What Captain Marvel Should Learn From Wonder Woman

Captain Marvel starts filming next year. Marvel

Since Iron Man, Marvel’s superhero movies have largely dominated the theaters. But Wonder Woman flipped the script, absolutely crushing the box office for DC last month and still going strong. Now, with the prospect of Captain Marvel approaching, it’s Marvel who is going to have to take a hint from DC’s cinematic universe. So what does the success of Wonder Woman mean for Captain Marvel?

Wonder Woman proved people of all genders will watch a superhero film centered around a female lead. Wonder Woman made a lot of money, so now studios are more invested in women leads and less scared of the potential risk to their investment. If Wonder Woman failed, it could have deterred and delayed the comic book industry from bringing female leads to the big and small screen, but now studios can feel more confident in the prospect of success for Captain Marvel. The proof of concept is there.

While Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige is confident Captain Marvel will benefit from Wonder Woman’ s success, that’s actually a tough and complicated question to answer. In short, Wonder Woman does make it easier for Captain Marvel, but it could also present some challenges. There are a few aspects Marvel should consider, so let’s go over them.

Brie Larson is set to play Carol Danvers. Photo: Marvel

Captain Marvel’s Origins Aren’t Necessarily As Compelling

Kevin Feige called Captain Marvel the most powerful character in the MCU last year, so what does this mean for the feel of the movie? Is she the most powerful because of her life experience, her moral code, her actual powers--what makes Captain Marvel so strong? Please don’t let it be another strong white female character trope. What aspect of her character will make her feel like less of a placemat and more like a socially conscious hero who belongs on a team like the Avengers?

Wonder Woman is half a god. She’s an Amazons warrior. She hails from Themyscira. She’s like six feet tall. She lacks social skills, but is of near genius intellect. She has a unique life experience.  While I’m not saying Captain Marvel doesn’t have potential to have these same characteristics, on the surface, she’s just not as interesting. Marvel is going to have to spice it up a bit as opposed to Wonder Woman, whose origins were interesting, memorable and unique enough to tell closely to the comics.There's a lot of iterations of Captain Marvel and unique characteristics to choose from--she shoots stuff out of her hands, acts as the bridge between Earth and space, is super funny, and sometimes has a mohawk--so it's really just a matter of what the creative team puts together. 

Captain Marvel arrives in theaters next year. Photo: Marvel

Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, started off as an officer in the Air Force. When caught in an explosion with the Kree hero Captain Marvel, Danvers emerges with superhuman abilities. She calls herself Ms. Marvel at first but later assumes the mantle of Captain Marvel in honor of Mar-Vell’s death. That’s a pretty standard origin and doesn't exactly stand out. Captain Marvel may not have been as popular a feminist icon as Wonder Woman was back in the day, but hopefully Marvel can use the lesser name recognition to their advantage and bring a recognizably different feminine energy to her origin.

Risks Are Necessary To Avoid A Disney Vibe

While Marvel’s character may not be as compelling at first glance, at least she is completely different. Her looks, personality and life experience make her distinct from Wonder Woman. While Wonder Woman had a more commercial vibe and simple structure, like successful Marvel movies of the recent past, it still didn’t feel like a Disney production to the likes of Captain America: Civil War.

wonder woman
Wonder Woman is here to break some skulls Photo: Warner Brothers

Personally, that’s what I don't like about the Marvel Universe and I don’t want Captain Marvel to fall into this trap. It’s safe. Captain Marvel can’t play it safe, especially since that has been a common critique of Wonder Woman. Captain Marvel has to take more risks. Wonder Woman did the job of paving the way, but if Marvel doesn’t build upon everything DC’s film excelled in, it won’t feel as fresh and leave as much impact. Wonder Woman may have gotten away with playing it ‘safe’ because the mere fact of having a woman comic book character kick so much ass without a sidekick is almost unprecedented. Captain Marvel can’t do the same.

Sexualization And Stereotypes In The Real World

Wonder Woman had the privilege of being a majestic, gorgeous woman -- so much so that male characters called her distracting. Her looks may have made her stick out like a sore thumb, even more than her social awkwardness and out-of-touch style. One way a film about Captain Marvel could stand out is by telling the story not of the beautiful woman, but the ‘regular’ woman, who may not capture the attention of everything with a penis within 100 feet. Nothing about Gal Gadot is regular. Yes, that’s the point; she’s a god who lives on an invisible island and all, but it was also frustrating. While the fact she was not sexualized at all was a breath or fresh air, they didn’t even show the sex scene or even a makeout session, that's not necessarily realistic.

wonder woman lasso of truth
Wonder Woman uses her famous Lasso. Photo: DC

Wonder Woman explored a mature romantic relationship, but the absence of her sexuality was easier to get past because she was not conditioned to the real world. Diana never had to confront or deal with societal standards and stereotypes placed on women. But at times, it did feel like a cop-out that none of those issues were addressed by Wonder Woman herself. Instead, we were treated with unforgettable fight scenes and gender role jokes. The men in film did provide a laudable example of how to respectfully treat a woman, but we didn’t get to experience that from Wonder Woman’s point of view. Hopefully, Captain Marvel can explore the struggle of the everyday modern women in a proactive way, in contrast to Wonder Woman, which explored the struggle of a woman in a man’s world indirectly because it had to in order to succeed.

Captain Marvel arrives in theaters in 2019.

Join the Discussion
Top Stories