Captain Marvel has debuted as the latest Marvel film, and is a major milestone for the company. Though it remains somewhat ludicrous that it took this long to arrive, this film is still the first Marvel Studios project to star a female superhero in the lead role – which is to be celebrated. As we saw when DC and Warner Bros. produced Wonder Woman two years ago, a female lead is (of course) more than capable of carrying a classic superhero film, and the affect in terms of inspiring young women and girls is immeasurable.
So far, the reception to the film has been positive, with a strong majority of critics giving it favorable reviews. It’s viewed not so much as a revelatory experience in line with Black Panther, but more as a very strong continuation of a tried and true formula for Marvel, blending humor and action with a strong character and incredible visuals. By all early accounts, this is yet another success for the studio, and a milestone that is not just long overdue, but legitimately satisfying.
Again, this is to be celebrated. But it also sheds light on the fact that Marvel could still have done a great deal more regarding its first female lead.
More than anything else, this film could have been given a better release date. While Captain Marvel will essentially get a month to itself given its early March release and the low competition this time of year, the date more or less surrenders seriousness in favor of profits. It’s highly possible that this film ends up making somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion dollars. But even a great film released in March is highly unlikely to receive any awards or be looked back on as one of the best or most prestigious projects of the year. Now that Marvel has entered the award season conversation with Black Panther, it might have been nice to see them aim for prestige before money.
In a somewhat more abstract sense, Marvel would also have done well to preface the film with a video game devoted to the Captain Marvel character, so as to drum up excitement. This would have been easier a few years ago when the company sponsored online arcade games at casino sites. These sites are increasingly known for animated games, and Marvel’s heroes once fit right in – but the company has since pulled all its content from casino industries. It would also have been possible, if somewhat more involved, for Marvel to produce an entire console game surrounding Captain Marvel – particularly given the company’s vow to focus more on such games. As things stand, all Marvel can really do is create some additional attention for the character on its oft-updated mobile games. This is a nice nod to the film, but not something that’s meant to drive up attention that wouldn’t already be there.
More than anything else though – even if it’s something of an unreasonable nitpick at this point – Marvel could simply have gotten to this point sooner. As much as Captain Marvel and Brie Larson’s performance in the role are to be celebrated, it’s still a pure shame that the biggest studio in superhero entertainment was so thoroughly beaten to this point. Netflix helped Marvel to produce a leading female in a TV show years ago in Jessica Jones: 20th Century Fox used Marvel’s characters and put women X-Men characters on equal footing with men long ago; and of course, DC released Wonder Woman two years ago. Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman, essentially seized the mantle as the “first female superhero”, earning awards for furthering equality and inspiring young women. Captain Marvel, no matter how great the
film may be, can’t quite match this impact simply because of timing.
This film’s release is still a good thing, and in a less serious sense most seem to believe it’s a great deal of fun. In the various ways outlined above though, Marvel has still failed this character and the development she represents.