Commentary: The Curious Case Of Captain Marvel

As a longtime fan of superhero comics, I’ve been lucky enough to watch Marvel lay the groundwork for their Marvel Cinematic Universe, or M.C.U., beginning with “Iron Man” in 2008. I must confess, however, that the upcoming “Captain Marvel” feels out of place, and I’ve got this strange feeling inside me. It’s not excitement or dismay—it’s confusion.

First off, to be completely honest, I wouldn’t say that I’m the biggest fan of the Captain Marvel mythos as a whole. Nevertheless, I was willing to give the movie a chance when Marvel announced its release for 2019. But when they announced that the Captain would be the female pilot Carol Danvers, I was surprised, seeing as so many female-led superhero movies have been poorly written in the past. I watched the trailer right when it was released last week to see if Marvel would surprise me. However, some parts of the trailer gave me unease.

The movie trailer provides no insight into who the character is and why we should care about her (outside of a generic “you-will-save-us” trope). Some vague descriptions are given about what her mission on Earth is along with the tagline, “What makes her a hero.” Sure, there’s a lot for die-hard fans of the mythos to be excited about, but the general public, like me, might feel very confused. Yet despite all this, I keep coming back to one thought: Why do we need a “Captain Marvel” movie at all? Of course, there is only so much that can be shown in a trailer, but from what we can see so far, the movie seems to focus largely on promoting the lead character’s gender while not showing the other aspects of her character.

The trailer also seems very similar in style to another superheroine movie: “Wonder Woman.” D.C.’s 2016 “Wonder Woman” proved that well-produced female superheroes can succeed. Perhaps not always critically, but certainly financially. Unlike Wonder Woman, however, Captain Marvel is hardly a household name. She is rarely talked about outside of close-knit comic book fan circles. This means that selling this movie on its name alone may prove to be very difficult.

Perhaps “Captain Marvel” is Marvel’s response to “Wonder Woman” — it is their attempt to show that they can make their own female superhero movie and are trying hard to diversify their movie universe. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I would agree that diverse female characters are just as exciting as their male counterparts, and sometimes even more so. But here and now it feels like Marvel is desperately trying to market the movie solely based on the lead’s gender.

I was talking to some of my friends of Captain Marvel, and they seem to agree. A friend of mine, Eric Bishop ’21, said that Marvel doesn’t have to prove that they can produce strong female characters because “they don’t have to play catch up. Especially when they’ve established fantastic female characters, such as Gamora, Black Widow, etc. Why choose the new character of Captain Marvel instead of developing movies around their established female characters?” From a marketing standpoint, wouldn’t it make more sense to produce a film starring a character that the audience is more familiar with and excited about, as compared to shoehorning in a new character altogether? I do agree that it would be interesting to watch them develop these

characters even more within the M.C.U.

Another friend of mine, Emma Tilghman ’20, however, disagrees with Bishop. She says, “Ideally we would have already had a female-led movie — 10 years into the game is pretty late. However, I think that the introduction of “Captain Marvel” might be better in the long run because the stakes are lower than they would be for something like a Black Widow movie.”

I think Emma is also correct in a sense: perhaps Marvel feels that it would be easier and more exciting to introduce someone new as their first superheroine feature film as opposed to expanding the mythos of some already established female character, dividing public opinion along the way. In this sense, the stakes are indeed lower since Marvel doesn’t have to worry too much about the backstory or prior character development of Captain Marvel and how they fit into the larger picture ( of the M.C.U.).

Whatever Marvel’s true motivations are, I have no doubt in my mind that they can produce an interesting solo film. That said, I cannot shake my overall mixed feelings. While I applaud Marvel’s efforts for incorporating strong female characters within their narrative, this latest edition in the form of Captain Marvel feels almost forced, rather than a true telling of an interesting and engaging story.

Brandon Chandler is a three-year Upper from Los Angeles, Calif. Contact the author at