brings.” By having this representation in the media, it paves the way for the representation of other groups and the potential showing of women in successful fields. Through the years, Hollywood has been seeing prominent examples of independent women; titles such as Hidden Figures, Wonder Woman, Ocean’s 8, and now Captain Marvel showing girls that the sky’s the limit when it comes to what they would like to do. Just because you are a female, no one should be limiting you from who you are.

Captain Marvel also excels at fitting together the missing pieces of the Marvel lore. In the film, it is revealed that Carol’s tag from the military is the inspiration for the Avengers, and the truth of how Nick Fury lost his eye is revealed (I will not spoil that, because that is a wonderful story on its own). Adorable figures such as Goose the cat, help to make the movie entertaining and intriguing. In the end credits of the film, it was revealed that Carol Danvers will, in fact, be making a comeback for the highly anticipated film Avengers: Endgame, releasing in the United States on April 26, 2019. Perhaps she will be the one to destroy Thanos and restore the world back to its prior state. Or maybe it will be Goose the cat! Who knows? For now, all we can do is sit back and jam out to the Captain Marvel soundtrack as we note the progress it is making in film for representation of feminism, and wonder how the powerful Carol Danvers will save the day again soon!