‘Captain Marvel’ Gets Carol Danvers Right and I Was Ready for It

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Captain Marvel movie images on a popcorn bucket and soda cup
The collectible popcorn bucket and soda cup from Captain Marvel. I was determined not to buy these, but…oh well.

I got out of the 10 PM screening of Captain Marvel on Thursday night a little after midnight. As soon as I got home, I was sitting at my computer and writing.

I was still shaking.

I wrote here about how I was taking my 11-year-old to see Captain Marvel in large part because she didn’t care that this was a movie with a female superhero. Originally, I’d planned for that to be the first time I’d see the movie. After all, what if it didn’t live up to any of my hopes, went on my own, and I ended up sitting through something like Iron Man 2 twice?

But I decided that it was worth the risk. The character means so much to me that I wanted to experience the movie, for better or worse, and get the fear and anticipation out of the way. Plus, I was tired of needing to be virtually dark on social media to stop the barrage of constant spoilers that the internet seems to throw like an automatic pitching machine. So on Saturday, I’m going to go see Captain Marvel with my 11-year-old daughter.

But tonight? Tonight was for me.

I’ve loved Carol for a long time. I started on the Kelly Sue Deconnick run, back when I didn’t know Mar-Vell or Marvel from each other, when the first Marvel comic someone gave me to read was Secret Invasion, with no context given.

That Carol, the one who transformed herself from Ms. Marvel to Captain Marvel, and the journey that came from taking the external change and internalizing it, burned into my mind. Her personality, her quirks, her history, her quintessence, were burned into me.

So when I walked in, while I had tried to keep my expectations low, I hoped that this movie was a version of a Carol I could believe in, reaching the core of the character. A Carol who was sarcastic and funny, but laughed rather than just quipped, and never to be mean. To not be jaded, no matter how hard things got for her. To be someone powerful and comfortable with that power, able to stand between the earth and the enemy and warn – never dare, just warn – its enemies that she was its protector.

Figures of Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel set against a shelf of comic books.
My Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel figure and Funko pop collection. You can see some of the comics in the background.

For years, I’ve wanted Carol Danvers to be acknowledged as the Superman of the Marvel universe. She is the most powerful hero in the universe, by far, and is rarely acknowledged as such.

In this movie, I got my wish: I truly, truly believed a woman could fly.

I didn’t count lines or minutes speaking for Carol, or any of the ladies in the cast. (Including Monica Rambeau, who I hope will be given a lot of prominence going forward in the MCU. Don’t just give her the War Machine treatment, guys). My biggest worry was that she would end up being directed by the men in the script, especially with fan favorites Nick Fury and Agent Coulson in the mix.

Happily, female writers and a female director were in charge, and clearly wanted to treat this right. Carol controlled every scene she was in, was the central focus of the movie’s attention and plot and dictated her own choices instead of going along with or being forced to side with what the male characters were choosing to do.

Carol gave me moments like that. I felt she was speaking for me, for my daughters, for my future self, without the movie’s approach leaning towards lecture.

But feeling that Brie Larson’s Carol could, and did, speak to me — it’s a stark change from my initial concerns about the movie. I remember when she was cast, feeling angry and betrayed that such a young woman was chosen to play Captain Marvel. The Carol that many comics fans loved was the older, more mature Carol, who had gone through hell and come out the other side tempered like steel. Those older fans wanted someone older, more mature in appearance because we wanted to see ourselves in the superhero.

But as I watched Carol Danvers find her power on the screen, I didn’t feel like I was seeing myself. I felt like I was seeing my daughter, realizing what she can do when she tries. My kid who thinks it’s stupid that some people think girls are just automatically bad at science and math. My girl who thinks it’s awful to be mean to someone because you think they’re different than you without even getting to know them. My sweet daughter who just rolls her eyes when people try to tell her that she has a crush on this or that kid at school. She doesn’t take time for any of it.

A framed image of Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel side by side. Art by Jen Bartel.
Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, artwork by Jen Bartel. Check out the necklace in the corner.

I remember being a little kid and watching Labyrinth. I remember the almost-end of the movie, when Sarah finally remembers the line, looks Jareth in the eyes and says “You have no power over me.” I remember that feeling of incredible truth, that nightmares and darkness only control us when we let them, and that strength that came from believing that I had fought my way there to the castle, beyond the goblin city, to take back what had been stolen from me.

That moment got me through incredible darkness in my life, reminding myself over and over, that no matter what I was up against, it didn’t have power over me, not really. This movie did more than tell me the things that have no hold over me —- it showed me the power I had.

But more importantly than how I was affected was who I could imagine on that huge screen, who I could imagine being touched the way Labyrinth hit me so long ago. I saw my daughter taking on the world and winning, and words that were meant for her.

I thought I went to Captain Marvel tonight to see it for myself, on my own. I did – but in the midst of dozens of references my daughter won’t get, I saw glimpses of who I already see her growing up to be. Smart, funny, and safe in the knowledge of her own power. She doesn’t need to be told what has no power over her. She can delight in knowing her own, in the joy that comes in flying higher, further, faster – and so much more to come.

This is the first step for Marvel with a female lead, and it was a running start. I can’t wait to see what happens next, but I don’t just mean the inevitable and welcome sequel to this movie. When we demand more diversity in Marvel’s world —- the cinematic universe and the comics —- we don’t mean one movie about a white women or one movie about a Black man. I want Monica Rambeau wearing the Captain Marvel mantle. I want Kamala Khan embiggening all over the place. I want Silk. I want Riri Williams. I want Lunella Lafayette. I want Nadia and Ying and the agents of G.I.R.L. buddy-sciencing it up.

I want every little girl to see herself up there, on that big screen, ready to take on the world.

Saturday, I’m going to go see this movie with my daughter. I’m going to show her one woman, standing up after she has fallen, over and over and over. And I can’t wait.

Oh, and to the ‘helpful’ commenters who felt that they should chime in on the posters and trailers since the moment they were released: she smiles just fine.

If you saw Captain Marvel and want to know where to jump into the comics version of Carol Danvers, I wrote an article here about the best jumping on points. Mathias wrote a great piece about her solo titles, the books where she took an important secondary role over the course of her 50-year history, and the best way to read them, whether you’re a new fan or an old one.. But if you want the quick sum-up of where to start with the character:

Jody Houser’s one-shot Captain Marvel: Braver & Mightier will give you a snapshot picture of who Carol Danvers is in the Marvel comics universe. Kelly Thompson’s new ongoing Captain Marvel series is designed to be a great jumping-on point for new fans after the movies. There are only two issues out, so check your comic store for them, or grab them digitally.

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