When "Captain Marvel" opens its doors next Friday, it will be a moment of great satisfaction associated with persistent frustration.
The film, which portrays Brie Larson as a comic superhero, is the 21st entry of the Marvel Interconnected Film franchise since its debut in 2008, but the first to be primarily devoted to a woman.
To this day, the public has become accustomed to superhero movies that put women in the spotlight. In 2017, Wonder Woman, based on the DC Comics Amazon warrior, was a worldwide success for Warner Bros.
Marvel has built his own fortune on a group of costumed adventurers, many decades old, who do not lack women. And the studio has been criticized for its slowness in creating movies showcasing its female characters.
So what took Marvel as long as it took to reach that point? And will "Captain Marvel" be the film that exploits this long-unexploited potential?
The answer to the first question, at least, lies in a tangle of social, cultural and economic factors. Over the last 60 years, Marvel has seen similar difficulties in comic strip creation – efforts that have progressively helped give Captain Marvel a prominent place in the publishers' pantheon and make the film more likely. .
The people behind "Captain Marvel" – the film as well as the comic strips that inspired it – recognize the historical problems that led to these more encouraging developments.
They also see opportunities for women to have equal place on the page and screen, and for the character of Captain Marvel to become an icon of women's representation and empowerment .
"What Captain Marvel was supposed to be in the early 1960s is very different than it should be in 2019, when she will anchor a great movie," said Kelly Thompson, the current author of the comic book series Captain Marvel. "The film is about to become more important than ever for comics, and the comic strip becomes the character's testing ground."
Marvel, the Disney-owned home of the superteam Avengers, has become an important witness to the diversity in Hollywood. The studio broke the ground with movies like "Black Panther", his blockbuster of 2018 with a black director, writers and main actors.
In recent years, Marvel has also earned a reputation for providing opportunities for filmmakers who do not have action film training. This category includes directors "Captain Marvel", Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, best known for their low-budget offerings, such as "Mississippi Grind" and "It's a funny story".
Recalling a first meeting with Marvel, Boden told the agency, "All we have is the content of the characters. And they said, "We know how to blow things up, we need administrators who can tell a story."
("Captain Marvel", written by Boden, Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet, is also Marvel's first film to have a director and the second, after the "Guardians of the galaxy" of 2014, to recognize women as writers. )
Larson, winner of an Academy Award for the 2015 drama "Room," stated that she was initially suspicious when she was approached for "Captain Marvel" and that she "was the first one to win. she did not know if she wanted to take on such a prestigious role.
But the actress, who has called for greater participation of women and people of color in the film industry and in the media that cover her, said the global deployment of "Captain Marvel" could help bring advocacy to a wider audience.
She said she feels involved in the moral lessons of her little films like "Short term 12." But when it came to "Captain Marvel," Larson said that she was wondering, "Could I do the same thing by taking care of the content and making sure that it's safe?" 39 It contains a message while playing around the world Being able to shape the conversation is what the female leadership looks like.
In favor of Captain Marvel, Larson said that although Marvel's other heroes are weak and modest at the beginning of their story, "she was a fool before having her powers."
A former Air Force test pilot, Carol Danvers, has acquired superhuman abilities through an alien race. Boden described the film as a mystery in which Danvers had to investigate his own past.
"As she learns to know herself and to understand what makes her hershe really realizes her real power, "said Boden. "It partly involves rejecting the voices of people who tell her that she is not strong enough and has no place. I think a lot of people will be able to understand each other, especially women. "
THE CHARACTER OF CAROL DANVERS made her own journey since Marvel introduced her into comics in 1968. At the time, she was little more than a Lois Lane-type love affair for a male hero (an extraterrestrial soldier who was the original captain of the publisher, Marvel).
Marvel, where his daring publisher, Stan Lee, ran a list of talented writers and illustrators, was celebrated at that time for his integrity. But his early efforts in women's representation may now seem symbolic.
"You can not help but think that if Stan Lee was not a sexist conscious, he was certainly so traditional," said Heidi MacDonald, editor-in-chief of The Beat, a website about comic culture. "He gave his female characters the weakest powers -" Oh, I can become very small. "I can become invisible. "I can move a cup of tea with my mind. "
In the 70s and 80s, Marvel publishes his first female superhero comics solo and introduces Spider-Woman and She-Hulk, versions of his best known characters exchanged between two sexes, intended in part to protect the copyright of the publisher.
As a nod to the growing feminist movement, Marvel turned Danvers into Mrs. Marvel, giving her a solo series in which she fought against intergalactic bandits and wore a navel-trimmed suit.
The character came and went in fashion over the years, a time when many women were moving away from comic books. Publications became more difficult to find in bookstores and newsstands, and readers were alienated by sexist stories and illustrations that reduced women to acolytes and stereotypes.
"In the '80s and' 90s, we made comics actively insulting women," said writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Women are gone en masse. Why are you going to read things that insult you actively, you have to go to a specialized store where you are not always welcome? "
DeConnick sought to counteract this when she reintroduced Carol Danvers in a 2012 series in which the character finally took the title of Captain Marvel and donned a suit more appropriate to his military background.
In previous years, DeConnick said, "She had gone from gymnastic jersey with boots to a thong. It was the most hypocritical thing in the world. "
DeConnick, whose father served in the Air Force for 20 years, said she wanted to put Danvers into the tradition of being a long-time favorite.
"I grew up in the air force bases and I have a soft spot for aviation history," said DeConnick. "My point was, Carol is Air Force – so was Pappy Boyington, as well as Chuck Yeager. You can have the courage and you can always be military. "
At the same time, readers were returning to comics, encouraged by new formats of publication and intrigues and more inclusive characters.
The revived Carol Danvers had become a central player in Marvel's comics universe, and the publisher had successfully introduced a wide range of characters, like a young Spider-Man new, Miles Morales, of Black and Puerto Rican origin, and a new Mrs. Marvel. Kamala Khan, a Muslim teenager.
More importantly, said Thompson, the current author of Captain Marvel, "Marvel has been supporting these characters. You have to put good talent into their books, but you have to support them, promote them, and promote them as prominent characters. Let's not neglect this part of the equation. "
THE MOVIES OF MARVEL, HOWEVER, HAVE NOT SAVED TIME. The first releases of the studio were focused on establish male heroes like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor; Although her film world has included female characters like Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) as members of larger teams, no solo film is in development for them .
Even Marvel seemed to be in the grip of a long-standing error in Hollywood: although women watch movies about men, men do not watch movies about women. "Because women have a lower status in our culture," said DeConnick, "you will aspire, you will not cross-identify".
This perception of the studio seemed to be reinforced by the leak of a 2014 email from Isaac Perlmutter, president of Marvel Entertainment, in which he disparaged movies of female superheroes like "Supergirl" (1984), "Catwoman" (2004) and " Elektra "(2005) for their poor box office performance.
Similarly, when the Marvel studio was reorganized in 2015, allowing its president, Kevin Feige, to report directly to Disney and circumvent Perlmutter, industry observers assumed that it allowed Feige to pursue more diverse films such as "Black Panther" and "Captain Marvel". . "(Marvel and Disney declined to comment.)
Boden and Fleck, directors of "Captain Marvel," have stated that it's hard to escape the hold of the Hollywood tradition, according to which most genre films are still focused on male roles.
"Even watching our own movies, why did it take us five movies to get one on a woman?" Said Fleck. "I hope we will get to the point where these stories are told all the time."
Asked about the conclusions he and Boden had reached in reflecting on their own work, Fleck replied: "We have not yet reached these results. I think they will come though. "
For all unresolved issues raised by "Captain Marvel," MacDonald, Beat's publisher, said that Marvel still deserved credit for making the film and generating excitement for the character.
"It's certainly a lot of history that they had to give up to get the 'Captain Marvel'," she said. "They built a real base for this character and a passion for what they were defending," as well as a "very powerful" fan base.
She added, "Are these millions and millions of people? No that's not it. But it is not necessary. It must be this nucleus, this spark. "
"Captain Marvel" should not match last year's box-office results of "Black Panther", which grossed $ 1.3 billion worldwide, or "Avengers: Infinity War", which has reported 2 billion dollars to the world and ended on a catastrophic cliffhanger that fans waited nearly a year to see resolved. By comparison, Marvel's "Ant-Man and the Wasp", released in the summer of 2018 and featuring Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly, has worldwide sales of $ 622 million.
Recent tracking reports estimate that "Captain Marvel" will bring in more than $ 100 million during its opening weekend, and MacDonald said the film would probably appeal to more than one constituency: not only fans of the character and women who want to watch women-led films, but also Marvel's obsessed ones who want to see how this fits into Marvel's next royal battle, "Avengers: Endgame," which opens on April 26.
"Kevin Feige is very smart," said MacDonald. "He is releasing the film that would be the most difficult to sell in a position where it will lead to the greatest final act of the film's history."
It is not known if "Captain Marvel" will be the beginning of a trend or an outlier for Marvel. Specialized Hollywood publications have announced that the studio is planning other women-led projects, including a Black Widow film starring Johansson and directed by Cate Shortland ("Lore"), as well as a film adaptation of the Eternals. , directed by Chloé Zhao ("The Cavalier") But Disney said he could not confirm the development of Marvel.
Larson said the fact that "Captain Marvel" may be the harbinger of other films like this is "a larger issue, a systemic thing".
"This change is scary," she says, "and it takes time. It's slow but it's happening.
According to Larson, the only way to achieve such progress is if she and her peers use the influence of films such as "Captain Marvel" to strive for new changes and make them permanent.
"It's partly because I really insisted that I have some power and that I will use it," she said. "You do not know when it will change or who will have the power then. But I will push it as far as I can. Because it's the right thing to do. "