Captain Marvel – Where the MCU’s Been and Where It’s Going

I went into Captain Marvel with pretty high expectations.  While I felt the marketing Marvel did for the film was subpar, this was still the Marvel movie I was most excited about this year.  It was also the one I had the highest expectations for.  Yes, I will be in line for Avengers: Endgame with everyone else, ready to see how the first generation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes to an end.  But Captain Marvel’s the movie I was waiting for.  With that in mind, I wanted to talk a little bit about the film (no spoilers) but also about the MCU in general  After my first (and second) viewing of the film, I found myself contemplating how Carol Danvers was brought to life on the big screen and also what the future of the MCU will look like with her and Black Panther at the fore.

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Yon-Rogg and Vers enjoy some combat training. / Photo Credit – Captain Marvel

To begin, Captain Marvel follows Vers (Brie Larson), a Kree solider with no memory of her life prior to six years ago, as she fights alongside Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Korath (Djimon Hounsou), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan), Bron-Char (Rune Temte), and Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), to protect their intergalactic empire’s borders from shapeshifting alien terrorists known as Skrulls.  When the hunt for Skrull leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and his army takes Vers to Earth, her memory begins to return in increasingly larger flashes.  Alongside S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and retired Air Force pilot Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) – who remembers Vers as her best friend and fellow Air Force pilot Carol Danvers – she seeks the truth amidst two alien races ready to go to war.

So why is this the Marvel movie I’m most excited for this year?  Well, in part, it’s because Avengers: Infinity War left me less than impressed, affecting my feelings going into Avengers: Endgame.  Similarly, Spider-Man: Homecoming was meh for me, feeling more like a story about Iron Man Jr. than Spider-Man, affecting my excitement for Spider-Man: Far From Home.  But Captain Marvel?!  Captain Marvel has become quite an important character to me.  She was one of the single biggest things to happen to the world of comics while I was away from them and one of the first characters I wanted to meet upon my return.  She’s this brilliant new comic love of mine!  So her movie, well most of the MCU thus far has featured characters I grew up loving.  Guardians Of The Galaxy featured characters (save Gamora and Drax) who I’d never seen before.  It was a world I’d never seen.  But Carol Danvers was the first character I met exclusively since returning to reading comic books that I now got to see adapted for life on the big screen.  So this make this movie feel extra special for me.

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Photo Credit – Captain Marvel

Also Captain Marvel is an important film for Marvel Studios, as it’s their first film starring a solo female superhero.  It’s a sin it’s taken them over ten years to do this (especially when Scarlett Johansson should have been starring in her own solo Black Widow series no later than 2013 after Avengers came out (and honestly she should have had her own solo show after 2010’s Iron Man 2)).  While Marvel’s been dragging their feet on letting their female heroes take center stage, DC beat them to the punch and then blew them out of the water with 2016’s awe-inspiring, genre-redefining Wonder Woman, a film that’s better than almost anything the MCU’s ever done.  Their best entries – 2012’s Avengers, 2018’s Black Panther, 2008’s inaugural Iron Man – stand shoulder to shoulder with Wonder Woman in their quality but I’d be hard pressed to say any clearly surpass it.

Given the fact that Marvel doubted their female characters’ ability to carry a film on their own for over a decade AND the fact that DC got there first with one of the greatest films the genre’s ever seen, Captain Marvel becomes extra important for Marvel Studios.  How would they do, now that they’re allowing one of their female characters to shine all on her own?

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A li’l ’90s grunge meets cosmic energy blasts.  The way they used ’90s music in this film was pretty fun too! / Photo Credit – Captain Marvel

I adored the film!  As soon as I left, I started thinking about when I could see it again.  I will admit, the first third of the film was good-not-great for me.  Now, this doesn’t mean it wasn’t a lot of fun.  But it was par for the course with the other entries in the MCU.  And Carol Danvers isn’t par for the course!  She deserves more than that!  As soon as the film hit it’s stride though, it elevated itself (going higher, further, faster if you will 🙂 ) above the Marvel pack.  I felt they did a magnificent job honoring Carol’s character – getting around the “Superman problem” (a character being so powerful there’s no threat they can’t conceivably defeat) just as they do it in the comics (although it’s unclear if she’s as powerful in the film as the comics).  Despite a power level that puts her in the class of Krypton’s last son, Carol Danvers is a fully human character.  As such, she can’t do anything on her own because we can’t.

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Carol and Nick Fury bond. / Photo Credit – Captain Marvel

Human beings are social creatures!  We need those around us to give us strength when we need it and help us up when we fall.  No matter how super you are, if you’re human you still need this.  And the film gives us a Carol Danvers who is fully human.  Despite rippling energy blasts (visually the coolest and most unique power the MCU’s delivered since Doctor Strange’s spellcasting) and a badass confidence that makes you believe she could punch a god into the sun, Carol – played perfectly by Brie Larson – never loses her humanity.  No human being, no matter how strong, can carry everything on their own.  We need each other.  We live, we love, we grow in community.  We aren’t made for isolation.  That’s they only way it works.  So no matter how strong she is, Carol needs Maria, Maria’s daughter Monica (Akira Akbar), Fury, and even the cat Goose because she’s human.  Her real strength, her real power, is anchored in her humanity.  Captain Marvel does an excellent job highlighting all of this, situating itself in so doing alongside some of Carol Danvers’ best comic storylines.

But as I said above, it wasn’t just this movie I was thinking about on my drive home Thursday night or in the days (and second screening on Saturday) that followed.  Rather, I found myself thinking of how Captain Marvel represents the future.  No matter what happens in Avengers: Endgame, I can’t imagine a future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe where T’Challa and Carol Danvers aren’t the center of the story.  Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, and Steve Rogers have carried us for a decade but it’s time for these new heroes to take us forward.

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Photo Credit – Captain Marvel

I see the Black Panther as the heart of the Avengers (or whatever team rises up in the wake of the final battle with Thanos).  As the leader of Wakanda, it makes sense for T’Challa to be a primarily Earth-bound hero.  But Captain Marvel?  I can see her anywhere.  Watching Brie Larson deliver Carol Danvers’ first adventure in the MCU – an adventure that obviously included Earth alongside alien planets – I saw how easily Captain Marvel can do it all.  I’ve written before about how I’d like to see Carol protecting Earth via an orbital space station with Alpha Flight as she does in the comics.  I’ve also written about how I can see her being part of a cinematic Infinity Watch, should the Infinity Stones survive Avengers: Endgame and should Marvel Studios decide to leave the Guardians adventures at an end, without James Gunn.  I can still see either of those options playing out.  But now I can see so much more.

I can see Carol co-leading the Avengers alongside T’Challa, the Natasha to his Steve (Shuri would obviously take over Tony’s role – “I just design everything…and make everyone look cooler”).  But for the first time I also saw a future for the Guardians of the Galaxy outside of James Gunn.  I’d presumed that franchise was done, the feel of those films being so intimately tied to Gunn’s imagination and vision that even some of the Guardians scenes in Avengers: Infinity War felt…off with the Russos hand on the steering wheel.  But what if the Guardians continue forward in a very different way after Avengers: Endgame?  In the comics, the Guardians of the Galaxy are a team with an ever-shifting roster, like the Avengers or the X-Men.  In fact, we never see a team exclusively featuring the five original Guardians from the film until Gerry Duggan took over the title in 2017 and made the comic mirror the film.

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See how amazing this looks?  Okay, now imagine it A BILLION TIMES cooler when it’s not a still image but playing out in front of you in the actual movie. / Photo Credit – Captain Marvel

So if the Guardians could have very different rosters with very different feels under Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and then with Brian Michael Bendis, why couldn’t the film take the team along another route too?  As I watched Captain Marvel and as I thought about it after it was over, I kept imagining Carol leading a new iteration of the Guardians after the war with Thanos concludes.  I see Carol, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and a few new members assembling to protect the cosmos.  Maybe Nova?  Maybe Nebula?  Maybe Thor?  Maybe they go way out there and give us another Thor in Beta Rey Bill.  Who knows??  But for the first time since James Gunn left, more Guardians stories feel like a real possibility.  And Captain Marvel was part of the Guardians during Bendis’ tenure already anyway!

One of the most exciting things Captain Marvel did was spark my imagination for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  I can see so many different paths unfolding in my mind and I can see Carol Danvers as the center of them all.  I can see her doing anything.  Solo hero, Earth-bound team, cosmic team – I can imagine Carol at the forefront of all of it.  No matter which direction the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes, with the arrival of Captain Marvel they’ve given us a hero who can lead the way.  And that is certainly a feat worthy of Earth’s mightiest hero.

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The future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has arrived. / Photo Credit – Captain Marvel

 

Still want to read about Captain Marvel?  You’re in luck!

“MCU Phase Four? Bring on Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight” looks at making Carol and her command of the Alpha Flight space station, as Earth’s first line of defense against alien threats, a centerpiece of the next phase of MCU stories.

“Could the Infinity Watch Join the MCU’s Phase Four?!?” looks at what could happen should the Infinity Stones survive Avengers: Endgame and a new team of cosmic superheroes is assembled to guard the stones.

“Make Mine Captain Marvel” is my 200th post and it’s a celebration of Captain Marvel’s character and how much I’ve come to love her comics.

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13 thoughts on “Captain Marvel – Where the MCU’s Been and Where It’s Going

  1. I’m seeing Captain Marvel tonight and I’m super excited, I’m the same for you when it comes to this film, I am excited for avengers but Captain Marvel is setting the bad high! x

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I loved it! it wasn’t an stand out film but did what it needed to do in introducing Captain marvel and setting us up for avengers end game 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh my gosh yes, I can’t wait to see how she contributes to the end if the MCU’s “Infinity Saga” (I just read Kevin Feige is calling the first three phases that now, the Infinity Saga). I am particularly excited to see her and Natasha together – the MCU’s first female superhero and it’s first solo star. And I love both of their characters so much!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is really exciting! I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to see Captain Marvel in theatres because I couldn’t tell what on earth the film is supposed to be about, based on the trailers. I might still wait for the library to get the DVD, but now I DO want to watch it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you go to the theatre for any reason, I think it would be for the visuals of her energy powers on the big screen. That was amazing. But I can also see you enjoying it once it hits the library too, from the comfort of your own home. But I’m happy I helped spark your interest! I am ready for the age of the Black Panther and Captain Marvel to shape the MCU :).

      Like

  3. Loved this piece, though I have to disagree on the Wonder Woman movie being on par with Black Panther….but hey that’s just my thoughts. Agree the first third of the movie felt awkward, and off beat, but as soon as the Danvers Fury Road trip started, the movie just started to flow. Loved GOOSE too!

    But what stands out is the quality of the friendship between Maria and Carol. Absolutely glorious!!!

    I had taken six 10-12 year old girls with them me to see it, and they came away Captain Marvel fans……even my 11 year old was like Mum I know why you like her…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES! This just made my day! Aaaaahhh, how amazing! Of all the things I’ve read about this film, I think what you just wrote here is it’s highest and, honestly, most important praise. To be able to capture the hearts, minds, and imaginations of children is what it’s all about. Go Carol!

      And I totally agree with you about her relationship with Maria too. I’ve been toying with another post, looking at that more in depth. I hope we get to see more of it, whether in flashbacks or if she comes back to Earth pre-Thanos. I don’t want it to end with just that movie!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Really excited that I may have helped ten young folk experience the magic that is Captain Marvel….

        Oh please write a post celebrating Carol and Maria. I really think they were the so good together…..and had a really important message about those of us who don’t have families but have friend families….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think those relationships are just as important! When I was young, the idea of the importance of family was always stressed to me. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that’s absolutely true…but “family” isn’t always defined by blood. Some of my closest friends are as much a sister or a brother to me as my blood brother is. And they are just as important to me and my life too. They are my family, in every sense of the word.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh I hear you here, I’ve built up my family through friendships, and I think we need to be reminded that we can choose our own families…as Captain Marvel did. So agree with your comment, and maybe I think you need to do a blogpost about it……????

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I absolutely will! In fact, I’ve got a draft of it going. I’m not sure when it will be done, not wanting to rush it when it’s something so close to my heart. But it is being developed as we speak…well type, but you get what I mean :).

        Liked by 1 person

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