Warning: this article contains spoilers for Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame. Proceed at your own peril…
It’s no secret that the mainstream superhero movies used to be absolutely DOMINATED by men. Think about it: all of the big blockbusters – Avengers Assemble, The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America and Thor to name but few – featured men as our heroes, with strange and unnatural powers.
The women who were included in the super-verse tended to either fall into one of two categories: the ‘love interest’ (otherwise known as the damsel in distress) or the ‘token’ heroine, complete with perfectly choreographed fight sequences, an impossibly precise hairstyle, a sexy spandex outfit and a plethora of witty comebacks.
But things are changing in the Marvel Universe: in 2015, Jessica Jones kicked her way into our Netflix accounts for the first time, while 2017 marked the year that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) got his butt kicked (and then saved) by the gung-ho Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). The ante was upped even further when, just last year, Black Panther introduced us to the badass women of Wakanda – and we will get to Captain Marvel in a moment.
Now, though, Marvel has gone one step further with the new Avengers: Endgame trailer. Check it out:
There’s a lot to unpick here. First, though, some context.
Marvel’s Endgame is the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War, which famously marked the first time ever that Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) all appeared on screen together.
Whether it’s leading an army, performing surgery or making the ultimate sacrifice, each played a vital role in the storyline. And, best of all, writers never once stooped to that tired old plot device of pitting their multiple female leads against one another: there were no catfights, no feuds, no queen bees. Instead, these women worked together, supported each other and were the absolute definition of #girlpower – a point made abundantly clear when Scarlet Witch was knocked down by a particularly twisted enemy, who then proceeded to tell her that she would die alone.
“She’s not alone,” came Black Widow’s voice from off-screen, as she and Okoye stormed in to offer some much needed back-up.
It was just three little words, but they were a staunch reminder that Marvel’s female superheroes are no longer alone – they are a team of impossible strength and force. And they act as something of a promise, too: Marvel has sworn that these amazing badasses – all every bit as complex, engaging and necessary to the cinematic universe as their male counterparts – will never again be reduced to the role of ‘token’ woman.
It was a point which was hammered home in Infinity War’s post-credits scene, when Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), in need of a hero, attempts to contact someone using a pager.
It falls to the ground and it’s revealed that the person he is trying to call is none other than Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers… otherwise known as Captain Marvel.
For those who don’t know, Danvers is one of the most empowering female comic book characters out there. A former fighter pilot, cosmic hero and long-time Avenger, she’s a modern woman searching for self-liberation and her own sense of identity.
She’s also got superhuman strength, endurance, stamina, flight, physical durability, precognition, and a perfectly amalgamated human/Kree physiology that renders her resistant to most toxins and poisons. Throw in the fact that she’s a talented pilot and espionage agent, and you have a true trailblazer for gender equality. She even has a practical costume.
It makes perfect sense, then, that Fury had Danvers pegged as the superhero he needs to save the day: after all, she is one of the few people with the strength to take on Thanos. And it makes even more sense that Marvel gave this truly inspiring female superhero an origins movie all of her own ahead of Endgame: Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel (which we awarded five stars in our review) is in cinemas now.
While there is still a long way to go before Marvel achieves true equality between the sexes (it goes without saying that the women of Avengers remain heavily outnumbered by the men), the future does look bright for feminist superheroes: the poster for Endgame features Nebula, Black Widow, Captain Marvel and Okoye side by side and smack-bang in the centre. The trailer, similarly, suggests these heroines will steer the story towards its big finale… and that they will be the key to defeating Thanos. We also see Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) picking up Iron Man’s helmet, suggesting comic book fans may get their wish and see the character don the superhero’s armour for herself. And the trailer is narrated by Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), though the speech she gives comes directly from Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Then there’s the fact that Marvel recently hired its first-ever female stunt coordinator. That the studio just released Ant-Man & The Wasp, which saw Hope (Evangeline Lily) become a superhero in her own right, thanks to her high-tech Wasp suit. And that there are, of course, rumours of an all-female Avengers movie – rumours which have been helped along by Gurira herself.
“I think it’s really exciting, because it’s showing that yeah, of course it’s time we started seeing the perspective of a story coming exclusively from women,” she told Ellen DeGeneres recently.
“I mean, magic happens when women do their thing, you know what I’m saying?”
We know what she’s saying. All hail the badass women of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: we can’t wait to see how they work together in Endgame!
This article was originally published in April 2018.