Captain Marvel seems to be becoming the MCU's most divisive movie - and for no real reason at all. After 11 years, Marvel Studios is finally producing a solo film starring a female superhero. It's essentially a prequel for the entire MCU, set in the 1990s and featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg as a de-aged Nick Fury and Phil Coulson. What's more, this is a crucial step on the journey to the hugely-anticipated Avengers: Endgame, with Captain Marvel expected to play a major part in the battle against Thanos.
Unfortunately, in Marvel fan communities Captain Marvel is becoming incredibly controversial. In some places online it's impossible to even mention the film without the discussion becoming a litany of complaints, as people fume over everything from radical feminism to rampant misandry. Some complain about Marvel's introducing too powerful a hero so late in the day, as though the power-levels of heroes in the MCU haven't gradually been increasing over time in the first place. Naturally, this is only a small but vocal minority of fans, but it's starting to spoil discussion in the various fan communities.
Some are fearing there'll be a repeat of the Ghostbusters effect, with bad PR leading to poor box office performance; or perhaps a backlash like the one that left Star Wars fans bitterly divided after Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But not only are those fears overstated, in this case the trolls are worked up over nothing.
Brie Larson Has Become Oddly Divisive
There have been a whole litany of complains about Brie Larson: she doesn't smile enough in the trailers, she doesn't have the exaggerated superhero physique, she doesn't know enough about the character. Many of these issues are bizarre, and frankly a little sexist, hinting that Captain Marvel should exist primarily as eye-candy. As Larson herself pointed out through an amusing Photoshopped image, male superheroes are traditionally portrayed as stoic, so why should female heroes have to grin at the camera all the time? The more recent TV spots have revealed that the film is as rich in humor as any other Marvel movie, and first reactions have praised the "buddy cop" banter between Larson's Captain Marvel and Jackson's Nick Fury. So it seems this particular reaction was very much premature.
Compounding this is the fact that Brie Larson herself is a feminist. Some fans claim to object to the idea that Marvel has hired a politically vocal actor, but that argument is flawed; Josh Brolin has recorded Donald Trump tweets in a Thanos voice, Chris Evans has been so outspoken that he told Esquire he'd been advised it could damage his career, and Mark Ruffalo is a noted political campaigner on environmental issues. These actors all seem to get a free pass, which suggests that the real issue is either the complainants either don't like a woman being political, or that they object specifically to feminism. Of course, there's a real irony in objecting to a feminist actress playing Carol Danvers; in the comics Danvers is a prominent feminist herself, and her original superhero identity - "Ms. Marvel" - was intended as a deliberate political statement. Captain Marvel is largely inspired by Kelly Sue DeConnick's popular comic book run, which was notably feminist. So Marvel has essentially cast according to type.
Some fans have gone to ridiculous lengths to accuse Brie Larson of misandry, twisting words completely out of context. For example, in an interview with Marie Claire she made a point about wanting her press days to be more inclusive. Here's what Larson said:
"About a year ago, I started paying attention to what my press days looked like and the critics reviewing movies, and noticed it appeared to be overwhelmingly white male. So, I spoke to Dr Stacy Smith at the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, who put together a study to confirm that. Moving forward, I decided to make sure my press days were more inclusive. After speaking with you, the film critic Valerie Complex and a few other women of colour, it sounded like across the board they weren’t getting the same opportunities as others. When I talked to the facilities that weren’t providing it, they all had different excuses."
This is hardly misandry; Larson's problem isn't that she doesn't want to see white men in the audience, it's that she wants to see women as well as men, and people of every racial background. "What I’m looking for is to bring more seats up to the table," she was forced to clarify. "No one is getting their chair taken away. There’s not less seats at the table, there’s just more seats at the table." And this is far from the only example of Larson's words being taken out of context in order to attack her; when she recorded a jokey video pretending not to know who Captain Marvel was, countless YouTubers pretended she was serious.
How Fans Are Trying To Hurt Captain Marvel
Some fans are going beyond critical comments though, and are actively trying to hurt Captain Marvel's box office performance. So far, there are really two lines of attack. The first was deliberately misreading box office projections, suggesting the film is expected to underperform and even bomb at the box office. It's a flawed argument, since early estimates show Captain Marvel tracking to gross over $100 million in its opening weekend, meaning it will outperform the likes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Iron Man. Some are arguing that the movie should be viewed as a failure simply because it isn't set to beat Black Panther - the MCU's highest-grossing solo superhero film to date - but by that measure, even Captain America: Civil War is a failure.
Then there's Rotten Tomatoes. Trolls are already review bombing the film, even though none of them have actually seen it yet, all in a misguided attempt to make it look as though the film is in trouble. A close look at the comments reveals that most of them are related to Larson's politics, or to the ostensible "agenda" surrounding Captain Marvel, and many of them are from people who clearly weren't interested in watching the film in the first place.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019