By Alaya Ayala
This Movie Had Nothing to Prove, But it Did it Anyway
A Captain Marvel Review in Light of Recent Events at Harvard
By ALAYA AYALA
In recent years, the film and entertainment industry has slowly become more diverse as minority populations fight to see representations of their experiences on the big screen. This fight is an important one in a lot of ways, especially since movies and TV shows are probably some of the most consistent exposure to society that the younger generations are getting as they grow up. The more that diversity is shown in a positive light on T.V., the better for marginalized populations.
In the past 20 years or so, Harvard has come a long way in fighting the same battle that the entertainment industry is fighting. It was only in 1999 that Radcliffe and Harvard officially merged, and recently Harvard students have pushed for changes in the campus community that respect the needs of marginalized students. From fighting for free menstrual products in House bathrooms to pushing for mental health destigmatization through CAMHS, to advocating for DACA students and protesting against transgender rights violations, some Harvard students seem to genuinely care about standing up for those that don’t have to opportunity or ability to do it for themselves.
It’s only fitting, then, for us to take a look at recent films that speak to the goal that so many Harvard students are fighting for, of seeking equal representation for everyone.
In particular, I want to talk about Captain Marvel. The movie was officially released on March 8th, which was also International Women’s Day. Last week the Harvard College Women’s Center celebrated Women’s Week leading up until Friday, which honestly served to get me even more excited for the film which I had the opportunity to view at a fan event on Thursday.
One particular aspect of the movie that I feel obligated to commend is its timing. Marvel really couldn’t have picked a better day to release a movie like this, which essentially boils down to one essential premise:
Two women who were never allowed to fly saved the world in a flight mission that no one will ever hear about.
Of course, the plot of the film was a bit more complicated than that. At times it was predictable, especially when it came to the two end credit scenes. At others, it really took you by surprise through the development of key characters and connections to the MCU at large. However, when you think about it, a lot of the strength of this movie rested on the shoulders of its female characters, both hero and non-hero. This, to me, really speaks to the initial motivation that inspired the Marvel Universe, which was that anyone could be heroic, even without superpowers.
There are several tropes about women that appear in cinema even to this day. They’re too emotional, too weak, they lack control. Initially, this film seems to be no different as several of these tropes are consistently thrown in the face of Vers (a.k.a. Captain Marvel a.k.a. Carol Danvers). She’s a wild card with too much power and not enough control, and even worse? She’s a woman, with emotions. By the end of the film, it is revealed our hero can only win by letting her emotions take over, and letting her passion for what’s right fuel her seemingly endless powers into a weapon worthy of protecting the world. Thanos really doesn’t know what’s coming for him, and if you don’t believe a female hero is worthy of that description, you really need to just go see the movie for yourself.
If fans don’t go see this movie because of the strides it makes towards giving women representation in the MCU, they should at least see it for the way it moves forward the overarching plot of the Avengers films while also raising questions about previous assumptions about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There were several unexpected connections to phase one of the MCU that may create plot holes if not addressed in future movies. One in particular has ties to Captain America that had me debating the timeline with my viewing partner for several hours.
The film’s special effects and cinematography was incredibly pleasing for me, the average viewer to see. The CGI that went into the transformations of the Skrull characters in particular was a bit gag-inducing, but in a good way. It’s so organic and realistic and frankly gross-looking that I couldn’t take my eyes away. That’s on top of the excellent work that went into the costuming for the film’s extra-terrestrial characters and the set design that yanked the audience straight back into the 1990s.
The set up really was fun to watch, with 90s technology and style oozing from the tiny details that went into the sets for the scenes that took place on Earth. I’m talking about an actual Blockbuster store being a crash-site, payphones being wired with alien tech, and having one of the most intense scenes in the movie build up suspense because a dial-up computer took forever to load. It’s incredibly entertaining to watch and nostalgic for anyone who was even a little sentient from the late 80s to the early 2000s.
Stan Lee once said that “If kids of all types can identify with our heroes, it’s the most gratifying thing I can think of.” This movie certainly works toward that aim by finally giving a woman the lead role in an MCU film, inviting women from every background to feel like the MCU wants to tribute to their experiences too. It’s no wonder that in this film, that is diverse for many reasons, the Stan Lee cameo features the beloved creator of the Marvel Universe as himself, grinning broadly at Captain Marvel. For the fans that care, the tribute to Stan Lee in this film got me a little teary eyed, but if I’m being fair, it didn’t get me emotional the way that the Once Upon a Deadpool tribute did.
So is a film that’s genuinely entertaining, well done in respects to effects and cinematography, inherently feminist and all about further diversifying the MCU while connecting the dots for the Avengers movies worth seeing? I would definitely say so, but if that isn’t enough for the Marvel Fanboys, there is one thing I’d like to leave off with.
You’ll really just have to watch the movie to see if you get the “-ucker” we’ve been waiting for ever since “Mother F-” at the end of Infinity War.
Alaya Ayala ‘21 (firstname.lastname@example.org) really enjoyed watching Carol Danvers kick ass during this movie.