When you think of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 film RoboCop, you think robots. You think sci-fi violence. You think social commentary. You don’t think about a woman flying around space fighting bad guys. But for Captain Marvel directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, that unlikely connection was incredibly important.
On the set of Captain Marvel last year, the directors were asked what movies were the biggest influences on their movie. The list was eclectic: Terminator 2, The French Connection, The Conversation. But the first one mentioned was RoboCop.
“RoboCop is one of our big ones,” said Boden. However, she explained Captain Marvel isn’t dark or violent like the ‘80s film, it’s something else. “What is exciting to us about RoboCop was this idea of a character who’s finding himself and finding his past,” she said. “And even though it’s a dark movie it’s also extremely emotional in that way.”
“If you remember that scene of him walking into his own home and remembering those moments from his past life, remembering who he was…I mean that’s big,” Boden continued. “That was one of the first things we talked to Marvel about in terms of this character. The idea that self-discovery and reconnecting and rediscovering your humanity and who you were. It’s a huge part of this film.”
That’s because Captain Marvel starts with Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel. She’s got the powers. She thinks she’s Kree. Then over the course of the film, not only will it be revealed how she got those powers, she’ll remember what life was like before that. When she was just plain old human Carol, just like RoboCop was once plain old non-cyborg Alex Murphy.
And similar to how Murphy’s humanity ends up becoming a part of RoboCop, the same with happens with Carol and Captain Marvel, too.
“In the story that we’re telling, [she’s] a woman in the Air Force before women were allowed to fly in combat,” Boden said. “Always having to fight…is just part of who she is. So even when she’s super powerful and can just blow everybody out of the galaxy she still has that core, that center of having to fight for it.”
The directors can relate. Before getting the job directing Captain Marvel, Boden and Fleck had only done very small movies like Half Nelson with Ryan Gosling and Mississippi Grind with Ryan Reynolds (Captain Marvel villain Ben Mendelsohn was also in that one).
“It seems crazy moving from making little movies to literally making movies with Marvel, which are the biggest movies that they make,” Boden said. “But it’s actually probably the easiest transition into making movies like this just because we’re working with so many people who are so good at their jobs.”
That’s not to say it didn’t take some convincing. After completely immersing themselves in the comic book history of the character, Boden and Fleck had to interview for the film five times. They particularly latched onto how the Kelly Sue DeConnick run handed the character, so much so that the comic book writer was eventually used as a consultant on the film. And yet, having previously directed movies about smaller subjects like teaching, baseball, and poker, it was a little hard to convey their thoughts and intentions with their own work.
“Our movies don’t look like we’re like big action nerds, but we are fans of action movies,” Fleck said. “So [in terms of pitching] we just put together these clips of like a lot of our favourite movies and cut them together to music. They were like ‘That’s cool.’ We were like ‘Isn’t it cool? Let’s make a movie.’”
And so they did. It hits theatres March 8.