With Black Panther finally out in the world as an unqualified success for Marvel Studios, it's time to turn our attention at least a little bit more to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's next major test: Captain Marvel. Sure, Avengers: Infinity War is the biggest event on the Marvel calendar right now, but the introduction of Carol Danvers into the MCU is arguably more important, particularly since Infinity War is already a guaranteed blockbuster regardless of how fans will ultimately respond to it. Now that Marvel's had success with its first film led by a black superhero — and featuring an almost entirely black cast — it's time for the studio to show us what it can do with superhero films led by women.
The pressure was on for Marvel to do right by Carol and the Captain Marvel property from the moment the film was announced, but the stakes are even higher in the wake of DC Films' massive success with Wonder Woman. The short version: There is a lot riding on Captain Marvel.
The film already stood out on the Marvel schedule as the studio's first film led entirely by a woman (though Wasp gets to co-lead the Ant-Man sequel later this year), but it started to stand out even more last summer, when Marvel revealed during San Diego Comic-Con that the film will be set in the 1990s. That means that, flashbacks aside, Carol Danvers' introduction to the MCU will chronologically precede every Marvel film except Captain America: The First Avenger, which was set in World War II as a natural part of Cap's origin. This also means the film will fill in some gaps in the MCU timeline in a very significant way, not only because of what will happen in the '90s, but because of what happened in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
The film's setting, as well as Carol's eventual re-appearance in the current MCU, implies that while Tony Stark was becoming Iron Man and T'Challa was opening Wakanda to the world and Thor was saving Midgard from evil, Carol Danvers was always out there somewhere. We don't yet know exactly where (probably out space, as her film will also feature the cosmic Marvel event known as the Kree-Skrull War) or how she'll meet our other heroes, but in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige did explain why it was important to set the film in the '90s.
"We wanted to explore a period before Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury had any idea about any of the other heroes and crazy stuff going on in the world," he said. "You know, we first met Nick when he told Tony, 'You’re part of a big universe. You just don’t know yet.' Well, we want to go back to a time when he didn’t know it yet, and really showcase and announce that Carol Danvers was that first hero that Nick came across. That meant she could be the singular hero, but place it within timing of the MCU. It also got us talking about different genres, exploring this notion of sort of the ‘90s action film. We hadn’t necessarily done anything like that before either, so there are definitely homages to our favorite ‘90s action films within Captain Marvel."
Feige's remarks are particularly interesting for two reasons. First, there's the contextualization of Nick Fury's reaction to the MCU swelling up around him. When we first meet him, he's already cultivating the Avengers Initiative, but we never really hear him say how that started other than "there was an idea." Even as he's that vague about it, though, he also doesn't seem all that rattled by any of the crazy things he's seeing. A guy in a flying suit of armor, a "god" from another world, and a giant green guy never seem to bother him all that much. One reason for that might be that he's approaching them with the analytical mind of a spy. Another might be that he's already seen extraordinary things. Feige has referred to Carol Danvers before as arguably the most powerful hero in the MCU. If Fury's already met her, he's certainly not going to be wowed out of the room by Tony Stark's inventions.
Then there's the idea of Danvers being portrayed as a "singular hero" in her debut. One of the most complex juggling acts as the MCU has grown has been the need to create convincing solo films even as it's very clear that there are other heroes just a phone call away. It's one of the reasons Black Panther works. Wakanda is portrayed as this isolationist country that can take care of itself, and at no point does it feel like T'Challa would or should call up Steve Rogers and say, "Hey, I did you a favor at the end of Civil War, so now you have to help me beat up this guy." In order to establish Carol Danvers as a major force in the MCU, Marvel needs to pull off a similar trick. Giving her years of history that pre-date the Avengers could be just the thing for that.
As for that '90s action-movie vibe, Feige assures fans that there will be lots of cosmic fun in Captain Marvel, but that doesn't mean the hallmarks of the era won't sneak their way in.
"Well, not necessarily talking about any particulars of the story, but the action elements in Terminator 2," he said when talking about the film's '90s influences. "That’s about as iconic as you get, looking at kind of those cool street level fights, street level car chases, and fun stuff like that. That being said, much of the movie takes place in outer space, as you might think a Captain Marvel movie would. Like all of our genre inspirations, there are bits and pieces here and there."
Captain Marvel arrives in theaters March 6, 2019.