Marvel films are always a big event. People flock to their local theaters to see their favorite comic book characters come to life on the silver screen and settle in for cool choreographed fights, stunning special effects, and keeping their eyes peeled for Stan Lee’s standout cameos (RIP). While those may be some of the reasons to catch a Marvel movie, whether you’re a diehard comic book fan or a casual one, what shouldn’t be overlooked are those quieter, intimate moments that pull you into the hero’s or heroine’s personal life to discover what makes them the humans behind the legends. The tight friendship between Captain Marvel and her best friend Maria Rambeau is one of the best takeaways from the newest Captain Marvel movie. Warning: Contains some light spoilers about Captain Marvel.
Like the other Marvel movies that preceded it, Captain Marvel is an origin story. It explores Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) past as a human fighter pilot on earth, how she acquired her super charged abilities, and how she winds up on Hala, the Kree Empire’s home world, to serve as a fighter for the elite Kree military unit Starforce with no memories of her former life on earth.
When fragments of Carol’s memories start coming back, after being captured by the Skrulls to extract pertinent information they’re looking for, she manages to break out of her captivity in an escape pod and crash lands on earth during the 90s. With the help of Nick Fury (a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson playing a younger version of Fury in the film), Carol seeks to make sense of the memories she saw and the people who once knew her, particularly her close friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch).
While the friendship between Carol and Maria are largely shown as flashbacks, from working side-by-side for the U.S. Air Force to Carol spending time at Maria’s home and being a fun loving aunt to Maria’s daughter Monica, those brief moments truly capture just how close they really are. They are more than friends—they’re family. When Carol shows up on Maria’s doorstep looking for answers, the ensuing scenes of their reunion, six years later, is deeply emotional and heartfelt.
During a scene where Monica brings out a box of photos and mementos containing the life Carol lived on earth with the two people who mean the world to her, it shows just how inseparable these women have been. The glimpses of Carol’s memories we do see reaffirms that there’s nothing in this world that would tear these women apart, except maybe death.
Though Maria is happy to see that her best friend didn’t perish in a flight test gone wrong, as previously presumed, their reunion isn’t without some confusion, anger, and sadness. In a scene where Carol and Maria are left alone to have a private conversation, Maria starts pouring out her feelings and thoughts about what Carol’s presumed death did to her then and her reaction to seeing her friend standing in front of her now. Reunions, like the one portrayed in Captain Marvel, are overwhelming affairs and it isn’t without a mix of emotions going through someone’s mind. Maria thought her friend died six years ago and it’s not easy to process that they never were dead but living on another planet and with superpowers to boot. While it isn’t entirely Carol’s fault, or her choice, that she has been living on Hala, as Vers, with no recollection of who she is or the people she knew, it’s still understandable that Maria would react and feel the way she does. But once the air is cleared between the two friends, their interactions with each other is as if no time had past between them. Even with Carol still gradually recovering the missing pieces of her life and identity, what hasn’t truly left is the natural bond she already feels for Maria.
It’s often typical for the significant relationship in a story, especially someone who currently has amnesia, to be a romantic one. Usually when the main character is on a quest to remember what they lost, that journey tends to lead them to the lover they unwittingly left behind. Captain Marvel is very much a feminist movie, and what I most appreciate about Carol Danvers’ personal journey to retrieve her sense of self and her other life is that her search brings her, not to a man but a woman whose friendship is far more important to Carol than any man could ever be.
I applaud Larson and Lynch for bringing Carol and Maria to life in such a way that it celebrates female friendships and the strength of sisterhood. They’re supportive, they lift each other up when the other is down, and there’s an abundance of love and respect. There’s no jealousy, no malice. Instead of showing two women who are competing against each other or seeking to sabotage the other, Captain Marvel gives us a relationship where these women genuinely want nothing but the best for the other.
When Carol is still reeling from the truth she uncovers about Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), her mentor and commander of Starforce, and feels angry, anguished, and in doubt about what or who to believe, Maria steps in and confidently tells Carol exactly who she is—her best friend and a badass woman who is more than capable to handle anything thrown in her path. I’m paraphrasing that scene, but it is one of the feel-good moments of the movie that makes you want to shout, “Hell yes!” from the top of your lungs. I think Lynch delivers one of the best performances in Captain Marvel as Maria, the first being her emotional heart-to-heart with Carol, and the other being the pep-talk she gives to Carol to boost up her confidence. Those two moments nearly brought me to tears the first time I watched the movie and it shows what a true and healthy friendship looks like. It’s the type of friendship you want to have or aspire to be for the BFF in your life.
Captain Marvel may be a Marvel Studios movie event to watch for the wham, bam, pow action you expect, and believe me, the fight scenes are glorious towards the end of the film. But really I came away from the theater loving every minute of Carol and Maria’s friendship. If there are more Captain Marvel movies in the future, and I’m sure there will be, I hope they will give us more screen time with these two strong and beautiful women who don’t need no man to save them. Nor do they have anything to prove either.
Did you watch Captain Marvel? What’s your impression of the Carol Danvers and Maria Rambeau friendship?