I'm a Feminist. Can I Criticize "Captain Marvel"?

This month, Marvel’s most anticipated movie yet is coming to theaters: Avengers: Endgame. The newest and latest super-addition to the “Avengers” franchise is Captain Marvel, played by the award winning actress, Brie Larson.


Carol “Vers” Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, is Marvel’s first ever female superhero to lead her own movie. This film undoubtedly is a major milestone to steer the superhero-movie industry in a more feminist direction. The film was even released on March 8, 2019--International Women’s Day--as a nod to the social impact that which “Captain Marvel” was intended to bring forth. (spoilers ahead!).


While Captain Marvel’s film broke box office records and her super abilities are some of the most powerful in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I left the theater less-elated than I thought I would have.


For context, I’m a huge MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) fan. It all started when I was 11 years old and I watched “Captain America: The First Avengers” in theaters with my brothers. Since then, my love for these films (and Chris Evans) have grown exponentially. As I am a dedicated member of #TeamCap, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed with Marvel’s newest captain’s movie. When I shared my speculations to some friends they were shocked with my opinion. They know that as much as I am an MCU fan, I am also a feminist. You would think that as a total nerd for these movies and a feminist, I would be head over heels obsessed with Captain Marvel. But for some reason, it wasn’t.


There were several cinematic elements to the movie that made me disengaged with the film. One of these criticisms would be the lack of development on Danvers’ struggle to become a hero. Something that Marvel movies do really well is how they really develop the hero’s struggle: this builds viewers empathy to the story and the hero. One of Danvers’ struggles is how she was constantly put down by her male peers for being too ‘emotional’. This is a theme that is very common to women and could/should have been explored in depth to connect audiences with Carol Danvers. Unfortunately certain stylistic executions of the film forced audience members to fill in the holes for themselves. It seemed to rely on an expected pity that she was a female superhero for audiences to have rapport with Captain Marvel.


I had many people respond in utter shock that I had such opinions about the movie. Their reactions got me thinking to myself: if I criticize “Captain Marvel” am I a bad feminist?


The answer: no!


I am so ecstatic that Marvel has finally, after 20 movies, created a film that follows the story of a female superhero.  Carol Danver’s story makes me--as a woman--feel empowered, heard, and understood. But, it is important to recognize “Captain Marvel” for what it is: a superhero movie. It is a superhero movie where the lead happens to be girl. Just because the movie is female-led, does not mean it should be cinematically criticised differently than the other male-led superhero movies. Being less critical for this reason alone actually encourages the gender inequality in superhero movies rather than helping alleviate it. You don’t have to hide criticisms and say it was the ‘best’ movie ever in order to appreciate its relevance for the feminist agenda.


With all that said, I still recommend “Captain Marvel” to both the superhero-film-fanatic or the casual viewer. Captain Marvel is a unique, powerful, badass character that I’m sure will play a key role in the Avengers and the feminist agenda in the film industry.