It’s a nice thing when the high points of a movie are so rich that they act as a sort of perception filter, allowing you to track minor annoyances without being able to really focus on them or have them dampen your enjoyment. That’s where I’m at with Captain Marvel. Because as Carol Danvers’ true heroic nature and abilities came to the fore at the culmination of the movie, I lost all ability to be bothered by bitty gripes. And upon reflection, I now feel like the film’s transformational and lengthy battle sequence may be more than the most thrilling part of a good movie. It may, in fact, be the most important action sequence in the history of the MCU. Disagree? Fair, but let me my make my case with these spoiler-filled thoughts that speak to the specific components that allow Captain Marvel to soar.
When Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) breaks the literal bounds that have kept her powers at bay and goes after the Kree warriors and Yon-Rogg (kicking off the aforementioned action sequence), we are seeing a moment that is clearly vital for the character’s evolution and the story. But it’s also something that stirs the audience due to the thematic proximity to real events going on in our culture.
Yes, a human, an aunt, a friend, a real hero — Danvers discovers that she’s all those things on Earth, but she’s also written to be an avatar for those who have been told to mollify others and tamp down both their power and their emotions. As such, Danvers’ eventual victory over Yon-Rogg (who had kept her like a pet project, limiting her access to those powers and training her to regard emotion as weakness) feels cathartic — especially in how it’s achieved (more on that later). It’s the same with the Skrulls and their third-act turn. Their displacement and search for safe harbor sparks thoughts about the immigration debate and the global refugee crises in the real world that are hard to ignore.
It’s an unmistakable leap forward for Marvel (and the MCU) that shows they’re willing to sidestep risk aversion and embrace socially relevant storytelling; this only works because the film’s writers and storytellers (Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman, and Meg LeFauve) so deftly weave their message into Danvers’ hero journey and never forget to keep the characters, the story, and the action out front. This, in turn, allows the movie to forge a deeper connection and have greater cultural impact than it would have if Marvel and the writers had gone in another, less socially relevant direction. Which, to borrow a line from Captain Marvel, would have been akin to “fighting with one arm tied behind your back,” especially in 2019 when everyone expects everything to be political anyway.