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REVIEW: ‘Captain Marvel’ delivers a positive role model for girls

March 8th, 2019 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Captain Marvel’ delivers a positive role model for girls

Credit Marvel

Her name is Vers, and she’s a Starforce soldier from Hala, the capital planet of the alien Kree civilization.  

At least, that’s what she’s always been told.

She remembers little about her past, but she often has flashbacks to a more peaceful time when she was a happy child and then a free-spirited teenager on another planet—a planet that had beings that looked just like her. You know, human beings.

But enough with the reminiscing. She’s currently on an intergalactic mission against Kree’s long-time alien nemesis, the lizard-faced Skrulls, who have the ability to change into any shape they desire. Vers has her own powers. She has super strength and can fire energy projectiles—think, “laser balls”—from her hand.    

She’s nearly unstoppable. Yet during a spaceship battle with the Skrulls, she is forced to crash land on planet C-53—Earth—and continue her search for the bad guys. Pretty soon, our planet is caught up in a cosmic fight we didn’t expect. And Vers—better known as Carol Danvers—starts to realize she formerly lived on this strange rock.

The film Captain Marvel (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling how Danvers discovers who she is and then becomes the most powerful female superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a film that reveals the origins of Captain Marvel but also the origins of other Marvel elements, including Nick Fury, his famous eyepatch and even the word “Marvel.” It also quickly answers the obvious question: Why is Captain Marvel void of emotion in the trailers?

“There’s nothing more dangerous to a warrior than emotion,” she is told. “Humor is a distraction.”

It stars Brie Larson (Room) as Danvers/Captain Marvel, Samuel L. Jackson (Avengers series) as Fury and Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, the leader of the Skrulls.

Set in 1995, Captain Marvel is the first Marvel movie with a female superhero in a film to herself and the first Marvel film with a female director, too. (Anna Boden co-directed with Ryan Fleck.)

It differs in other ways. It relies less on CGI (the Skrulls are actors with masks and makeup) and it includes a few Star Wars-like space battles. It has no romantic angle.

Those are acceptable (and even fine) changes, but there’s a lot else to like. Larson’s character isn’t sexualized. She has role model qualities. In many ways, she’s someone you wouldn’t mind your daughter emulating (minus the fact she mixes it up often with the bad guys).

Still, Captain Marvel is rated PG-13, meaning it has content that will concern some parents.    

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Moderate. Captain Marvel has plenty of violence, but it’s less than that of the popular Avengers films. It’s mostly bloodless, too. Danvers spars with a male partner. (She wins by blasting him with a projectile.) We see a battle with laser guns. Someone is shot and dies. A somewhat disturbing scene shows Danvers suspended upside down as Skrulls extract her memory. (It’s a lightweight form of torture.) On multiple occasions, she whips 10 or more people by punching, kicking and using her super-energy powers. We see an autopsy performed on a deceased Skrull. The Skrulls’ transformation from alien to human being is impressive movie magic but could give children nightmares. A plane crashes.    

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

None/minimal. Danvers’ suit is form-fitting, although the camera doesn’t ogle her figure. In fact, for much of the film, she’s in regular clothes. A young woman is seen in short shorts at the beach. Two men, at the Skrull autopsy, make it a point to find out what sex the Skrull is. (We don’t see what they see.) We see a nude female mannequin.

Coarse Language

Minimal/moderate. About 16 coarse words: h-ll 5, d--n 3, a-- 3, s--t 2, OMG 2, b----rds 1.

Other Positive Elements

It’s refreshing to have a lead female in a PG-13 film who isn’t scantily dressed and sexualized. If only Hollywood held to that standard for every film.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Captain Marvel doesn’t include the phrase “girl power,” but the concept is woven throughout the film. During a flashback scene (which we see twice), she is told by a male pilot that flying isn’t for women. She is told (by men and women) to control her emotions. Then, in the movie’s final minutes, she beats up the bad guys as No Doubt’s Just A Girl plays in the background.

Life Lessons

Carol Danvers, like most superheroes, clings to what is good and fights evil. She says early in the film: “I want to serve.” Later, we see her put generosity and integrity on display. She’s courageous.

The Skrulls teach us that looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to friends, acquaintances and strangers.

The film’s primary theme—discovering who you are—can teach us a few lessons, too, even if we don’t have amnesia. As Christians, our identity is in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 Peter 2:9). He has a plan for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11).

Worldview/Application

“Control your emotions.” It has a negative ring in some circles. It’s what Captain Marvel is told, over and over, at the outset.

Yet Scripture tells us to control our emotions. We are to be “slow to anger” (Proverbs 16:32), to guard against fleshly impulses (Galatians 5:16-24), and to display self-control (1 Peter 1:5-6). Perhaps Captain Marvel’s mentors were onto something.

Finally, Marvel itself deserves applause for giving us a female superhero who gets attention for her talents, not her looks. Hollywood’s history is filled with films that did just the opposite. Young girls need the former message, not the latter.    

Partners

Hertz, the WNBA, Dave & Busters, Citizen, Alaska Airlines, Synchrony and Visible are partnering with Captain Marvel.

What Works

Rediscovering the 1990s. We experience slow-as-molasses Internet, UNO cards and a Blockbuster store. Marvel even set up a retro 1995-like Captain Marvel website: Marvel.com/CaptainMarvel. It’s a hilarious step back in time.

What Doesn’t

The first half hour gets lost in science fiction detail. The last half hour has one or two plot holes.

Discussion Questions

  1. How are female superheroes different from male superheroes? Should they be different?
  2. Captain Marvel is told to control her emotions. Is that a good or a bad thing?
  3. Name three positive characteristics of Captain Marvel. Can you think of any negative ones?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language.