Warning: this article contains spoilers for Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War. 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 a few weeks ago, Black Panther introduced us to the badass women of Wakanda.
Now, though, Marvel has gone one step further with the new Infinity War.
The film marks 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) have all appeared on screen together.
Whether it’s leading an army, performing surgery or making the ultimate sacrifice, each plays a vital role in the storyline. And, best of all, writers never once stoop to that tired old plot device of pitting their multiple female leads against one another: there are no catfights, no feuds, no queen bees. Instead, these women work together, support each other and are the absolute definition of #girlpower – a point which is made abundantly clear when Scarlet Witch is knocked down by a particularly twisted enemy, who then proceeds to tell her she will die alone.
“She’s not alone,” comes Black Widow’s voice from off-screen, as she and Okoye storm in to offer some much needed back-up.
These three little words are 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.
This is a point which is hammered home in the 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 Carol Danvers.
Production has begun on Marvel Studios' #CaptainMarvel...@BrieLarson receives instructions from Brigadier General Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander on a recent visit to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to research her character. pic.twitter.com/P3ZXvEguJQ— Captain Marvel (@captainmarvel) March 26, 2018
For those who don’t know, Danvers (otherwise known as Captain Marvel) 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 has 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 have decided to give this truly inspiring female superhero an origins movie all of her own: Brie Larson will be bringing the heroine to life on screen in her own movie next year.
Speaking to Variety about the upcoming project, Kevin Feige, the producer and president of Marvel studios, promised: “You’re going to get the most powerful superhero that we’ve ever introduced. And one of the most unique and inspiring origin stories, too.”
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 Infinity War are heavily outnumbered by the men), the future does look bright for feminist superheroes. This movie, for example, marks the employment of Marvel’s first-ever female stunt coordinator. The studio’s next release is Ant-Man & The Wasp, which will see Hope (Evangeline Lily) become a superhero in her own right, thanks to her high-tech Wasp suit. And 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?”
For now, though, we can’t wait to see how Danvers fares in her oh-so-Nineties movie – and how her experiences will shape her into the Thanos-smashing avenger we know she is.