These “Women-powered” movies aren’t anything new. Sue me for growing up in the era of Organa, Ripley and Conner. Nevertheless, we see tons of modifiers saying how great Captain Marvel has done at the box office, but does box office success (with lots of qualifiers) make it a great movie? I personally really liked the movie, but it fell a bit flat in a few key areas. Of course, the closest and most recent comparison is Wonder Woman, which I also really liked. While Captain Marvel has the slight edge in box office numbers in places, here are three extremely key areas where Wonder Woman is the better film.
1 – Captain Marvel Vs Wonder Woman: The Heroes Journey
The blueprint for the hero’s journey is as old as time itself and is drawn to nearly every story since ancient Greece. It describes the protagonists journey from the beginning of the story to the end. Consequently, we watch the protagonist grow and learn until there is some great “force” they must overcome whether it be external, internal or both. For some great insight into this read The Hero of a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.
In Wonder Woman, we meet Diana as a little girl who wants to learn to fight and become great but is held back by an over protective mother. However, Diana has no concept of who she truly is or the power she will one day wield. We see her eventually get to train, and then during one fight she accidentally taps into that power and nearly hurts her mentor.
After the arrival of Steve Trevor, the Amazons begin to realize that Ares is running wild in the world of men. Headstrong Diana is obsessed with finding and stopping the God of War. Before leaving, she grabs what she thinks is the God killer.
Wonder Woman’s Journey Begins
Once of the island Diana must come to understand not only the “real world”, but the ways of men and modern society. Naturally, she appears as a fish out of water that only sees black and white, when the world is very much a mixture of grays. Her compassion for those that are weaker overwhelms Diana. For her to keep walking and do nothing among such suffering is near unbearable.
I really do think the No-Man’s Land trench scene IS one of the truly great scenes in cinema. She climbs out of the trench when no one else would to put an end to this blood and suffering. Here Wonder Woman lets loose her incredible Amazon powers and we see her fighting skills.
In the end, when she confronts Ares face to face, we again see her skills. Notwithstanding, they are no match for him until she learns that the God killer was never the sword but was in fact herself. There is more to what goes on here that is important, but I need to put that off to the next section. In the end we see her dig deep and harness the very power meant to kill Gods. We see the true form of the warrior we had already seen in Batman V Superman.
When Captain Marvel begins, Carol Danvers is already a skilled fighter. She simply does not know who she is. The movie seems to be about rediscovering who she is and what her past means. We get leaks of it here and there, but its not until later that it is all revealed to her. When her past finally does come back, it felt empty. It solved the puzzle of Mar-Vell and filled in clues to the story that was being told, but it failed to really add much to the character of Carol Danvers.
One thing it did do was tell the Rocky adage of “But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward.” We watched a nice montage of all the times Carol fell, but then watched her pick herself up and keep moving. To me this felt slightly off because it was also mixing in the story puzzle pieces I talked about earlier, but I have no doubt there are viewers where that scene probably struck home pretty hard.
Captain Marvel Deserved More Than Flashbacks
The story needed a more in depth take on Carol’s journey instead of trying to condense it all onto a few flashbacks mid story. While it was a revelation, it really doesn’t have the character growth present in Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman did a much better job growing the character. Even in the end we see Diana begin to accept this is the way the world works and begin to let go of her naive beliefs on how the world should be. She still believes in her black and whites, but she accepts the grays that exist.
The fight scene early in the film between Carol and her Kree mentor, Yon-Rogg, was another golden moment completely dropped. Early on we see Carol get demolished by her mentor time and again. She simply cannot beat him. Carol recovers her powers, her memories and then proceeds to kick the crap out of the Kree. It finally comes to that one v one moment where apprentice faces down the master or bully they have never beaten. Yon-Rogg challenges Carol to put aside her powers and face him, warrior to warrior. Instead of facing him, Carol simply blasts him with her energy and calls it good. Story wise this makes sense and was humorous. It is reminiscent of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the swordsman tries to challenge Indy, but Indy simply shoots him. While clever and simple, it denies Carol the right to stand up to her mentor and show her true growth. It emphasizes that Carol could never have beaten in hand to hand – a missed opportunity.
Carol lacked any sense of growth. It was about remembering not growing. Her powers were simply inhibited by a chip. Once it was gone, she fully controlled and used powers she had never used before. That on top of having no visible weaknesses made her journey to safe and convenient. Kevin Feige recently stated we will be seeing her Achilles heel, most likely vs Thanos, but for this movie there was simply no risk.