Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. finally made superhero movies with female leads in their cinematic universes - Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, respectively - but where one film improves its character by changing her origin story, the other does not.
Upon its release, Wonder Woman was met with widespread acclaim and became the highest-grossing superhero origin movie at the time. Captain Marvel is doing much of the same, earning rave reviews despite an effort to sabotage the film's critical reception and it's on pace to become one of Marvel's highest grossing movies. Suffice it to say, audiences are big fans of both women and it's exciting to speculate about what the future has in store for these first ladies of superhero movies. Audiences won't need to wait very long, either, because Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) returns in Avengers: Endgame and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) in 2020's sequel, Wonder Woman 1984.
In both Carol and Diana's big screen debuts, changes were made to their origin stories. However, the changes made to Carol's origin story in Captain Marvel improve the movie and make it a more empowering film for women to watch. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, remains an excellent and empowering film, but it does so in spite of the changes made to Diana's origin story, not because of them.
- This Page: How Captain Marvel & Wonder Woman's Origins Changed
- Page 2: How Changing Captain Marvel's Origin Improves The Film
Wonder Woman's Origin & How It Changed
Since her creation in 1941 through the early part of comics' modern age, Wonder Woman's origin remained largely unchanged. As the daughter of Queen Hippolyta, Diana is the only child among the Amazons - a society of women who live in seclusion on Paradise Island (later dubbed Themyscira). She wasn't born by traditional means, but instead came in to being thanks to her mother's strong desire for a child. In most versions of Wonder Woman's origin, Hippolyta sculpts Diana from clay and the goddesses of Olympus bring her to life, blessing Diana with virtues like beauty, strength, and wisdom. That origin and its total lack of male involvement is unique to Wonder Woman and it makes her emblematic of what women can achieve when free of men and patriarchal constraints.
When DC Comics relaunched their line under the New 52 banner, Wonder Woman's origin was overhauled. Her humble beginning as a lump of clay became merely a story she had been told and not the whole truth - now, Diana was the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus, with her divine powers coming from her father. It was this Wonder Woman origin story that served as the basis for the 2017 film, cementing Diana as the daughter of Zeus in the minds of audiences worldwide. And, to be fair, changing Wonder Woman's origin so that she's now a demi-god born of Zeus' relationship with her mother doesn't make her any less of a feminist icon or powerful role model. But it does remove an element of her origin that was unique in its absence of male influence.
Captain Marvel's Origin & How It Changed
As originally created, Carol Danvers wasn't herself Captain Marvel but rather an associate and potential love interest for the Kree warrior, Mar-Vell, who operated as a hero on Earth using that name. Under the alias of Dr. Walter Lawson, Mar-Vell began working at a U.S. Air Force base where Carol was security chief. During this time, Carol is caught in a explosion from a Kree device, genetically altering her DNA into a Kree-human hybrid and giving her powers similar to those of Mar-Vell's. Carol goes on to become a superhero, working predominately under the name Ms. Marvel but with short stints as Binary and Warbird, eventually claiming the title of Captain Marvel for herself. It's a fascinating origin and Carol's journey is a compelling one, but everything from her powers to her name were derived from this earlier male hero.
For the Captain Marvel film, changes were made to this origin story not just to better align it within the MCU's timeline, but to better establish Carol as the one and only Captain Marvel. The biggest of these changes is the gender-swapping of Mar-Vell. Now a Kree woman, Mar-Vell uses the alias of Dr. Wendy Lawson while working for Project Pegasus where she brings in Carol and other female fighter pilots (who under U.S.A.F. regulation cannot participate in combat missions) to test her aircraft. Mar-Vell mentors these young woman, Carol especially, and while the film purposely obfuscates their relationship in order to maintain the mystery surrounding the accident, it's very clear how much Mar-Vell means to Carol. This change is an incredibly important one, placing a focus on female mentorship when it's still so underrepresented in media - not to mention, basically absent from mainstream superhero movies altogether.
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021