7 Mar 2019

Captain Marvel - a woman-led movie for Gen X

11:14 am on 7 March 2019

Movie review - Every once in a while there's a thinkpiece that proclaims Generation X as the forgotten generation, sandwiched between the Millennials and the Baby Boomers, quietly getting the job done while inter-generational warfare wages.

Marvel Studios' CAPTAIN MARVEL

Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson)

Photo: Chuck Zlotnick

©Marvel Studios 2019

Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. Photo: Marvel / Supplied

Don't worry, Gen X. Marvel made a movie for you.

Not only are there 1990s jokes - dial up internet, now-defunct businesses, those carphones that were actually attached to the car - there's the music that generation feasted on. No Doubt, Nirvana, Hole, flannel shirt and grunge attitude and all.

And there's a certain 1990s Girl Power feel to the whole thing, too. Right down to a climactic scene that is either a direct reference or an unconscious nod to the climactic scene of the finale of 1990s classic Buffy The Vampire Slayer. One assumes directors and co-writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck spent some time in Sunnydale.

That's not a bad thing. More entertainment should be like Buffy, really. But to paraphrase another 1990s classic, if you can be overwhelmed and underwhelmed, can you be just whelmed?

At this point, Marvel movies have a formula. Good guys, bad guys (and oh, how much fun Ben Mendelsohn is having as Talos the bad guy), quips, huge, dramatic, beautifully rendered action scenes, and some emotional resonance to make the whole thing meaningful. There will be a twist, and it will drive the plot of the whole universe forward, lobbing some balls up for the next films to catch.

Captain Marvel is the first woman-led Marvel movie, something that's been a long time coming. Firsts are always hard, but this one suffers from recent comparisons - not to other women-driven movies, but to the most recent MCU films. These aren't just movies anymore. They're moments. And the filmmakers know it.

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok, delightfully bonkers, and funny and emotionally resonant as no other Marvel film has been. Black Panther broke boundaries along with box office records and took home an Oscar to boot. And Avengers: Infinity War, in which women get very little to do for the first 30 minutes, but which was sweeping and epic and left audiences amped for the next one.

Captain Marvel ticks all the right boxes. Brie Larson is badass and capable. She fights, smirks and has her hero moments in all the right ways. She's charming, and she works her way from fierce-but-constrained warrior hero, through existential crisis, to have her moment of literal empowerment. In every man who tells Carol Danvers she can't do something, there's a message to the world in 2019. But it's not really a new message. We're treading ground that goes back to Buffy, and to Diana Prince before her.

Her friendship with fellow air force pilot and sassy bestie Maria Rambeau (played by Lashana Lynch) and her daughter Monica give the audience something to root for - and thank goodness for a movie centred around women's friendship and not a love interest.

A digitally de-aged Nick Fury gives Samuel L. Jackson more screentime than he's ever had, and he even gets his own sidekick. There's car chases and space explosions and all the things that the audience expects from a Marvel movie. I liked it. I will watch it again, and I will clap my hands with glee in the same moments. I will roll my eyes at the same heavy-handed jokes. Avengers: Endgame is well and truly set up, and maybe that's all fans expect, but I wanted to feel a little more challenged. I'm ready to see women become not just empowered, but powerful.

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I did it for you, superstar

A post shared by Brie (@brielarson) on

But then, there's a scene where we watch a little girl light up at two women - one a superhero, one just her human mother, albeit a fighter pilot - planning an almost impossible mission, risking their life for a greater good.

In a world where people flood the internet with bad reviews before a film is even showing, maybe knowing there's probably a little girl in the audience seeing women as the central heroes for the first time is still challenging enough.

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