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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

Marvel’s new film could have used more nuanced storytelling

One of the best things about the film is the lack of a romantic arc for the central character. In a storytelling format that often uses romantic love as the humanising trait for an otherwise tough character, this was a welcome surprise

editorials Updated: Mar 15, 2019 17:17 IST

Hindustan Times
This image released by Disney-Marvel Studios shows Brie Larson in a scene from Captain Marvel
This image released by Disney-Marvel Studios shows Brie Larson in a scene from Captain Marvel(AP)
         

One must, at the outset, acknowledge that Marvel’s latest movie is not like the 20 others that have come before it. It is an authentic, dyed-in-the-wool superhero movie, with a woman lead. And for that, it must be appreciated. But beyond that, the film is rather an ordinary take on a well-worn theme. A solo superhero film with a female lead could have done (and indeed was expected to do) a lot more for the way that women characters are written and played in popular culture. That left many of us disappointed with Captain Marvel.

One of the best things about the film is the lack of a romantic arc for the central character. In a storytelling format that often uses romantic love as the humanising trait for an otherwise tough character, this was a welcome surprise. At one point, one wondered if Marvel would allow for a romantic arc between the main white woman superhero and her black, single mother best friend. But that was always going to be too much to ask of something as steadfastly mainstream as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The standard issue superhero suit is also a vast improvement on the Wonder Woman style corset, allowing Brie Larson to be more than a mere sex symbol. Her postures, the lack of provocative, sexualised shots, and general swagger are all excellent template changes for female characters in the genre.

But in terms of depth of character or motivation, there isn’t much to celebrate. The idea of a superhero as simply physically powerful and who doesn’t think twice about breaking things (and people) — while, of course, signalling the occupying of the moral high ground — remains. And patriarchy, it would seem, follows women across the universe. Even in Hala — capital planet of the Kree, a technologically advanced alien race, ruled by a (presumably) genderless artificial intelligence — men continue to be threatened by women. One would have thought that a warrior woman without a memory was a chance to allow the character to remain unencumbered by the things that have dragged earth women down for centuries. But sexism — of men telling a badass woman to control her powers and not scare the boys — is apparently a trans-universal phenomenon.

Carol Danvers is basically just Tom Cruise’s Maverick from Top Gun (which is pretty much the template for all superheroes anyway). The need to fly at great speeds and ride very fast on bikes remains Carol Danvers’ most identifiable character trait. But in terms of plot and action, there is very little in the film that hasn’t been done before, and the film feels like a forced interlude to the real thing that is coming next month: Avengers: Endgame. Marvel’s first full-fledged female superhero film could have used more nuanced storytelling.

First Published: Mar 15, 2019 17:17 IST

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