Captain Marvel paves the way for more female-led superhero films

Captain Marvel (starring from left, Djimon Hounsou, Algenis Perez Soto, Brie Larson, Rune Temte and Gemma Chan) grossed $208 million in its North American debut.
Captain Marvel (starring from left, Djimon Hounsou, Algenis Perez Soto, Brie Larson, Rune Temte and Gemma Chan) grossed $208 million in its North American debut.PHOTO: THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY

LOS ANGELES • Captain Marvel has responded to doubters, trolls and a pernicious Hollywood myth in the strongest way possible - with a monster first weekend.

The Disney-Marvel movie, starring Brie Larson as the titular hero, had a top-20, all-time opening before adjusting for inflation, according to studio estimates.

By grossing US$153 million (S$208 million) in its North American debut, Captain Marvel topped another female-led action franchise, 2012's The Hunger Games (US$152.5 million) and slid in behind another: 2016's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (US$155 million).

Globally, Captain Marvel grossed a combined US$455 million - the sixth-best opening before adjusting for inflation. The newest Marvel movie also continued the studio's streak: Every one of its 21 films has opened at No. 1.

The record-breaking debut debunked the myth that a solo female superhero could not reliably open a film - a foundation of success laid by Wonder Woman and now solidified by Captain Marvel.

Wonder Woman faced scepticism before the film's massive box office in 2017: Was she worthy of carrying her own movie?

Half a year earlier, she had been dropped as an honorary United Nations ambassador for gender equality. And when the movie opened, an all-women screening at the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas stirred controversy.

Two years later, Captain Marvel faced heated online attempts to troll the film, with its Rotten Tomatoes audience score hitting only 27 per cent before the website changed its rules last month to prevent review comments before a movie's release.

Fans were responding to the movie's "liberal politics and diverse casting", as well as "Larson's call for more women and people of colour in film," according to The Washington Post's Steven Zeitchik.

Despite speculation that sexist trolls would somehow take down Captain Marvel, the film's audience was 55 per cent male, according to Box Office Mojo - compared with 48 per cent for Wonder Woman.

Of the movie's wide appeal, comic-book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, whose 2012 reimagining of Carol Danvers largely inspired the film, says: "It tells me a hero is a hero. (There's) nothing inherently masculine about heroism."

"Mostly, I'm thrilled for the doors this will open," DeConnick, who was a consultant on Captain Marvel, tells The Washington Post. "And for the little girls who will see themselves as protagonists in adventure tales."

If Captain Marvel follows Rogue One's trajectory, it will also become the first female-led superhero movie to cross the billion-dollar mark in global gross.

Anna Boden, who shared the director's chair with Ryan Fleck, would also become one of the only women to lead a billion-dollar-grossing film, joining Frozen (2013) co-director Jennifer Lee.

On a larger scale, Captain Marvel's commercial success sets the stage for more female-led superhero movies.

DC's Birds Of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984 are scheduled to arrive next year.

It could also bolster the studio's confidence in giving Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, for so long the most prominent female Avenger) her own spotlight.

In the meantime, theatres will reveal just how far Carol Danvers can fly before she returns in next month's epic Avengers: Endgame - and perhaps even take the reins of the next generation of Avengers.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2019, with the headline 'Captain Marvel paves the way for more female-led superhero films'. Subscribe