Spoiler alert: this post discusses some Captain Marvel plot intricacies
Captain Marvel, the latest in the Avengers saga, lives up to the hype, thanks in part to the feminist storyline and, of course, the cat.
I have been a fan of Marvel movies for a while now. My interest in them varies between passive interest and rapt curiosity. For example, since I took a Norse Mythology literature course in college, I’m particularly interested in Thor’s stories — or, perhaps more so in some scenarios, Loki’s. Contrast this to Ant Man who I’m pretty indifferent towards, even though I am a fan of Paul Rudd (see Friends and Romeo + Juliet).
Captain Marvel always seemed like a movie I’d probably want to see in theaters, but I wasn’t particularly excited about it. I didn’t know anything about Carol Danvers from the comics and without the regulars of the Marvel Universe — Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, etc. — it didn’t stand out much to me.
And then I saw that a cat was involved. Game changer.
Goose: the Orange Tabby Alien Kitty
Once Goose started to make appearances in trailers and articles about the movie, I began to pay more attention. I’m glad I did, too. Even without seeing the movie, I had a feeling that Captain Marvel was going to be my new favorite Marvel movie.
Female Superhero Lead
Carol Danvers, for those who haven’t seen the movie yet, is the protagonist. She has some strong powers and is generally pretty intense, but is ultimately human.
At first, I hadn’t really paid attention to the previews enough to fully consider Carol’s female-lead status. I had dismissed the film in some ways, because I assumed it would be rather vapid.
Vapid might be harsh, but I hardly expected to walk away from a Marvel movie more interested in the feminist undertones than the general plot.
Carol’s Feminist Thread
First and foremost, Captain Marvel is the matriarch of the Marvel Universe. I did not know this before I saw the movie, but it obviously makes sense based on the name after the fact.
As this matriarchal figure, Carol is basically head-Avenger. Fury names the Avengers program after her, on top of her name literally containing the word Marvel in her name. Without her, there might be Hulk and Iron Man and the like, but there wouldn’t be The Avengers.
Strong Female Supporting Characters
Maria Rambeau, Carol’s former bestie who thought Carol had died in a plane crash, is a strong, intersectional character. Her race and her gender make her character particularly compelling, so I am so glad the movie actually let us get to know her a bit.
Maria is a determined and fierce friend to Carol and mother to Monica. There is a balance between the special bond female friendships can have and the masculine world of the armed forces (and superhero-dom in general). She is raising a strong-willed 11-year-old who is insightful and resilient.
Let’s Talk Villains
Besides the Rambeaus, I found it pretty interesting that the primary villain — Dr. Wendy Lawson or Mar-Vell (spoiler alert: Marvel) — is also female.
At first, the audience is made to think that the villains are the unusual looking Skrull aliens. The Skrulls are an easy target for wrath because they are shapeshifters and outsiders. At once, they are “the others” and tricksters, which garners animosity.
We are made to think that Yon-Rogg (read: Jude Law) is a more traditional hero for the story. He convinces Carol that the Skrulls are bad and his way is right. And for a while, it is easy to believe him.
Events take a turn, though, that result in a number of revelations and surprising alliances — namely, Carol and Nick Fury and the Skrulls against Yon-Rogg, et al — after Carol starts to get her memory back. Carol’s memory is her weapon against Yon-Rogg’s gaslighting. Her memory helps her regain her agency.
Then, there’s Mar-Vell who is, at once, a villain and namesake of Marvel. Without getting into the details, the fact that she takes on these two roles drives home the idea that no one is fully good or fully evil. With great power comes great responsibility and all that.
Captain Marvel follows some traditional storytelling arches. The Hero’s Journey is a common narratological strategy in the superhero universe. Carol may not be the only female character to follow this path, but her experience is the most clearly delineated and portrayed with the greatest focus and intention, in my opinion. In this way, I found the movie to be especially unique.
Besides the monomyth path, the variety of female characters with actual depth of identity is absolutely refreshing. The movie easily passes the basic Bechdel test. For more information on the Bechdel test and some related tests dealing with race and gender, check out this awesome article from Shondaland.
And last, but not least, is Goose. Goose is, at once, a full-blown character and comic relief. There is much more than meets the eye when it comes to this little guy. I found him to be pretty allegorical for cats in general — small kitty, big purrsonality. Plus, from what I understand, we haven’t seen the last of him!
P.S. You can pick up the super cute Goose Funko Pop here!