Dressed in Captain Marvel’s red, blue and gold suit, Illie grinned with delight as she met actress Brie Larson, the woman who embodies her idol onscreen in Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie.
“I did it for you, superstar,” Larson said. Inscribing Illie’s copy of a Captain Marvelcomic book, the Oscar-winning actress added: “You have so many superpowers.”
A lifelong comic book reader and now the star of eight Marvel movies, nobody understands the power of superheroes to inspire people more than Samuel L Jackson.
“There are people who read (comics) and look at them and wish and imagine as strongly as the people who read Jane Eyre,” he explains to news.com.au. “Those things mean something to people, and the presentation of it, like Wonder Woman, means something … in terms of the dignity of that character and the strength of that character.”
Back in 2017, DC pipped Marvel to the post with the release of the long-awaited Wonder Woman. Starring Gal Gadot in the title role and best Hollywood Chris (Pine) as her adoring hanger-on, the movie became the first film with a budget in excess of $US100 million to be directed by a woman.
All told, the film made $US821.7 million and scores of women cry. Not because the movie was particularly sad, but because it was particularly strong.
“I felt really emotional watching it,” Captain Marvel’s Gemma Chan admits to news.com.au. “Gal is formidable, and I think it’s amazing just to see that a woman can be so many different things.
“A woman can be empathetic and vulnerable and also resilient and strong and determined.
“We’re finally challenging those gender norms now and we’re seeing that women can be so many different things and it’s not a weakness, it’s a strength,” the Crazy Rich Asians star adds, grinning. “Hopefully we’ll get to see more of that in Captain Marvel.”
When Wonder Woman was released, Captain Marvel was already in the works, with Larson confirmed to star as the character Marvel’s chief Kevin Feige calls the “most powerful superhero” in the world.
Filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who directed Ryan Gosling to an Oscar nomination in the heartbreaking addiction drama Half Nelson, were brought on-board to helm the movie and in the process Boden became the first female director of a Marvel movie.
In their early meetings with Larson, the directors talked about “not making Carol too perfect,” Fleck explains to news.com.au.
“I think there is a tendency when you’re making a female superhero movie to make the perfect woman,” he says. “And we wanted to make sure that she was human and flawed and funny and tough, but also messy and complicated at the same time.”
In Larson’s hands, Captain Marvel isn’t the unimpeachable moral force and unimpeachably boring, sorry third-best Hollywood Chris (Evans), Captain America.
She doesn’t have the godlike confidence of Thor — second-best Hollywood Chris (Hemsworth) or the majestic goodness of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).
She’s a woman whose body has been bonded with a race of alien warrior heroes and imbued with super-strength, among several other powers. But that doesn’t take away her very human shortcomings.
Captain Marvel is most in her own powers when she has self-confidence — it is her self-doubt and vulnerability that spurs the movie forward. It’s why some critics have called Captain Marvel “impostor syndrome and gaslighting: the movie”.
What if I told you Marvel Studios made IMPOSTER SYNDROME & GASLIGHTING: THE MOVIE and it’s good and p. fun? #CaptainMarvel
— Joanna Robinson (@jowrotethis) February 22, 2019
“In one of the earliest conversations that we had with Brie, we talked about what it is that makes somebody strong,” Boden tells news.com.au. “Whoever is the most themselves is the most powerful, and that is really what the journey of this movie is about — someone who is discovering their true self and learning to accept it.”
This idea of power — soft, yes, but no less forceful — is one that will resonate with female audiences right into the next generation and the one after that.
That’s not to say that men won’t enjoy Captain Marvel, because they will. The movie has a sharp sense of humour that runs through every scene, including the fight sequences, that makes it zip along merrily like a Kree spaceship with the thrusters on full blast.
But it’s the way that Captain Marvel completely unpicks the longstanding notions of what strength is and can be, and what it might look like in a woman — not merely physically, but psychologically, too — that is so revolutionary. Captain Marvel has changed the superhero genre forever. And not a moment too soon.
“I hope young girls and boys feel inspired and uplifted by the end of the film,” Chan says. “I feel so happy and proud and grateful to be here and have to be in these films, both in Crazy Rich Asians and Captain Marvel, hopefully they’re just going to keep pushing the conversation forward.
“Soon it won’t be a big deal to have a film with a female lead or a person of colour lead. I hope it becomes the norm.”
Captain Marvel is in cinemas on March 7.