Note: Spoilers below.
Br. Leland and I went to see the film “Captain Marvel” on March 12, 2019. The good screenwriting, action scenes and the search for identity made this latest Marvel film appealing. But the more we thought and spoke about the film afterward, the more we were disturbed by the meta-narratives.
Here are four themes from the film that we spotted.
1. Who am I?
Let’s start with the positive. The search for identity by Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers is the main plot line. She can’t remember her past though memory fragments haunted her. When she learns that she is actually on the wrong side, she says, “I don’t know who I am.” Monica, her best friend’s daughter, speaks up and reminds Carol of her identity by listing all her experiences. Earlier, she showed family pictures to Carol and rattled off memory after memory. We all might imagine God as this giant imposing figure. But Christ coming as baby reminds us that God is more like the child reminding us of who we are from the beginning.
2. Where’s Waldo? Can you spot any strong male characters?
“Captain Marvel” justifies my original complaint about Hollywood’s gender treatment in “The Last Jedi.” Gender roles are treated in a zero-sum game. Want strong male characters? Yes, but the women will be weak. Want strong female characters? Yes, but the men will be weak. The movie industry can’t seem currently to have strong men and women together on film. Pope John Paul II writes that the more men and women give their whole selves to each other, they are not weakened but strengthened (ToB 17:6).
All the male characters in “Captain Marvel” are either clueless, misogynist, incompetent or lame. The filmmakers even made Nick Fury lame with an overly extended scene of him petting a cat. Fatherhood is such an alien idea that the best father figure in the film is an alien. Talos, the Skrull leader, works to find to find his family again and shows his daughter to Captain Marvel. By replacing the male Mar-Vel in the comics with a female one in the movie, Br. Leland noted that filmmakers purposely wrote off a strong male character.
3. How much can we twist Christianity?
The artificial intelligence ruling the Kree is called the Supreme Intelligence. One doesn’t see the Supreme Intelligence directly, but an image taken from the mind of the visitor. The afterlife is called the Collective. Self-disciple and control are stressed. But Captain Marvel asserts herself and breaks free it.
Br. Leland and I differed on how we viewed these elements. I viewed it as an anti-God agenda by filmmakers. By one’s will, one can break free from the limitations imposed by God and religion. At the climax, a montage shows Captain Marvel standing up against all the negative talk and setbacks (especially from men) in her life. That breakthrough turns around the hero’s fortunes. At the end, Yon-Rogg challenges Captain Marvel to a last fistfight. But she blasts him and says, “I don’t need to prove myself to anyone.”
Br. Leland sees those film elements more as a perversion of Christianity. No matter how big the AI, it’s still not God. True Christian community fosters unique gifts in each believer, not rigid uniformity.
4. How powerful is she?
Once Captain Marvel realized that the Kree were actually hold her back, she broke free from her bonds. She proceeded to smack down the Space Force by destroying missiles and giant spaceships. That’s great. But afterward, a question arose: what can stop her? It’s similar to the Superman problem. How can she have a real enemy if she’s that powerful? It makes me wonder what a fight between Thantos and Captain Marvel would be like. Endgame, anyone?