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Tim   Hruszkewycz

Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Stronger

Voices March 13, 2019

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel. As Carol Danvers, she “lives in a world that wants her to fail, but she keeps picking herself back up,” writes Tim Hruszkewycz. (CNS photo/Walt Disney Pictures)

I was sleepy last night after returning from Captain Marvel. The movie was great, but this was a day that involved a vomiting baby and a full work day. My body said, “Go to sleep.” My mind said, “Read every trade of Captain Marvel that you own tonight.”

Regretfully, neither of those things happened immediately. My body may ask me to go to sleep and my mind may tell me to read comics, but all of that takes a backseat to my wife asking me to watch another episode of the show we’re binge watching this week.

I read the first trade this morning. Because it is the end of the quarter and my grades have been submitted for my students, I decided to knock out Volume One. It was with hopes that my daughter could read these books before I let her go see the movie with my wife. It should be noted that she cannot read those books.

There was far too much casual swearing. But watching Marvel’s newest entry in its ever-growing cinematic universe, I couldn’t wait to hear what my daughter would think of this movie. That was what was on my mind as I sat there with my male friends from our church group. It was cool to build fellowship with men, but Captain Marvel was about wasn’t about the typical male hero archetype. Carol Danvers, played by Brie Larson, was something new entirely. When comics competitor DC Comics released Wonder Woman in 2017, the world was taken aback.

I thought Wonder Woman was very good, but it kind of showed an attitude of trying to emulate the films of its male predecessors.

Wonder Woman certainly could hold its own, even better than most in many cases. But Captain Marvel seems like a new kind of superhero movie. Diverting from a traditional superhero narrative, Captain Marvel stresses the complexities of being a woman in an era where women are encouraged to fail.

Wonder Woman was raised in an environment where there were no men, so she never had to deal with doubt and questions. Carol Danvers, however, was not raised in such an environment. She lived in our world and she lived in space. Both weren’t great representations of what people could be given free reign.

I really like Carol. I know that there was some backlash to Brie Larson’s comments about her press team. I read about how reviewers tried to sabotage the films Rotten Tomatoes ratings before the movie was even released. But somehow, that seems appropriate for the theme of the movie. People want Captain Marvel to fail just like the people around Carol want her to fail. The movie isn’t a man-hating preachfest. It has a message and a theme of feminism, yes. But this is a message of actual feminism.

Carol Danvers lives in a world that wants her to fail, but she keeps picking herself back up. She doesn’t simply have ambitions and is automatically amazing at achieving her goals. She falls and hurts herself time and again throughout the film. But she gets back up and tries harder. I want my daughter to do the same thing. I honestly am tired of a protagonist automatically being amazing at a skill because he or she wants to be amazing at said skill. Films aimed at kids seem to have the message that they can be anything that they want to be because they really want to be that thing. But Captain Marvel takes that a step further and fixes that idea.

Captain Marvel, a superhero, is going to be terrible at a lot of things that she is going to attempt. But she’s going to keep trying, no matter how hard people sabotage her. She’s not going to be amazing at everything every time. There are humiliating moments that make me cringe. But these are the moments that define her. Her memories aren’t a world filled with support and mentors. Instead, she has the opposite. And that’s what gives her strength. I love that so much.

For the past few years, I have been moved by the plight of the refugee. I know that I might be losing some of my readers by talking about this, but I really like what a refugee looks like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

One thing that popular culture has lacked is nuance. A message tends to be very clear and honest in the hopes of being persuasive and that makes sense, to a certain extent. Captain Marvel, a movie that has a lot of messages in between its cells, tackles issues that the 2010s have faced from the perspective of the mid-90s.

I suppose I know that I’m getting old when nostalgia in film jumps a decade from the era I remember to an era that my first generation of students considered their childhoods. But the movie never really smacks the viewer over the head with that message. It presents the issues of immigration through a complex lens. Refugees aren’t sinners or saints. They aren’t always easy to look at, but that reminds us that there are incommunicable traits that are within us all.

Captain Marvel is a good movie. Starting the film with a tribute to Stan Lee is a wise move. If you are wondering, Stan Lee did film his cameo for this film before his passing. I should warn my readers: the beginning of the film is slightly inaccessible. I’m a big science fiction fan and I found it difficult to wrap my head around the many alien worlds and conflicts of Captain Marvel. But directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck seem to know what they were doing with the very disorienting beginning of the film because it all eventually makes sense by the time that the film shifts to Earth.

I don’t know why the setting of ’90s Earth is so entertaining, but it really is. The film has a handful of nostalgia jokes early on and I can’t really fault them for that. Instead, it is the reappearance of Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg returning to their respective roles as Nick Fury and Phil Coulson that acts as a comforting grounding in the world. Their relationship coupled with the energy brought by Brie Larson is a warm blanket and the rest of the movie is smooth sailing.

I know that the actual reviews for the film are positive, but these reviews are coupled with the idea that the movie should have done more. I respectfully disagree. Captain Marvel is exactly what I wanted it to be. It was a high stakes movie that never felt universe ending. The characters are all pretty fabulous. There are plenty of nods to the MCU while standing on its own two feet for the entire film.

I want my daughter to see this one. There is some mild language, but she’s also handled the Spider-man movies pretty well. Carol Danvers is absolutely perfect. The movie doesn’t feel the need to define her by the men she is interested in. Instead, it shapes a new kind of hero that doesn’t always have it easy. Her powers don’t always make sense to her and she has a hard time determining the right course of action.

I don’t always know what the right thing is either and I absolutely love that.

From Catholic News Agency. Tim Hruszkewycz is a high school English and film teacher. He also co-hosts the Literally Anything podcast and blogs about film.