So little is known about Captain Marvel in contemporary pop-culture that when her sign first flashed on Nick Fury’s retrofitted pager while he turned to ash in Avengers: Infinity War, movie-goers were left wondering what his last trump card was. It was, of course, the ardent comic-book nerds who came to the rescue and recognized it as Captain Marvel’s sign. Since then, discussion has been rife on the internet as to what role this largely unknown female hero would play in saving the world from Thanos. But we are getting ahead of ourselves here. Before Captain Marvel would ever make it into the big screen, it was a character which would find itself in the very middle of a copyright battle between DC and Marvel way back in the 1940s. First published by Fawcett comics, the Captain Marvel comics had nothing to do with Carol Danvers’ character at all. In fact, Captain Marvel was also known as Shazam, a super-powerful alter-ego of a young boy named Billy Batson who could call the power anytime he wanted just by shouting – “Shazam!”. The very same Shazam, whose movie would be released by DC in April this year by DC.
So how did Shazam end up with DC ? This is where it gets interesting. When DC saw that Fawcett’s comic series Captain Marvel aka Shazam was outselling Superman, they sued them with the charge that the character was too similar to Superman. Fawcett lost the case and had to stop publishing. DC licensed the character from Fawcett much later in 1972 and started publishing again. However, they had to drop the name of Marvel because of obvious reasons (‘cause it felt like it was owned by their rivals Marvel comics), and stuck with just Shazam. Meanwhile, Stan Lee and Gene Colan had re-invented the Captain Marvel series with a brand new storyline which narrated the adventures of Captain Mar-Vell who led the Kree Militia. This Captain Marvel family grew from Mar-Vell to also include Monica Rambeau (pronounced as Rambo). She was followed by a slew of characters – Genis-Vell, Phyla-Vell, Khn’nr, Noh-Varr, and finally Carol Danvers. In order to keep the Captain Marvel license, Lee and Colan had to legally keep publishing a Captain Marvel title at least once every two years, which resulted in a whole new universe that we have become a part of now.
Although a Marvel solo female-lead film has long been overdue, no one would have believed a few years back that it would not be Black Widow, the Avenger who has been so instrumental in keeping the team together, and also for keeping Hulk within his pants. However, after the phenomenal success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, it had to be someone who was equally powerful if not more, and Captain Marvel seemed like a well-thought-of choice.
Made for the big screen by the director-duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel is the origin story of Vers aka Carol Danvers who is a part of an elite fighting team in the Kree militia on the planet Hala led by Yon-Rogg who is also her mentor. Hala is governed by an AI-being called the Supreme Intelligence which controls all of its inhabitants through something known as an Energy Core. While trying to retrieve one of their captured team-members Soh-Larr, they are ambushed by Skrulls, who are their sworn enemy. After a neck and neck battle, Vers (as she is called by her compatriots) escapes and crash lands on a planet called C-53 which is Earth. Intercepted by a young, two-eyed Nick Fury, Vers tells him that she is a part of the Starforce fleet almost in a Star Trek Discovery fashion. Although he doesn’t believe her at first, an attack by a Skrull team tasked to bring her in convinces him that the earth had indeed been intruded by alien forces. In a parallel arc, Vers is also plagued by the vision of an old lady who she keeps seeing but has no memory of ever having met. As she fights with the enemy, Vers gradually unveils her forgotten origins and embarks on a journey of finding her true purpose.
Although a Marvel solo female-lead film has long been overdue, no one would have believed a few years back that it would not be Black Widow, the Avenger who has been so instrumental in keeping the team together, and also for keeping Hulk within his pants. However, after the phenomenal success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, it had to be someone who was equally powerful if not more, and Captain Marvel seemed like a well-thought-of choice. The film has all the bells and whistles as can be expected from a Marvel film – a compelling story-line, great character-arcs, humour, and amazing special effects. Despite the feminazi backlash Brie Larson received on social media, she completely owns up to the character of Carol Danvers who is equal parts sensitive, and equal parts powerful. Samuel L. Jackson now wears the role of Nicholas Joseph Fury like a second skin and is far more loosened up than the cold, and hard pirate-patched Fury we know of. This is a time when he is still surprised at things and makes jokes when he can. Jude Law, as Yon-Rogg, doesn’t get a lot of screen real-estate but gives a measured performance as a single-minded army leader.
Since the film is based on 1995, there are several pop-culture references that only 90s kids would know (yeah! I know that’s clichéd) such as Alta-Vista internet browser, the dial-up modem, and the excruciatingly slow CD load times. They make up for some chuckle-worthy moments. The breakout show-stealer, however, was none other than ‘Goose’ the cat who was actually a Flerken, an alien creature who sometimes let out tentacles out of his mouth like the Demogorgon from Stranger Things. Even before the movie ties up with the larger Avengers universe, it has connections with the Guardians of the Galaxy through (spoiler alert !) Ronan the Accuser, who was first featured in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, and who is a Kree radical with a black and white sense of racial supremacy. Also, there are two post-credit scenes for which you might want to wait around as if we even need to tell you this.
All said and done, to the question about who has got the best origin story – Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel – I would say Wonder Woman, just for the fact that it is more grounded as a story, and just for the towering personality that Gal Gadot has. That’s just my personal opinion, and some of you might love the latter far more than her DC counterpart. Whatever be the case, we can safely say that the era of the female superhero is here to stay with more female protagonist-led superhero films coming out including Black Widow which is slated to release in May next year. Till then more power to women !