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Captain Marvel brings a new origin story to the big screen

“I have nothing to prove to you.”

At face value, this is an admission of triumph, delivered while Captain Marvel towers over her defeated enemy. Nevertheless, one cannot help but notice a deeper meaning behind those seven words. The line serves as a message of empowerment and a condemnation of the online “critics” who dismissed the film from the very beginning.

“Captain Marvel” is the newest installment of the Marvel cinematic universe. After 20 films led by male superheros, “Captain Marvel” cements its place in history as the first female-led Marvel film, indicative of the need for female representation within Hollywood, which has traditionally relegated its female characters to supporting roles.

Set in a time of Blockbusters and payphones, the film follows Brie Larson in the titular role as she tries to return to her Kree spaceship after a failed mission leaves her stranded on Earth. As she spends more time on Earth, she begins to uncover the truth about her hidden past.

Even though “Captain Marvel” has never been adapted before, the screenplay has the same problem that burdens all Marvel films: a lack of trust in the audience to stay engaged in an equivocal and subdued story. It will ultimately satisfy Marvel fans, with clever references to the franchise (including a touching cameo by the late Stan Lee), but the characters, and Captain Marvel herself, rang hollow.

Despite a lacking screenplay, the film benefits from its dynamic cast. Larson, known for her brilliantly empathetic performances in “Short Term 12” and “Room,” gives a charismatic performance as Captain Marvel. Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, his youthful portrayal reminiscent of his “Pulp Fiction” days, and casting Annette Bening as the Supreme Being may be the best choice Marvel has ever made. In addition, Ben Mendelsohn, who was fantastic in “Una,” is able to provide some much needed subtlety as Talos, an alien escaping persecution.

Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, whose previous work consists of smaller, independent projects, inject their own twist on the Marvel franchise by shooting in a more organic fashion, utilizing handheld and documentary style zooms. The scenes on Earth focusing on the relationships between characters unsurprisingly stand out the most; this film contains some of the most human moments I’ve ever seen from the franchise. It is when Captain Marvel flies off into space that Boden and Fleck begin to compromise their style for one that is louder and more akin to the commercialized Marvel brand.

Although there are better films than “Captain Marvel” to look toward for female representation, Marvel’s ability to reach an audience and make an impression on young boys and girls is on an unprecedented scale. There is still a clear double standard lobbed into female-led films with substantial budgets. Marvel may present female empowerment in somewhat unearned and reductive ways, but it’s at least a step in the right direction that will hopefully open doors for more opportunities and better representation in the future.

By Sarah Aie, Online editor-in-chief
Photo courtesy of BGR.com


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