How Captain Marvel Is Being Positioned as the MCU's Future

The new TV spot for next month's Brie Larson film spends a third of its time showing audiences Iron Man, Captain America and Thor — which suggests the new hero could become as prominent as them to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The latest TV spot for Captain Marvel is clear in its positioning: Brie Larson's latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is on a level with the fictional world's founding fathers and stands alongside them as a peer. Which, given the current state of play of the MCU, is an interesting sign of what's to come.

A full third of the "Rise" TV spot is given over to scenes of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor from their first movies, before a montage of scenes of Larson in action as Carol Danvers; the onscreen captions explain that "some are built, some are made [and] some are born" heroes, before inviting the audience to "discover what makes her a hero" in the new movie. (Maybe what makes a hero is that whole "warrior from an alien culture who defends humanity against threats outside of its wildest fantasies" thing, but that might just be me.)

Use of Marvel's onscreen Big Three Heroes is a signifier that Captain Marvel is meant to be a big deal in and of herself, which is understandable when viewed from certain angles: As Marvel's first female-led movie, the studio may be looking to counteract the reactionary trolling of men threatened by strong women. Making an unsubtle show of Captain Marvel being on the same level as Captain America and Iron Man is a definitive pushback against that attitude.

It's not the first time that Marvel has done something similar; a TV spot for 2016's Doctor Strange offered a brief glimpse of the Avengers, although the purpose there was to simultaneously remind audiences: "We're the guys behind those guys, so trust us," and differentiate the new hero from what came before. This time around, what's being asked is that audiences accept that Captain Marvel isn't that different — and that she be considered in the same way as the big-name heroes going forward.

What makes this especially interesting is the widespread belief that each of the three heroes Captain Marvel is being compared to may no longer be part of the MCU after this summer's Avengers: Endgame. In this light, there's a suggestion that Captain Marvel is being groomed to replace them as, if not the leader, then certainly a leading light of the Marvel heroes moving forward. Again, this makes sense contextually — once you remove Thor, Captain America and Iron Man from the MCU, those that remain are a mix of neophytes or those not to be taken seriously (Spider-Man, Ant-Man), those outside of obvious superhero roles (Black Widow, Doctor Strange) and, well, jerks (Guardians of the Galaxy). Only Black Panther would rival Captain Marvel in terms of dominant personality and centrality to the superheroic ideal, setting up a potential character dynamic for exploration in future movies.

All of this may simply be overanalyzing the reasoning for Marvel's attempts to link its newest hero with the big guns of the MCU to date. There is, after all, another reason that the studio has to want to make the new movie (and new character) a hit, one far simpler than the political positioning she faces in the future of the massive franchise moving forward: She's literally got the name of the studio in her name. If that's not a reason to push the character as hard as possible, what could be?