I went to see a movie recently and I was reminded of a moment from a George Lucas classic: Raiders of the Lost Arc, the first Indiana Jones movie. The scene is not the big one at the end where the power of God erupts from the Arc of the Covenant and the faces melt like wax. It is the moment when Indy is confronted by the warrior wielding a scimitar expertly, challenging Indy to join him in combat.
Indy is tired he has just gone through a few Nazis and a couple of assassins. He needs to move quickly otherwise he may not save Marion who has been kidnapped. Indy ignores the call to combat and simply shoots him. It was (as the kids say) “badass!”
Indiana Jones is played by Harrison Ford, Mr Han Solo himself. But this was not the gun running, scoundrel that made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. Indiana Jones was beginning of something different, the emergence of the smart-guy hero. He got tired, he got hurt; but he was smart and tough. So many archeology degrees began from watching the adventures of Indiana Jones.
Which Captain? Her
The movie I saw similarities with to Indiana Jones was Captain Marvel. When I go to superhero movies I have low expectations, after seeing many failures. This was the first female lead Marvel movie, it follows DC’s Wonder Woman which did incredibly well. My dread was for a repeat of the same themes as Wonder Woman. Or worse a heroes’ tale paint-by-numbers style which shadowed Wonder Woman’s narrative.
I was pleasantly surprised by Captain Marvel and the performance of Brie Larsen in the lead. The film tied many little things together in the larger narrative that will be completed in Avengers: Endgame. It is here I have to issue a spoiler alert as the scene in discussion takes place within the climax of the film. You have been warned.
Here Spoilers Begin
In Captain Marvel we begin at the low point. Carol Danvers is only ‘Vers’. Her identity has been taken from her and she appears to believe fractured memories that look rather human for someone who is Kree. Her powers are held in check by those in charge of her by both technological and psychological means. As Carol says when she finally is released from these bounds she has been “fighting with one hand tied behind my back.”.
The images told by flashbacks are of Carol defying authority, and convention. She does not succeed all the time but she never gives up. Her identity, will and powers are so strong that she is able break the Kree manipulation and save the earth from alien bombardment.
With the Kree revealed as the true villains Carol’s former Kree commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) stands in defiance of her and goads her into fighting him. That is without the overwhelming advantage of her powers. He seeks to get her to return to her subservient role as his subordinate. A role that she was given by the Kree who manipulated her memories only wanting to gain control of the power Carol has.
Yon-Rogg’s constant instruction to Carol devalued her powers. That she could only prove herself worthy of them when she beat Yon-Rogg without them. Once again, he orders submission to his demands. There is a pause followed by Carol blasting Yon-Rogg forcefully into the surrounding rocks. She does not have the time to deal with Yon-Rogg on his terms, there are more important tasks. Not to mention that fighting your abuser on their terms is inviting defeat.
This is not the first time we have seen a badass, female hero star in a movie. Ripley played by Sigourney Weaver in the Aliens series was definitely a great heroine. Ripley has links to the myth of Cassandra, who saw the future and no one believed her. The recent Wonder Woman movie has a connection to this archetype of heroine. Ripley and Cassandra are tales about women who have insight but little agency. Tragedy comes because no one takes them seriously until it is too late.
Ripley and her cat are the only survivors in Alien and not many more survive in the sequels. Wonder Woman loses Steve Trevor and a whole town is gassed. In response Diana goes to ground working in the shadows. It is the low point for the hero that we see charted in the Wonder Woman movie. Ripley unfortunately never truly escapes her repeating cycle of the heroes’ journey. Her horror is more than tragedy as it visits on her again and again. The war against the evil never stops.
The difference a woman makes
For Captain Marvel the war is ended, the Kree are sent packing. The remaining Skrull refugees from the Kree-Skrull war are escorted by our heroine to a new homeworld. I left the movie knowing I had seen something different from the heroines of other movies. I just did not pick it till I realised the similarities between Carol Danvers and Indiana Jones.
It was a difference in character, a subtle but defining difference. I expect there to be something similar with Wonder Woman 1984. There is no reason for the heroine to be the one that is like Cassandra, devalued because of gender. Carol Danvers is Captain Marvel the most powerful Avenger. Proven merit should be the reason for the title and the only difference between hero and heroine merely correct vocabulary.
Phillip Hall has just finalised the question for his Minor Thesis on Hope and Technology and is getting ready to begin the Winter Cricket season for 2019. Both are exciting times.
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.