Spoiler warning: Plot spoilers for Captain Marvel follow.
It took ten years and 21 movies, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally given us a female superhero movie; and as far as I’m concerned, it was the one I was waiting for.
No naïve princess stepping down from her ivory tower with bare shoulders, Captain Marvel is a confident soldier with a mission. The word that I most associate with Carol Danvers is assurance; she is a woman who knows who she is and what her mission is (well, as much as you can when you’ve been kidnapped and literally brainwashed by your enemies to join their forces). But, watching her, I can’t help but think of the war we are all fighting in.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
We have an adversary (1 Peter 5:8) who knows who we really are and the power we possess. He is the father of lies (John 8:44) and so he tries to change the story so we unwittingly fight on his side. He inhibits our power and mocks us for our weakness. It feels so insidious; Yon-Rogg appears to care about Vers and acts as her mentor, when he is actually the mastermind behind her deception and is only maintaining the false relationship until he can gain the power he desires from her.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But then Vers learns the truth and is reborn, in one sense. But it’s beautiful because it’s not that she becomes a new person when she learns the truth; she actually learns who she always was. She learns her true identity. One of my favorite moments in the film is when Carol has a small identity crisis, as one would upon learning everything they thought they knew about themselves was a lie. Everyone is looking at her to make a decision, and she says she doesn’t know who she is. But instantly, her best friend Maria tells her exactly who she is; she fills in the gaps, and suddenly Carol is reset, reassured, back to being a woman on mission who proceeds to save the day.
Hopefully we all have best friends as good as Maria in our lives to meet with and remind us who we are. (Hebrews 10:25) At the very least, we have been gifted with the scriptures and the Holy Spirit to meet us with truth in those moments when we feel dizzy with lies.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
So, renewed in her knowledge of who she is and given a mission from Dr. Lawson, Captain Marvel literally puts off the green and silver of her old self and dons the red, blue and gold of her true self to face her enemy. With her identity assured, she fights confidently for those in need; and when she meets the Supreme Intelligence again, she is able to uncover the lies and discover the fullness of her power so she can defeat greater threats than she knew were even present.
A key moment for me in this movie was Carol’s last battle with Yon-Rogg. From the beginning, the movie set up a classic (and cringeworthy) dynamic: a man telling a woman that she needs to control her emotions to succeed. I was waiting the whole movie to see how were they going to answer that question. I feared equally the extremes of Captain Marvel succeeding in divorcing herself from her emotions to beat her old mentor, and her going over the top with her emotions to prove the point that they’re okay. The script’s actual solution is, to me, brilliant:
I have nothing to prove to you.
Oh man. How often does the Enemy tempt me to justify myself, to play his games by his rules, to distract me from those I’m called to save when he knows that by the Spirit I am more powerful than him? To react so confidently, knowing herself, her identity, her power without a need to make sure he knows it. That is a woman assured, standing on a firm foundation. As a Christian, this is the best way I could ever wish to react to my deceitful enemy: to rest in the identity and the power Christ gave me.