Captain Marvel overcomes negative feedback to tell an entrancing and empowering story


For nearly eleven years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been producing blockbuster films at an exorbitant rate. However, the franchise is leading up to a long-awaited climax, preparing to conclude the reign of the characters the audience has come to know and love.

But despite the MCU’s success in a range of demographics, most of the cast fits in one category: white males. There’s not exactly a plethora of female or non-white superheroes, in spite of the progressive diversity in cinematography over the last few years.

So when Marvel announced its first female-led superhero film, it was met with mixed reactions. While some fans were thrilled for Marvel to make the stride, others deemed it unnecessary. I for one was a proud member of the former group and eagerly anticipated the movie’s arrival, booking my opening night tickets for Captain Marvel far in advance.

My infatuation with the MCU may have swayed my opinions slightly, but I hope I can say somewhat objectively that all my expectations were met. On many fronts, the movie presented itself to be perfectly satisfying and a worthwhile use of my Thursday evening.

Set in 1995, Captain Marvel is the origin story of an extraterrestrial Kree warrior known by a few names: Vers, Carol Danvers, and of course, Captain Marvel. When the movie begins, she is living on a planet called Kree, with no memories of her life before. Her people are in a years-long battle with a race called the Skrulls.

In a turn of events, Captain Marvel ends up on earth, which has been infiltrated by the Skrulls. Throughout the movie, we witness her attempt to regain her memories, take control of her mysterious superpowers, and work with a few familiar faces to end the war with the evil Skrulls.

From start to finish, Captain Marvel kept my attention, a not-so-easy feat, as I am easily distracted. It was fast-paced and a bit confusing at the beginning due to a purposeful lack of information, but clarity was quickly gained. I had a number of questions, but I found all my answers in due time. All bias aside, I thought it was a genuinely good movie.

Unlike some of the other installments in the MCU, Captain Marvel required no prior knowledge to be understood. Anyone could have stepped into the theater and enjoyed the movie as much as an avid fan. There were, of course, a few references for the MCU’s loyal followers, and some familiar faces, like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). And of course, the film provided necessary background information for Avengers: Endgame, the fourth Avengers film which will be released in April and feature Captain Marvel’s second appearance.

Captain Marvel also introduced a new cast of characters who were multi-faceted and completely enrapturing. Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and Monica Rambeau (Akira Akbar) were some close friends of Carol’s in her previous life, and they were both not only significant but welcome screen presences. And of course, there was the audience favorite, a cat named Goose who turned out to play an unexpected role in the story.

But it was Brie Larson’s performance as Captain Marvel that really made the movie everything it was. She was sarcastic, strong, and exactly what I expected and hoped for in a female superhero. She defied gender stereotypes and exhibited growth over the course of the movie. Larson’s execution of the character stood out in the especially feministic scenes. More than once, I felt a smile beaming on my face as I watched her portray a strong and independent woman.

Needless to say, I left the movie theater with a bounce in my step and a grin on my face. I felt as though nothing could bring me down. That is until I decided to search the internet for other audience reviews. One look at Rotten Tomatoes was all I needed for it to become shockingly apparent that sexism is not a thing of the past.

While Captain Marvel received an 80% approval rating from critics, it earned a disappointing 33% from audience members, that rose to a 60% over the weekend. The individual reviews wiped the smile off my face in an instant. Critique ranging from Larson’s “dull and uninspiring acting” to the mediocrity of the movie could be found in the devastatingly large amount of negative reviews.

I was most shocked by the disappointment surrounding Larson’s inadequacy in the role. I had personally found her to be the perfect fit, but critics and audience members deemed her emotionless, incapable, and a “Mary Sue.” All of these complaints shared a likeness with backlash Larson received when the first Captain Marvel trailer was released; audience members shared a disinterest in her lack of a smile.

Larson handled all of this controversy and hatred with elegance and grace, quickly shutting down comments with a very valid point; most of them pointed out qualities that appeared in many of Marvel’s male superheroes. Characters like Captain America and Doctor Strange rarely smiled in their movies and also possessed inordinate amounts of power; however, no one really seemed to have a problem with them. 

At this realization, I found myself beyond angry. As much as I love all of the MCU’s male superheroes, and am eager to watch them in further movies, the lack of female representation is, to put it mildly, annoying.

After nearly eleven years of male-centric superhero movies, it seems about time to give a woman the spotlight. ”

It’s completely unfair that a small step such as this receives so much backlash, making it difficult for any bigger steps to be taken.

A fair portion of the negative audience reviews can probably be attributed to sexism and internet trolls, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing. A movie as amazing as Captain Marvel deserved a much better audience reception.

It bewilders me that Marvel waited so long to produce a female-led superhero film, but audience reviews made it clear why. However, the creators of the movie worked hard to shut-down the sexism and negativity through beautifully executed moments in the film. I felt ready to take on the world after watching a couple particularly empowering scenes.

Despite all the criticism, Captain Marvel broke box office records in its opening weekend. It made $455 million worldwide, making it the “biggest global debut for a women-fronted film ever” and the second-biggest debut for a superhero film.

Personally, I think it’s worth all the hate and controversy for little girls to be able to go to the movie theater and see a female superhero saving the world. I felt incredibly empowered as I left the movie theater, and I didn’t let the negative reviews bring me down for long. I allowed myself to bask in the excitement and adrenaline that I felt upon finishing the movie.

I hope that Captain Marvel will be an example to girls all over the world that they can do anything they set their minds to.