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Oddly enough, the dominant character for the first half of the trailer isn’t Brie Larson’s new hero, but Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury — who has both two good eyes and some hair, to boot, to emphasize that the movie takes place earlier than any Marvel movie with the exception of 1940s-set Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s Fury whose voice is heard before anyone else’s, Fury who centers the narrative around him initially (“Truth be told, I was ready to hang it up until I met you today”) and Fury whose knock on the window pushes the trailer from montage toward narrative.
It’s a subtle move that at once grounds the trailer in something — someone — familiar for the Marvel faithful, and lays the groundwork for Carol Danvers’ first words. “It’s hard to explain — I keep having these memories, I see flashes,” she explains. “I think I had a life here, but I can’t tell if it’s real.” The audience, too, has the same flashes of younger Carols that echo the hero she’s become, keying us into a fact that she’s not fully aware of, yet: She really is human, even if she doesn’t know for sure.
This backstory — a confusion over her origins — is a break from the comic book origins of the character. That’s to be expected, as the backstory on the page would be far too complicated (and, to be honest, too ridiculous) to reproduce in one movie: “She got her powers by accident and called herself Ms. Marvel until she got her memory wiped by an X-Man by accident, so she went and lived in space for awhile under the name Binary, then returned and was called Warbird for a bit, and then Ms. Marvel again, and….” Starting over seems like a far cleaner, smarter solution.
The suggestion that part of that fresh start includes removing the self-determination and agency of Carol Danvers — arguably the single part of the character that has won over the self-declared Carol Corps fan base — is a risky proposition, even though the trailer strongly suggests the story of the movie will be of her finding connection with her past. (“Discover what makes her a hero” as the tagline for the trailer feels as much a hint of Carol’s journey as it does an exhortation to the audience, after all.) Will the Carol Danvers that the comic book fan base has embraced be absent from the movie until the very end of the movie, with Captain Marvel becoming as much prologue for Avengers 4, which opens two months later as anything else…?
It should be noted that Marvel’s comic book arm has, unusually, been proactive in preparing for this possibility. Since July, the company has been publishing The Life of Captain Marvel, a five-issue series by Margaret Stool, Carlos Pacheco and others that focuses on the backstory of Carol Danvers from childhood forward, refining the character in advance of her movie reinvention. The collected edition of the story will be in stores just weeks before Captain Marvel reaches theaters, to offer newcomers and old-school fans alike a chance to learn more about the current conception of the character once they leave the theater.
Captain Marvel the movie will introduce Carol Danvers to the mainstream, and give Marvel its first headlining female hero — but, judging from the first trailer, it’s still unclear just who that hero is going to end up being.
Captain Marvel Opens March 8, 2019.
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