For decades, there’s been a misguided, misogynistic belief in Hollywood that “women superheroes don’t make money.”
Director Patty Jenkins shattered that belief with her 2017 film “Wonder Woman,” which made more than $821 million at the box office. Jenkins had to battle Warner Bros. executives to keep some scenes, including the famous “No Man’s Land” sequence, and her victory resulted in a smash-hit revival of a DC Comics film universe that, to that point, had been saddled with box-office disappointments. Women rejoiced to see a crack in the wall of white male dominance in superhero films.
Now, Marvel Studios aims to take women further with “Captain Marvel,” starring Brie Larson in the big-screen debut of Carol Danvers, the 1970s feminist icon originally known as Ms. Marvel. It opens Thursday in area theaters.
Amy Berent, owner of Pulp 716 Coffee & Comics in North Tonawanda, can’t wait.
“The release of this film, added to the significant success of ‘Wonder Woman’ in 2017, means that we are about to usher in the new era of women in comics,” Berent said. “It means a lot to me to see us represented as part of the superhero world. This film will help girls realize that we are also important figures and that we play important roles.”
Susan A. Hubbard, a Buffalo photographer and semi-professional cosplayer, agreed.
“Too many times, especially in media, women are relegated to a damsel in distress or love interest role,” Hubbard said. “For young girls being able to see a strong woman lead in a major comic book-based movie is huge. It shows that they are just as intelligent, strong and capable of being the main hero as any male.”
Despite her superhuman abilities, Captain Marvel’s biggest selling point might be that she is a character to which women can relate.
“Carol Danvers really became breath of fresh air when she starred in the 1977 ‘Ms. Marvel’ series. This comic was partly on the feminist side, focusing on some of the same issues that modern women face in their careers even today, like equal pay," Berent said. "It's not always an easy feat for a regular person to relate to a superhero but, in this case, I think most women can.”
Jenn Hunt, a former associate professor of psychology at SUNY Buffalo State who now teaches at the University of Kentucky, said that Captain Marvel "is incredibly - and unapologetically - powerful, both in her pre-superhero life in the U.S. Air Force, and as a superhero with alien-enhanced strengths and abilities.
"In addition, Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers is a complex, three-dimensional character, who struggles with her identity and responsibilities," Hunt added. " This isn’t always the case with female superheroes - or female characters more broadly. I also appreciate the fact that, over the course of her superhero career in the comics, Carol Danvers has helped to empower and mentor other women.”
It is over that latter point, of paying the benefits forward, that fans might be the most excited.
“I am hoping that it will pave the way for more Marvel movies that are led by their female characters,” Hubbard said. “Many women have headed various branches of the Avengers, including Captain Marvel. Black Widow should have gotten her own film ages ago, instead of just starting its development recently.”
As to what’s next? Fans are hoping that the future is, in fact, female.
“Wouldn’t it be great to have a movie about the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan?” asks Hunt. “Or about queer Latina superhero America Chavez? Or about Shuri or the Dora Milaje from ‘Black Panther’?”
Hubbard would like to see the Avengers leadership role gets passed on to Captain Marvel, while Berent is already looking forward to "Avengers: Endgame," being released on April 26.
“She is also being forecast as one of the most important characters involved in ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ ” Berent said. “I can't wait to see how this gets set up in the film.”