Courtesy | Wiki­media Commons

As Vers, the Air Force pilot turned super-powered Kree warrior, makes her way through the Block­buster that she crash landed into seconds before, she picks up one movie off the shelves: “The Right Stuff.” Based on the book written in 1979 by acclaimed jour­nalist Tom Wolfe, “The Right Stuff” follows the seven mil­itary pilots who became the Mercury Seven, the astro­nauts who con­ducted NASA’s first manned space flight. Before their careers as astro­nauts, the Mercury Seven were mil­itary pilots who con­tinued their career in space exactly as Vers does.

Released March 8, Captain Marvel brought in $153,433,423 during its opening weekend.

Wolfe’s book gets its title from an unex­plainable char­acter trait that each of the Mercury astro­nauts pos­sessed, “the right stuff.” Merely being a highly-skilled and coura­geous pilot is not enough to have the “right stuff”: some­thing more is required. Some of the best pilots in the world were passed over for the Mercury mission because of their lack of this unde­finable and incom­pre­hen­sible quality. With its various ref­er­ences to Wolfe’s book and focus on Vers’ char­acter, Marvel spends the whole of its newest installment, “Captain Marvel,” attempting to prove that Vers herself has the “right stuff.”

“Captain Marvel” follows Vers journey of self-dis­covery. Suf­fering from amnesia, the young Kree warrior finds herself alone on Earth. Verse soon dis­covers she has some con­nection to planet C-53, the Kree call sign for Earth. Vers’ teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Nick Fury, and the two galavant across the country seeking to save Earth from the Skrull war­riors who seek to subvert Kree rule.  

Like Wolfe’s astro­nauts Vers (Brie Larson), known as Carol Danvers on Earth, is unde­niably a highly-skilled and coura­geous pilot. Unlike, Wolfe’s astro­nauts, however, Vers pos­sesses no unique quality that sep­a­rates her from other char­acters. While she does have an incredible amount of super­human powers, skills do not the “right stuff” make. Brie Larson’s skill as an actress shines in the few moments that require a dra­matic and emo­tional response. The few attempts at comic relief, however, feel flat and forced.

The film spends a fair amount of time on female empow­erment. The audience is first intro­duced to Vers in a training session with her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). It’s early in the morning, and Yon-Rogg and Vers are sparring in a training room. While Yon-Rogg clearly has the upper hand, he spews moti­va­tional sayings at Vers, including telling her to “keep her emo­tions in check,” alluding to the obvious gender stereotype.

Throughout the film, male figures in Vers life belittle her: her father, her supe­riors in the Air Force, her fellow airmen. But each moment, though intended to be inspiring, focuses on cliche female empow­erment tropes. The moments are uno­riginal and tired: towards the end of the movie, when Vers is knocked down in battle, a montage of men belit­tling her plays. Every woman has expe­ri­enced what Vers goes through. Every woman under­stands it. Every woman also over­comes it, without the help of super­powers.

While its main char­acter is flat and unin­ter­esting, and its attempt at social-justice com­mentary fails, “Captain Marvel” is not a ter­rible movie. The flick serves as a prequel to the entire Marvel uni­verse and fans will appre­ciate the groundwork it lays for later Marvel install­ments such as the “Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” “Captain Marvel” is the first intro­duction of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) to alien life and super­heroes. Jackson and Gregg were dig­i­tally altered in post pro­duction to appear younger to fit the film’s 1990s setting, and it’s endearing to watch Fury and Coulson grow into the char­acters Marvel fans know and love. For that reason, Marvel fans should see it. So many pieces of the intricate Marvel puzzle start to fit together through the back­ground estab­lished by “Captain Marvel.”

“The Right Stuff” follows seven men with a special char­ac­ter­istic that allows them to overcome all odds and become the first Amer­icans in space. Marvel intended for “Captain Marvel” to be the females’ “The Right Stuff.” But with its main char­acter lacking that special char­ac­ter­istic and its fem­inist tropes falling flat, the movie instead makes females look weak. By focusing only on male ridicule of women, it sug­gests that women should pay mind to the opinions of men who see them as little more than a pretty face. Some women do, but strong women don’t.

That is the female’s “Right Stuff,” and Carol Danvers doesn’t have it.