WARNING: This article contains very mild spoilers for Captain Marvel.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been watching Marvel films since I was a kid. The first film I can vividly remember watching was Thor with my Dad, just on the off chance it was on, and being completely suckered into this fantastical whirlwind of comic book superheroes. It didn’t take long after the film began for me to become completely hooked. From there, my Dad introduced me, to even more of this incredible world. First Iron Man, then Iron Man 2, followed by The Avengers, Captain America… You get to the picture. Though with each of these films, there was always something missing.
That thing was women.
Since I have been a child, superheroes have always seemed such a masculine thing. They were always in the boy’s section of the toy aisle and constantly raved about by boys in the playground who would scold you for liking such a thing, so it only seem fair that these films sported male heroes to satisfy its largely masculine audience, right?. Except, the audience wasn’t just masculine, there was women there too. I was a fan, so was my sister, my mum and many of my female friends. In fact, women seemed to love superhero films just as much as men did – so why didn’t we get a superhero for us?
Sure, there was the odd Black Widow figure along with the odd bit of merch dotted around from place to place, but honestly, I never really connected with Natasha Romanoff. I find her underexplored, underused and just a prop for the male heroes around her. Though despite my own feelings about Black Widow she was the only connection I had to superheroes for years, and she never had her own film despite the countless number of films made for her male counterparts. Hell, she barely had her own merch and even if she did, it wasn’t exactly cheap.
My point is, superheroes just never really catered to me. I was a stubborn yet ambitious child with aspirations of saving the day and being just as good as the boys almost every way I could think of, but I never really saw that. Not at the forefront, anyway like Iron Man or Captain America. I only saw Black Widow and later Scarlet Witch, who barely got much screen time let alone their own film. They saved the world sure, but not by themselves. They were always second to the likes of Thor, Spiderman and Ant Man and even though they sure as hell kicked arse, they didn’t make me feel like I could save the world too.
In 2017, DC’s Wonder Woman became the first female led superhero in over a decade, coming after Marvel’s Electra in 2005, twelve years later. In this time, over fifty Marvel and DC films have been released featuring solo male heroes or ensembles that, you guessed it, largely focused on its male characters. So, to say I was a little excited for the release of Captain Marvel, Marvel’s first female-led superhero film and only the second female-led superhero film in a decade, was an understatement. And boy, did it not disappoint.
Quite simply, Captain Marvel took my breath away. From the moment the film started, I found myself grinning from ear to ear and I did not stop until the credits had finished rolling, which is something I have rarely ever found myself doing during the film-watching process. Even after the film, I found myself speechless, falling over my words as I tried to grasp just exactly what it was I was feeling. I was giggling, emotional, and ultimately, I was fulfilled. Captain Marvel was almost everything I needed it to be and more, and it wasn’t until I left the cinema that I realised that this was something I had needed for a long time.
Though even despite the humour, the cameos to satisfy the appetite of long-time MCU fans such as myself, and the interesting array of side characters, there was one thing that has truly stuck with me throughout the film and even after as I try to pen my rambled thoughts down.
Throughout the film, we are shown that Vers/Carol is not someone to underestimate; she is a fighter. We see this quite literally as Carol spends most of the film fighting a plethora of different beings for numerous reasons, using insane co-ordination, martial arts and unbelievable superpowers to defeat anyone that just so happened to cross her. But even though this was no easy feat, it wasn’t Carol’s skill that impressed me. What impressed me was that every time Carol fell to the ground – be it literally or figuratively – she always got back up.
We are shown snippets of her past throughout the film in the form of flashbacks. In almost all of them Carol is told that she should give up, that she will never be taken seriously, and that she is completely out of place, dominated by the masculine figures in her life. Each time, Carol falls to the ground and her confidence takes a clear hit. Though, this does not last long. In one of the most moving parts of the film, Carol stands back up. She gets herself up off the ground and she stands, ready to fight again and face exactly what had knocked her down in the first place. This movement is then echoed throughout Carol’s past, as in each flashback, Carol stands, more powerful than ever, as a child, a teen, and an adult, refusing to let the fall stop her. This simple movement was nothing less than extraordinary, making myself and others cry as Carol stares her enemies directly, and shows them that one knock to the ground certainly will not stop her. In fact, falling time and time again as she has done throughout her lifetime will not stop her. She will get up and continue to stand against those who knock her down, and fight.
Even from her first appearance in the film, Carol (referring to herself as Vers at this point) is lying on the floor. She is hurt and disorientated, but nonetheless, she gets back up. Later, in the one of the following scenes, she is knocked to the ground whilst training with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) who scolds her for being unable to control her emotions. However, this knock is nothing to Carol. She smiles, and she persists, getting up from the floor and fighting again, this time seemingly stronger than before. This constantly theme throughout the film. Even when Carol goes through an identity crisis, she gets back up and continues to fight. Even when those around her doubt her abilities, she gets up and proves them wrong. Even when people tell her that she is too emotional to fight, she gets emotional and fights harder.
Captain Marvel has a clear message, and that is one of resilience. It shows that women and girls deserve to fight, and that getting back up is the strongest thing anyone can do, no matter how big or small the fall is. Standing tall and proud is the best way to battle your demons and show that your gender does not make your inferior for any reason whatsoever.
Seeing this message, and this character in not just any genre of film, but in my genre of film is still mind-boggling. This genre is one I have loved for years and avidly followed along with my Dad, despite the fact I rarely saw anyone on screen that represented me and even if I did, it wasn’t enough. Though finally after years of waiting, I have Carol Danvers, and I have Captain Marvel. I have a reason to feel incredible as I walk out of the cinema, and a role model to look to the next time that I fall. So, when I do, which will happen soon enough, I know exactly what to do. I’ll get back up, stare my enemy in the face – whatever it may be – and fight ten times harder.
If this is the effect that Captain Marvel has had on me, then I can only guess what effect it will have on young girls watching the film for the first time as they see a superhero that is just like them. Who knows, maybe this will inspire a new generation of fighters who will get back up and fight for more films like Captain Marvel that will leave a lasting impact on many audiences to come, especially those who have never seen themselves on screen before.