Higher, Faster, Farther: “Captain Marvel” Soars
A review by guest blogger Rebecca Stacey
With each new cinematic release, Marvel Studios has taken the superhero film from fringe to legitimate film genre. With the critical success of Black Panther, expectations were as high, if not higher, for Marvel’s first female-fronted film. It easily rose to and surpassed expectations. Captain Marvel is not just a movie about a new hero’s origin, it’s a whole new approach to that narrative. Instead of watching a story unfold, this movie takes its audience on a journey of self-discovery. We learn, as Carol learns, just who she is and what she’s capable of. And it’s that central, grounded narrative that makes it easier to absorb the information about the Skrulls, Starforce and the Kree nation that flashes through the film at lightspeed.
There really is a lot going on in this movie, and with flashbacks, twists, interstellar space battles and emotionally resonant scenes, the pacing can feel a little disjointed. But the consistent 90s aesthetic works as a lifeline that ties everything all together. Captain Marvel isn’t just set in the 90s: it feels like a 90’s movie. With a killer soundtrack, classic tropes like car chases, buddy cop one-liners, and on-screen nods to Die Hard, Mission Impossible, and Top Gun (to name a few), the homage that the film pays to the decade is a fully immersive and effective framing technique.
Framing seems particularly important to this movie in both literal and figurative respects. By now, we’re all aware of conversations about the objectification of women in films and comics (if you aren’t, take some time to google the Hawkeye Initiative). And that’s part of what makes the way that Carol is presented in this movie so important. She isn’t oversexualised or passive at any point during her scenes: none of the women in Captain Marvel are. The film pushes this concept further than just the literal shot-for-shot framing. How the relationship between Jude Law’s character and Brie Larson’s Carol is framed explores gender dynamics and expectations in a way that isn’t ham-fisted and helps make it clear that this movie isn’t a cliché about empowering women but a fast-paced story about women’s power and ways in which that is often tempered, controlled or held back.