There was always going to be a lot riding on Captain Marvel.
The 2019 release will be Marvel’s first woman-led superhero adventure, nearly two full years after Wonder Woman became the biggest thing at the summer box office. That means for once, Marvel Studios is lagging behind their Warner Bros. competition on something, and they need to get it right. Ever since the film was announced, fans have been wondering how Marvel will do that, and on Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con we got a little bit of our answer.
According to studio president Kevin Feige, the film will be set in the 1990s and will feature classic shapeshifting Marvel Comics aliens the Skrulls. Feige later elaborated, announcing that the film will include the famed 1970s comic book story “The Kree-Skrull War,” adding in the Kree aliens first introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy.
That’s a lot for one film to handle, but if there’s any hero who can manage, it’s Captain Marvel herself: Carol Danvers. Carol’s comic book history is complicated. She became a superhero when a Kree device blew up, merging her human biology with alien and granting her incredible powers. She’s an Air Force Colonel, a recovering alcoholic and an assault victim who’s changed identities multiple times. She is, put simply, a survivor.
She is also the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Like Wonder Woman before her, Carol has the potential to completely reshape how we think about superhero movies, particularly Marvel superhero movies. If this film is done right it will point the way forward for Marvel Studios and shape at least the next decade of films they make. Here’s how.
First, there’s the issue of the ‘90s setting. It might seem like a strange choice, setting a film just a decade or so before Iron Man when there are more historically intriguing eras to focus on. Why not sometime during the Cold War or even back in Captain America’s World War II. Well, Guardians of the Galaxy’s Peter Quill already focuses enough on the 1980s, but beyond that this is about giving Carol her own time. If Captain America is born of the 1940s and Iron Man of the 2000s, then Captain Marvel is apparently born of the 1990s. This might not necessarily mean that much, depending on how much the time period figures into Carol’s first movie. What does mean a lot is that Carol will have an era in which she can stand on her own. Cap’s still in the ice and the other Avengers don’t exist yet (except Thor, but no one knows that), so she can come of age and come into her powers at a time when that’s still not a common occurrence. In Wonder Woman, DC Films gave us a hero who stood alone, unique in the world at that point. Carol Danvers has the potential to be the same thing. That doesn’t just grant her a singular thread of history in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also grants her an authority that allows her to rise above even Tony Stark should the moment call for it. As for how they’ll account for star Brie Larson’s unchanged appearance two decades later in the timeline…well, she has alien DNA. Seems like an easy enough excuse.
Then, there’s the issue of the Skrulls. They’ve been part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe longer than almost any superhero you’ve heard of, dating back to Fantastic Four #2 in 1962. They pre-date Carol, Iron Man and nearly everyone else. They are essential to the Marvel Comics universe thanks to decades of storytelling. Now, they get to make the leap to the cinematic world, and that has major implications. Sure, Marvel could decide to just keep the Skrulls out in space, fighting the Kree and other alien races and generally keeping their affairs separate from Earth. It seems much more likely, though, that their predilecition for shapeshifting and impersonation will be put to good use. In the Secret Invasion storyline, a cabal of future-minded Avengers known as “The Illuminati” are kidnapped and studied by the Skrulls. The aliens use the knowledge gained to impersonate Avengers on Earth. The heroes of Earth are rocked by the revelation that any one of them could be a Skrull sleeper agent. At a time when the arc of the first Avengers film is nearing its endgame, it seems nearly impossible that Marvel Studios has forgotten about this. Don’t be surprised to see Robert Downey Jr. shift his face into that of a green-skinned alien sometime in the next 10 years.
And finally, there’s the Kree-Skrull War itself. It’s quite possible that it will serve only as a backdrop to Captain Marvel, though it’s possible it will be front-and-center in Carol’s first adventure. Either way this galaxy-shattering conflict will echo through the MCU timeline, even into the present. While Tony Stark and company may not have heard of it yet, you can bet Carol will be more than happy to fill them in. Combine that with Star-Lord’s personal experience with the Kree and the Nova Corps back in the first Guardians film and the teaser of Adam Warlock at the end of Guardians Vol. 2 and something begins to take shape. The future of the MCU beyond Avengers: Infinity War is still uncertain, with the exception of films like Guardians 3. Writer/director James Gunn and his spacefaring adventurers are set to take us into the next phase, a phase we already know will include the relatively new character of Carol Danvers. Speaking about the Guardians specifically, here’s what Feige had to say about the future a few months ago:
“As you know from the comics, there are so many places to go and so many more characters, and there are a few characters hinted at in the [end] tag scenes of Vol. 2. All of which could be potential to see and explore more in the new age following our big Avengers films.”
It’s hard not to consider Carol Danvers a part of this “new age.” By the time most of the rest of our heroes meet her she’ll already have massive cosmic experience. She’ll have been through the wars and she’ll have the authority to lead. If Marvel plays its cards right Carol Danvers will have a major role to play in a world of superhero movies that takes us well beyond Earth. It won’t just be superheroes battling the destruction of cities anymore. It’ll be superheroes in the final frontier, with Captain Marvel leading the way.
Captain Marvel is in theaters March 8, 2019.