Whether it wants to or not, Wonder Woman is paving the way for female-led superhero films across the board. Will Captain Marvel live up to the legacy?
When it comes to both commercial success and meeting fan expectations, the majority of audiences will argue that Marvel has blown past DC when it comes to their respective cinematic universes. Man of Steel and Suicide Squad have nothing on the likes of The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy.
DC’s Wonder Woman set a new standard, however. It shattered box office records and defied expectations that it would follow in the footsteps of Suicide Squad, which had a fantastic trailer but a rocky show in theaters. It’s certainly set the bar at an above-average level for all female-led superhero films that will inevitably follow.
In terms of the DCEU and the MCU, Wonder Woman was the first solo film to feature a woman in the lead role. The next one will be Captain Marvel, which Marvel won’t release until 2019. That means Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have time to understand what Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins did right and what she did wrong.
To be fair, these movies are two different beasts. Wonder Woman is an Amazon, a princess, and the daughter of Zeus. She is otherworldly, not only in her powers but in her understanding of mankind and the modern age. Carol Danvers, who will become the titular Captain Marvel, is human and only later becomes a superhero through the somewhat tired an-accident-gave-me-special-powers trope. She was a pilot, a CIA agent, and later a writer.
What these two characters, and their subsequent films, have in common, however, is that both are feminist icons. Both movies will play a role in showing Hollywood that female-led action movies, be they superheroes or not, can and will make money if only they are afforded the opportunity to do so.
Wonder Woman took the first leap and landed gracefully on both feet. It’s now time for Captain Marvel to take the next step and see what it can do to continue this progression. Despite nearly always coming out on top on its own merit, there is plenty Marvel can learn from DC when it comes time to debut their first female-centric superhero film.
Luckily, Marvel is already on the right track. Just like DC knew a female director had to take on Diana Prince’s story, so too did Marvel know a woman had to lead the charge for Carol Danvers. Though it doesn’t sit quite as nicely as a solo directing gig, Anna Boden will at least co-direct with Ryan Fleck.
Success really does start with a good foundation, and having a female director on board makes for a strong start out of the gate. The next step would be the script, which is being handled by Meg LeFauve and Nicole Perlman. This is already a step ahead of Wonder Woman, who had an all-male writing team.
The complaints I’ve seen about Wonder Woman have mostly centralized around the screenplay, in that some fans feel as though Diana’s origin story didn’t match up as closely to the comics as it could have. More Easter eggs and bigger tie-ins into the overall universe would have gone a long way to make this film feel as though it’s as much a part of the DCEU as those that came before it.
I’m less worried about Captain Marvel’s screenplay, as Marvel Studios have already proven more than adequate at adapting their comics into feature length films. The source material is there, ripe for the picking, and the studio has a history of incorporating references to an almost exhaustive degree. This is where the MCU shines.
What I’m most hesitant about is the directorial style of both Boden and Fleck. Will it truly be a co-directing credit, or will one have a heavier hand? Jenkins’ Wonder Woman was a breath of fresh air because the presence of the male gaze in the film was minimal. She was not overly sexualized. She was not weakened by the presence of a man. Her story was universal, no matter your gender identity.
I hope the same can be said when Captain Marvel makes her debut. I want to see her be treated as equally as her male co-stars. I want to see her as a hero, regardless of her gender. I want this to be her story, her journey. She deserves her time in the spotlight on the big screen.
And as much as I don’t want this to be a factor, a lot of it is going to come down to what she looks like. There was plenty of push-back against Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman because she didn’t fit some people’s vision of what the character would look like in real life, but that’s bound to happen no matter what.
For me, it’ll come down to the costume choices. Women are often portrayed in skin tight and scantily clad outfits. I understand needing to pay homage to the source material, but what works in a drawing may not work in real life. Diana’s skirt was incredibly short and she wore wedged boots instead of practical shoes.
Minor details like this indicate women are treated differently through their clothes as a way of making them sexier and more feminine. You need only to look to the most recent Power Rangers movie to see how males and females are distinguished from one another by their costumes.
It isn’t necessary. In the comics, Carol wears a once-piece suit with boots, gloves, and a sash. All I ask is that it be kept realistic and comfortable. It’s bound to be fairly tight (which I guess we can blame on practicality if we try to stay objective), but it doesn’t need to be overtly sexual. They’ve been hit-and-miss with Black Widow’s outfits in the past, so I hope Captain Marvel will provide an opportunity to learn and do better.
I’ve also heard reports (and had first hand experience) of women across the world bursting into tears during Wonder Woman’s fight scenes. They were beautifully choreographed and shot, and though I’d argue that Marvel could do a hell of a lot better with their sequences in general (less shaky cam and more wideshots, please), Natasha has had room to shine in her role as a skilled assassin. I don’t doubt Carol will as well.
The final piece of the puzzle here is going to come after the movie has already been shot. How will the cast, crew, and studio handle marketing the film? Will there be controversy or will it be smooth sailing? (Let’s not forget the slut-shaming Scarlett Johannson’s character had to endure from the actress’ co-stars during press for Avengers: Age of Ultron.) Will answers about who’s a better kisser outshine deeper, more philosophical inquiries?
But, more importantly, considering the trouble Marvel has had, will Carol Danvers actually show up in toy collections released for Captain Marvel, or will she be as mysteriously absent as Black Widow has in the past?