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While fans are waking up in cold sweats at the thought that the trailer for Avengers 4 may have dropped without their knowing, Marvel Studios is keeping us in suspense a bit longer. But the bleary-eyed wait is a lot more bearable with Captain Marvel joining the fray of holiday trailer releases. Disney released the latest trailer for Captain Marvel on ESPN during Monday Night Football, which is sure to put a lot of eyes on the character, who may be something of an unknown to non-comic readers. In fact, that unknown quality may be Marvel’s biggest selling point, and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s best bet to deliver a character-driven hero unburdened, as much as any comic-based film can be, by audience expectation.
Although we just got our first look at Brie Larson’s take on the hero in September, this latest look offers increased action and a more in-depth look at the mythology surrounding the debut of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first leading lady. Surprisingly, the trailer holds off on doing much in the way of introducing the film’s supporting characters. While there are quick glimpses of the Starforce team, Annette Bening’s mysterious character, and Jude Law’s Starforce Commander who may or may not be the original Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell, this latest trailer makes it clear that Captain Marvel isn’t offering a team-up story in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), or Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018). Even with the familiar, and non-visually impaired, face of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in the role of sidekick, this trailer suggests it’s Carol Danvers time to shine. Given her power set, she undoubtedly has a chance to do it with dazzling brilliance.
The trailer begins by setting up the division lines between the two alien races at the center of the film: the villainous shape-shifting Skrulls, who we’re meeting for the first time in the MCU, and the Kree (“noble warrior heroes”) who made a less than noble debut in Guardians of the Galaxy. The teaser trailer for Captain Marvel caused something of a stir when it featured the hero punching an elderly lady in the face, and this new trailer seeks to address it right away by establishing this Skrull in disguise is anything but helpless. Further proving the villainy of the Skrulls is a brief appearance and voice-over from Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos. While the actor is becoming quite comfortable in the role of villain, here’s hoping that he ends up being a villain closer to the level of Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Vulture than Thor: The Dark World’s Malekith. The Skrulls may be positioned as the bad guys up front, but with Guardians’ baddies Ronan and Korath on the side of the Kree, and Jude Law’s character looking less than amiable, it wouldn’t be surprising if Carol’s quick assessment of Kree-Skrull politics is somewhat askew.
The trailer’s introduction to this key alien conflict suggests Captain Marvel will draw from The Kree-Skrull War, a famous Avengers storyline by Roy Thomas that ran from 1971 to 1972. While war is certainly brewing, the trailer suggests that the main thrust of the film will focus on Carol discovering secrets about her past, secrets that will undoubtedly have major ramifications on her future. Her origins are briefly touched on here: an amnesiac air-force pilot abducted by aliens and infused with Kree blood that not only gives her powers but also makes her resistant to aging – handy since Carol will play a key role in Avengers 4, decades after the events of the ’90s set Captain Marvel. But even that origin is called into question as Carol begins to question who she really is and who’s hiding what from her, be it the Kree or SHIELD. With so much attention given to Carol discovering who she is, perhaps Captain Marvel only lays the seeds for the Kree-Skrull War, while the conflict evolves over the course of inevitable sequels.
Marketing the film as a sci-fi mystery is an interesting angle. Carol Danvers doesn’t know who she is, and in most cases, audiences don’t either. Thus the film will provide the opportunity for both to figure that out together. It’s an approach that’s different from the MCU’s prior introductions to less broadly-known characters. The Guardians of the Galaxy were played for a wink and a laugh –Marvel’s way of saying no one knows these guys but trust us, you’ll dig them. Black Panther was introduced as the coolest superhero you should know but if not, catch-on quick. But Captain Marvel? She’s something different. She’s not only potentially the key to defeating Thanos, as suggested by the post-credit scene in Infinity War, but she may be the most powerful character in the MCU according to Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige. Her importance is being built up as serious business, and her mystery is one that seems guaranteed to offer some surprises regardless of how many comics you’ve read. There’s not a sense that audiences should feel like they know her going into the movie. Going by this trailer, Captain Marvel is an invitation to discovery for comic fans and non-comic fans alike.
Comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run on Captain Marvel serves as a clear inspiration. This attention to source-material is not only in terms of Larson’s characterization and humor, which DeConnick previously described as “dad-joke funny,” but in the numerous costumes we see Carol wear in the trailer – including one where she sports a helmet and mowhawk that looks nothing short of badass. While the cosmic side of the MCU presented here doesn’t quite have Guardians director James Gunn’s colorful candy-coating, its architecture and design clearly points to a similar vision of space — a Marvel cohesiveness that has been both a blessing and a curse for the cinematic universe. But for as much like a Marvel movie as Captain Marvel looks, there appear to be both some visual and thematic choices that are giving the film an identity worth getting excited about.
There’s clearly some ’80s and ’90s action movie allusions made in the trailer and it looks like everything from Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon movies (1987-1998), Tony Scott’s Top Gun (1986), and Roland Emmerich’s Indepedence Day (1996) have been used as stylistic reference points from car chases, alien invasions, and battles on top of speeding trains. But beyond the battles, what’s really going to make Captain Marvel tick is how it uses perception and emotional fulcrums as the foundations for identity. In a number of ways, Captain Marvel looks like Boden and Fleck’s superhero interpretation of John Carpenter’s Starman (1984). Explosions, space battles, and superpowers may bring in the crowds, but its moments humanity and introspection that will allow Captain Marvel to leave her mark and encourage audiences to care about the mystery surrounding who she is.
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