Captain Marvel is the latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that means Eve and I HAVE to check it out! Who is this powerful hero that gives us a hope of reversing the snap? Why was calling her the dying act of Nick Fury? How does she fit in to the ever growing MCU? Join us as we dive into our first impressions of Marvel’s Captain Marvel!
Captain Marvel tells the origin story of Carol Danvers, one-time United States Air Force test pilot who is drawn unknowingly into interplanetary politics when she ends up as a member of an alien special forces style unit. The story is built so that Carol Danvers learns about her past at the same time as the audience, providing a little extra sympathy for this young woman as she discovers just how much has been lost to her.
A lot about Captain Marvel is pretty common for the MCU. The soundtrackrelied heavily on period music—this one (mostly) from the 1990s. I liked the 90’s music a little more than Eve did, but both of us came away feeling like Captain Marvel falls pretty soundly in the middle of the pack in almost every aspect.
Lead Brie Larson’s performance was pretty middle of the pack as well, but as we point out in the podcast, her character history and motivation sort of calls for her to be a bit wooden. Maybe the performance “shortcomings” were a combination of acting and directing choices, maybe they got exactly what they were after, and we just don’t agree.
You can’t separate Captain Marvel (or Black Panther) from the inherent social commentary, though. How each view comes down on one or two thematic social issues may very well color how much they like the movie. For us, we “knew” going in that there was a fairly heavy message of feminist empowerment. That set a portion of our expectations, right or wrong.
Captain Marvel may be the most powerful hero introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. Not only can she fly in the vacuum of space and shoot photon blasts out of her hands, but along with her coworker, the Black Panther, and some folks from a galaxy far, far away, Carol Danvers helped convince the mega-movie-review amalgamation site Rotten Tomatoes to change its rating system and prevent the general public from reviewing movies they could not possibly have seen.
In anticipation to this misogynistic attitude, a couple people associated with the movie came out in vocal support of the feminist message of the movie. Some, like the star Brie Larsen, even had some controversial comments. We felt that the vocal feminism prior to the release actually did a general disservice to Captain Marvel because it diminished the socially empowering messages of the film by inexorably tying it to garden variety feminism. Captain Marvel is empowering, and if you can leave the feminist and misogynist rhetoric behind you when you walk into the theater (not as easy as it sounds) then the empowerment message is so much more effective.
Context in history
The period of Captain Marvel’s exploits (early 1990s) in the military was often bad for women, but it was particularly bad for women pilots. Tailhook was still very fresh in every military mind and was still changing the very fabric of gender relations and roles in every service. Stories continue to come out to this day regarding the horrible things that happened to women who pioneered roles traditionally belonging to men.
From a scriptural standpoint, the only thing we can say for absolutely sure is that the misogynistic attitudes depicted in the movie and those underlying the review bombing are the result of the sin of fallen man. You can debate the scriptural legitimacy of women in combat roles equally from either side of the argument. Everyone will likely have their own opinion. What we do know, though, is that in Christ, we are all equal:
There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” (James 2:1)
In particular, Christians are called to be fair and equal in all our dealings:
Differing weights and varying measures— both are detestable to the Lord.” (Proverbs 20:10)
We are all equal, but equally flawed. Apart from God, we are unable to do even the simplest of things, but…
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
Creating God in Our Own Image
In Captain Marvel the Kree empire is ruled by an artificial intelligence called “The Supreme Intelligence.” Through dialogue, we learn that everyone sees the Supreme Intelligence differently, with it taking the form of someone important in the subconscious of the viewer. Despite this intelligence, both the Kree and the Skrull of Captain Marvel demonstrate belief in an afterlife. It isn’t necessary though to believe something is a god to idolize or worship it, though.
Do not turn to idols or make cast images of gods for yourselves; I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:4)
We Christians worship a living, breathing God that indwells within us.
Now concerning spiritual gifts: brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you used to be enticed and led astray by mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:1-3)
Even when we create our own gods, we do not fall outside of God’s sovereign plan.
For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:15)
The Unjust War
Captain Marvel fights for the Kree in good faith, but comes to learn through her journey that the war in which she has been fighting is an unjust one. They tie together a couple different elements of the movie to the reveal at the end that the Kree position is based on lies and propaganda. Captain Marvel almost slides a very important philosophical question in under the viewers’ radar. “Is Carol Danvers guilty for actions taken in good faith while fighting unknowingly on the wrong side of an unjust war?”
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44)
When we fight, we need to obey the authorities over us, but place the commands of God paramount before all else. When a soldier goes to war, it is because God has allowed it.
Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath but also because of your conscience. And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s servants, continually attending to these tasks.” (Romans 13:1-6)
Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10)
Check out the Ben Shaprio interview of Arthur Brooks that Eve mentions.
Underpinning the entire movie is two different levels of brainwashing that are taking place. Amnesiac Carol Danvers is abducted by the Kree and trained to serve the Kree with unquestioning loyalty. The second is the continuous and ubiquitous efforts of the Kree Supreme Intelligence to frame the war on the Skrull in a manner that demonizes the entire race in almost mythical ways. For me, this hit closest to home of all the themes in Captain Marvel since it is something that still goes on in much of the world, particularly targeting the work of Christ’s church and her missionaries.
Brainwashing, though, is not the same as raising your children. The end goal of brainwashing is to systematically change attitudes or altering beliefs, while the goal of raising children is to guide them figuring out their own attitudes and beliefs.
Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
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