With Captain Marvel, co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck not only introduce the first female hero to lead her own movie set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but they also define a significant moment in the universe’s history that will factor into its future in a major way.
When we spoke with the directors recently, they were candid about their desire to tell a story about Carol Danvers that emphasises her humanity, because while she might be the MCU’s most physically powerful character to date, the thing that makes her a hero is her ability to connect to others.
Surrounding Carol with people like Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and Mar-Vell (Annette Bening) who bring out her inherent warmth and compassion, Boden explained, was always the plan, but it was important to her and Fleck that Captain Marvel really centered Carol’s relationships with other women in particular:
Something that we really loved about the Captain Marvel comics is that so many of Carol’s relationships with other women are intergenerational. You’ve got Carol’s friendship with Maria that’s obviously key and central to the movie, but there’s also Monica who she inspires, and Mar-Vell who really inspires both Carol and Maria.
Maria became a mother because we needed that relationship, so it was kind of this awesome byproduct that made it possible for Carol to inspire a younger person, and out of that, we got the chance to develop a character who’s a single mother that defies what you might expect from a person like her.
That was something we talked a lot about with Lashana [Lynch], and she really brought a lot to that character after we cast her, because we were still in the process of writing her when she was cast.
While most people familiar with Carol’s adventures in Marvel’s comics know her to have a much more established bond with Monica Rambeau, the first woman to take the Captain Marvel moniker, Captain Marvel pivots by instead focusing on Monica’s mother Maria. In Maria, Boden continued, what you’re really meant to be seeing is a more grounded reflection of Carol’s journey that culminates in her embarking on an adventure of her own — something that represents what she’s been fighting for across the bulk of her career:
That one moment you’re talking about felt very important to us to have these two women who flew in the Air Force at a time when women weren’t allowed to in combat. They want to do important missions—that’s why they joined the Air Force.
For Carol to eventually be able to get up into the air, and then Maria to be part of the most important mission you could ever imagine that culminates in literally saving the Earth, that felt like a really nice arc for them. They come full circle and really achieve things that are beyond what they had ever imagined for themselves. In Maria, you’re seeing the same path to greatness that Carol has, but her story’s just more grounded.
Carol is undeniably powerful, but Fleck was adamant that Carol’s real superpower is her ability to form such strong, emotionally deep bonds with people with ease, which is crystallised in her quick friendship with Nick Fury and the way she comes around to see the Skrulls as the refugees that they are. To that point, Boden added that she and Fleck really wanted to highlight just how much resilience in and of itself is what can make someone truly strong:
We have this character who is so physically powerful and so strong. But that’s not, that is not really what defines her. What makes her who she is is this journey of self-discovery towards her humanity and embracing all of the messiness of that—the emotion and the compassion and the vulnerability. That’s what ends up giving her her true power.
But we also wanted Carol’s path to learning about her own humanity to be reflected in her ability to see the humanity in others that she never would have expected.
Also, I think that what she learns about herself over the course of this journey is that it’s not always about winning, it’s about trying so hard, and taking such risks that sometimes you do fail. Sometimes Carol does fail, and that’s not something to be ashamed of, it’s something to be proud of because it’s what ultimately makes us stronger.
After ten years and twenty films, Marvel Studios finally—let me repeat, finally—has its first female superhero standalone film. And Carol Danvers is every bit as awesome as you had hoped.