This newest casting choice could be big for Asian representation in the MCU.
In a bid to cast diversely, Marvel is certainly trying to improve itself. The recent success of Black Panther was definitely built on the celebratory power of representation. As the film continues to hold its own and then some at the box office, Marvel has made sure to remind us that it has other equally exciting projects in the works that could tick similar boxes. The studio’s latest casting decision especially piques our interest, due to Marvel’s track record of elevating lesser-known talent to stardom.
According to Deadline, Gemma Chan (Humans, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) has joined the cast of the highly anticipated female superhero vehicle Captain Marvel. There don’t seem to be any secrets surrounding the identity of her character, as the source bills her as both Doctor Minerva and her real identity, Minn-Erva, a Kree geneticist and spy.
The studio is understandably keeping plot details scarce for Captain Marvel at this time. What we do know is that Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), the human companion of the original Captain Marvel / Mar-Vell (Jude Law), garners powers of superhuman strength, energy projection, and flight after her DNA is fused with an alien strain during an accident. This is pertinent to note as Minn-Erva is said to have similar powers to Carol’s.
For the time being, whether Carol and Minn-Erva will go toe-to-toe as adversaries in the MCU — as they do in the comics — remains to be seen. Marvel has certainly created some great conflicts between characters who share certain similarities; Gamora and Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy films come to mind, as do T’Challa and Killmonger in Black Panther. These examples prove that Marvel “villains” who aren’t typically overt antagonists prove to foster more intriguing and engaging bonds, and there’s hope that Captain Marvel will go down a similar path.
There is, admittedly, a concern over Chan’s casting; the notion that she could have been cast only to later be covered in blue to play a Kree spy. However, given the lack of information surrounding the MCU’s interpretation of Minn-Erva as of the Deadline announcement, this is pure speculation and a twinge of pre-emptive worry that’s become a bit of a reflex. There are Kree who can shapeshift after all.
But one of the reasons this is even bothersome is because there has been a trend of casting diversely mostly when it comes to alien races. Zoe Saldana as Gamora and Pom Klementieff as Mantis are notable examples in Marvel’s universe. To be clear, Gamora and Mantis are great characters and continue to have a lot of potential. But they are clearly meant to be non-human in the context of their stories.
The MCU has done a lot better with Asian inclusion when it comes to its TV arm. For example, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. stars two Asian-Americans — Chloe Bennet and Ming-Na Wen — in substantial roles. Black Panther also really changed the game in terms of honoring black identity by making it nuanced and conflicted, and very much human.
Marvel should absolutely cast actors of Asian descent in superpowered roles of the more earthly variety. Particularly now that the X-Men are coming home, someone can do Jubilee justice, right? But just with regards to Captain Marvel, there’s more excitement than trepidation on my end when it comes to Chan’s casting. The real hope is just that she will play a worthy character who isn’t sidelined and Asians will still be represented onscreen.