When Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2019 just two months ahead of “Avengers 4,” she’s potentially going to have a big impact on the story left hanging at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Sure, “Captain Marvel” won’t take place at the same time as “Infinity War” or any of the other current Marvel movies — instead, it’s hopping back in time by a couple of decades. But we have every reason to believe the film will serve as a direct lead-in to the battle with Thanos, thanks to the post-credits scene in “Infinity War.”
Taking place just after Thanos completes his Infinity quest and eliminates half of all life in the universe, the scene features Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) driving around a major city just as people begin to disappear. As Hill fades from existence, Fury scrambles to activate a device he’s apparently been carrying with him the whole time: a boxy, souped-up 1990s pager. Fury manages to send a signal just as he himself disappears, and as the scene ends we see a pixelated version of Captain Marvel’s star symbol flashing on the pager’s display.
So it’s very likely that the Captain Marvel’s stand-alone film will provide some major hints as to how the Avengers will be able to recover from their crushing defeat and bring back all their dead friends.
There’s a lot of info to go through here, but we’ll start with the basics of what we know about the film and the Captain Marvel character from the comics.
There isn’t a ton of known information about what will happen in the movie version of Captain Marvel’s story — Marvel has kept details tightly wrapped — but we do know some key items. The film is a prequel that takes place in the 1990s and will center on human Carol Danvers, who will be played by Brie Larson, as Danvers becomes Captain Marvel. Danvers will be mentored by the alien Mar-Vell (believed to be the role Jude Law is playing). Nick Fury will appear. And the plot concern the Skrulls, a race of powerful, shape-shifting aliens with green skin, wrinkly chins, pointed ears, and an interstellar empire.
But there is one small detail that does nod to the ending of “Infinity War” — a shot of Nick Fury’s pager that he uses in the post-credits stinger, but before it gets outfitted with all that cool extra tech that allows him to contact Captain Marvel. But that’s really the only link that we got from the first trailer.
The big thing, for us, that we took away from that second trailer was a brief appearance by Annette Bening’s as-yet-unrevealed Kree character. We have a guess about who that character is — Phyla-Vell, one of the crazier cosmic characters in Marvel lore. But we don’t know what that might mean for the story yet. We’ll speculate a little more below.
In the comics, Carol Danvers wasn’t the original Captain Marvel. Instead, it was Mar-Vell, a Kree warrior and hero among his people. The Kree are the blue-skinned people we saw in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” including Ronan (Lee Pace), who will also have a role to play in “Captain Marvel” since it takes place well before he died.
Mar-Vell was part of a white-skinned subspecies among the blue-skinned Kree, so he could blend in on Earth. As such, he was sent to Earth to observe humanity’s progress and assess if they are a threat to the Kree. But while he was there, Mar-Vell engaged in some super-heroics, causing humans to misinterpret his name and dub him “Captain Marvel.”
Carol was an Air Force pilot tasked with investigating Mar-Vell, but befriended and later fell in love with him. During a battle with Mar-Vell’s enemy, Yon-Rogg, Carol was caught in the explosion of a Kree device that infused her DNA with Kree DNA. That gave her a number of special powers like what Mar-Vell has, including flight, strength, durability and the ability to absorb energy.
As for the Skrulls, in the comics they’re frequently at war with the Kree, as the two alien cultures have similarly powerful, similarly expansive interstellar empires.
Notably, neither Captain Marvel nor Mar-Vell are involved in the comics story that most closely resembles the plot of “Infinity War”: A six-issue 1991 miniseries called “Infinity Gauntlet.” But looking through the comics (Thanks, Marvel Unlimited!) beyond the “Infinity Guantlet” storyline, there are several concepts that could easily connect Captain Marvel to the action.
First, Thanos and Mar-Vell have a ton of history in the comics. Mar-Vell was enlisted to stop Thanos’ nihilistic plans in the comics, and was given the mantle of Protector of the Universe by a cosmic guardian entity called Eon. His capacity as Protector of the Universe allowed Mar-Vell to get a powerful artifact, the Cosmic Cube, away from Thanos after he used it to take over the universe. When Thanos briefly left his body as a cosmic, astral projection, Mar-Vell used the opportunity to nab the cube, return time to a point before Thanos took over, and destroy it.
The Cosmic Cube has a counterpart in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the Tesseract, AKA the Space Infinity Stone (though it’s not an Infinity Stone in the comics).
Captain Marvel #33, art by Jim Starlin
Second, Mar-Vell was also involved with Titan, a major location in the movie version of “Infinity War,” where he helped powerful beings known as the Eternals fight off the moon’s world computer, ISAAC, which was corrupted by Thanos.
Mar-Vell eventually died of lung cancer on Titan, too — and in the comics, Thanos’ spirit appeared to lead Mar-Vell to the afterlife. Carol later took over the mantle of Captain Marvel after originally calling herself Ms. Marvel.
All of this certainly sounds pretty relevant to the aftermath of “Avengers: Infinity War.” It might even explain not only why Nick Fury contacted Captain Marvel, but also why he hasn’t contacted her sooner. After all, “Infinity War” is definitely not the first world-threatening cataclysm the MCU’s Earth has faced.
Perhaps Mar-Vell was the reason that Thanos didn’t go after the Infinity Stones before the start of the MCU — specifically, Thanos may have had to wait until after Mar-Vell’s death. And hanging out with Mar-Vell, Carol Danvers probably would have heard about his exploits fighting Thanos, and she might know how to deal with him.
Annette Bening as Phyla-Vell, should that bit of speculation turn out to be true, could also play into Thanos beginning his crusade and/or Carol having the ability to reverse his finger snap. Though it’s tough to guess exactly how, but we took a look at some of the possibilities here.
It could be that Captain Marvel was lying dormant to conserve her power to deal with Thanos. Or maybe she’s been off Earth, looking for a means of dealing with him, and detailed a specific scenario that would warrant calling her back home — people fading to dust around the world for no apparent reason, which is what sparked Fury’s distress call, is certainly very specific.
There’s another aspect from the comics that could come into play with Mar-Vell and Carol Danvers, and would dovetail with some of what was depicted in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” as well. That movie ends with Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, getting trapped in the strange alternate dimension the “Ant-Man” movies refer to as the “Quantum Realm.” There’s no direct parallel for that place in the comics, but there is a mention of something that looks and sounds awfully similar in the comics, which was brought to our attention thanks to an obscure superhero from the ’80s named Quasar.
In the Quasar stories, the character uses powerful objects called Quantum Bands to travel to the “Quantum Zone,” which is a sort of side-dimension that allows Quasar to quickly travel across the universe. He uses his bands to create a passage into the Quantum Zone, and then from there, can pop out wherever he wants in the universe. Quasar’s not much of a part of the Marvel Comics world and so highly unlikely to pop up in the MCU, but he was the Protector of the Universe after Mar-Vell — and it seems possible given the setup of the Quantum Realm and Mar-Vell’s role in “Captain Marvel” that some of Quasar’s abilities could be part of Carol’s deal.
In fact, if Carol got the Quantum Bands or some other version of Quasar’s ability to pop into the Quantum Realm, it would give her a way to travel the universe, and maybe even through time. That would match up with some set photos from “Avengers 4” and a hint from “Ant-Man and the Wasp” that suggest time travel could be part of the way the heroes try to take on Thanos in the second half of his story. It would make a lot of sense that the “Ant-Man” movies set up the Quantum Realm, with “Captain Marvel” giving Carol a way to make use of it, just in time for “Avengers 4.”
On top of all that, we found another little detail that we think could be very important, involving the Soul Stone. The Soul Stone’s appearance in “Infinity War” was very unusual for the MCU because it was completely out of left field — its location was never before hinted at, and we never saw its effects hidden in some other form, like we did with others like the Space Stone, Time Stone, Mind Stone, and Reality Stone.
The detail we found particularly intriguing is the planet on which it’s located, Vormir. In the comics, Vormir is a really, really obscure reference — it’s never actually been depicted on the page as far as we know, and the only thing it’s known for is being the home of lizard monster called the Star-Stalker that the Avengers battled in a handful of issues in the the early ’70s.
The most compelling detail about Vormir itself is that it’s located in Kree space in the Large Magellanic Cloud — which would put it square in the part of space that is very relevant to “Captain Marvel.”
Sort of tangentially interesting is the story of the Star-Stalker, from Avengers #124. The Star-Stalker spends most of that issue giving a lengthy monologue to the Avengers explaining how it got to Earth, and its story involves a visit to a nameless prison planet where the Kree exile a bunch of pacifist political dissidents. The planet is described as “without sunlight, minerals or vegetation” — that sounds an awful lot like what we see of Vormir in the movie, which is a planet experiencing a permanent solar eclipse and very much has the vibe of a place that’s all sand and salt water.
Here’s a panel depicting this prison planet, for reference.
Those Kree dissidents, by the way, are known as the Priests of Pama, also a pretty obscure name in Marvel lore. It would make sense for the Soul Stone to have some accompanying priests, if Marvel Studios wanted to go there.
This is all just speculation, of course — educated speculation, but still speculation because it’s probably going to be a while before we find out anything more concrete about how “Captain Marvel” fits into this incredibly upsetting tale.
All 61 Marvel Movies Ranked, Including 'Shang-Chi'
This year will end up bringing us five (5) new Marvel movies, but somehow we're just getting started. "Shang-Chi" is the second after "Black Widow" -- let's see how it stacks up against all the previous theatrically released Marvel movies, both inside and outside the MCU.
61. "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer"
Just a nightmare. A total nightmare. There have been a number of bad superhero movies, but from the talking gas cloud the filmmakers cast as Galactus to Jessica Alba's dye job, this one transcends bad.
60. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"
A totally chaotic stir fry of nonsense that tells the story of how Wolverine got his claws. Features an early version of Deadpool (also played by Ryan Reynolds) whose mouth is stapled shut, which should tell you all you need to know about it.
That five minutes when they tried to turn Jennifer Garner into an action star went about as well as it should have.
58. "X-Men: The Last Stand"
Just a total mess, incoherent from the word "go." After losing director of the first two X-Men films Brian Singer to the first Superman reboot attempt, replacement Matthew Vaughn gave way to eventual director Brett Ratner, who might have killed off the superhero genre entirely were "Spider-Man" not blowing up the box office.
57. "Fantastic Four" (2015)
There could maybe have been a good movie in here somewhere -- the cast (Michael B Jordan, Miles Teller, Kate Mara) certainly warranted one. But this Frankenstein of a film is a behind-the-scenes horror story, and you can see it in the totally disjointed final product.
This was basically "Early-2000s: The Movie," with Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell and Michael Clark Duncan as the main players. The cherry on top of this turd sundae was that damn Evanescence song.
55. "Fantastic Four" (2005)
Tim Story's first "Fantastic Four" is just sort of there, challenging you to remember it exists. With Chris Evans, who played the Human Torch here, going on to embody Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that gets tougher every year.
54. "The Punisher" (2004)
This is the Punisher as a straight revenge thriller, and it's not bad. Thomas Jane performs admirably, but the whole thing is missing that extra something that would have elevated it beyond standard genre fare. Setting it in Tampa didn't help.
53. "Spider-Man 3"
Maybe the bad outweighs the good here, but Emo Peter Parker's dance number remains one of the greatest single moments in any comic book movie, sorry, haters.
52. "Howard the Duck"
A notorious flop at the box office and, yeah, it's not exactly "good." But now, 30 years removed from its premiere, "Howard the Duck" is pretty fun as a relic of the '80s.
51. "The Punisher" (1989)
Dolph Lundgren and Louis Gossett Jr. star in a low-rent '80s grunge C-level classic. This one's all novelty value.
50. "Ghost Rider"
For a movie starring Nic Cage about a dude who rides a Harley and turns into a flaming skeleton, this is a surprisingly mundane movie.
49. "The Amazing Spider-Man"
We may never figure out what went wrong with Marc Webb's Spider-Man duology, but his choice of Andrew Garfield to play Peter Parker is still brilliant. It just sucks that this movie doesn't really make any sense.
The beginning of the current wave of theatrical superhero movies, "X-Men" was kind of a cheapie and it showed. Novel at the time, now it just comes off as unremarkable mid-budget action fare as Fox was merely sticking its toe in the superhero waters. Timid.
47. "The Incredible Hulk"
It's sometimes hard to remember that this one counts as part of the MCU, since it placed Ed Norton in the Dr. Banner role since inhabited by Mark Ruffalo in the "Avengers" films. It's also hard to remember because it's generally not memorable.
The fantasy Marvel movie is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who covers the whole movie in canted angle shots and theatrical stylings. It's pretty boring, also, but at least it looks cool.
45. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"
More of the same impossible-to-follow hack-n'-slash plotting from the previous movie, offset by Andrew Garfield continuing to be awesome and Jamie Foxx going way over the top as the big bad.
44. "Thor: The Dark World"
"The Dark World," in contrast to the first "Thor" movie, is certainly not boring. If anything, it suffers the opposite problem, going so hard and fast that it loses substance.
43. "Blade: Trinity"
Starring a pre-Deadpool Ryan Reynolds basically playing a vampire-slaying Deadpool, throwing out one-liners like his mama's life depended on it, this may not a "good" movie, but it sure is fun.
42. "X2: X-Men United"
A big step up from the first "X-Men" both in production values and quality, it still lacks much in the way of energy. Which is inexcusable when you've got Alan Cumming as the teleporting mutant Nightcrawler all over your movie.
Sam Raimi truly assembled the prototypical superhero movie with this first entry in the "Spider-Man" franchise, in 2002. Like "X-Men" before it, "Spider-Man" is a bit underwhelming today, but unlike "X-Men" it was proud of its nerd roots.
40. "X-Men: Apocalypse"
Could have been a bizarre ironic summer classic if it were structured like a real movie and had any character development whatsoever. Instead it's just a shot of visual adrenaline that I'll probably want to revisit at some point -- but not when I'm sober
39. "Avengers: Age of Ultron"
"Ultron" is frustrating for what it lacks -- chiefly the feeling that it's advancing the overall story arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But as with the first "Avengers" movie its weaknesses are overcome by great character work.
38. "The Avengers"
The story is a total mess, relying heavily on moviegoers' memories of previous MCU films (if you didn't remember or know coming in what the Tesseract was, hoo boy). But the novelty of the Marvel's first big superhero team-up was irresistible, and director Joss Whedon balanced his ensemble expertly, giving everyone plenty to do so none of them ever fades into the background.
Pure B-movie trash, which is fine because that's precisely what it aims for: bloody, crass, awesome. Blade, by the way, remains the only black comic book character besides Shaquille O'Neal's "Steel" to get his/her own movie, though Marvel's "Black Panther" is slated for a 2018 release.
36. "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance"
For the sequel, they tapped the "Crank" director duo known as Neveldine/Taylor. It was an inspired choice, because "Spirit of Vengeance" was exactly as nutty as you'd hope a PG-13 comic book movie would be. Shame that it was apparently stressful enough to break up the tandem of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.
35. "Captain America: The First Avenger"
A lot of folks like to complain that all superhero movies are the same. But this was actually a pretty good World War II movie, too.
34. "Guardians of the Galaxy"
Plot-wise, it never really adds up to anything, but the strength of the cast and the bizarre world they explore more than make up for it.
33. "The New Mutants"
It's an absolutely serviceable little piece of entertainment, and there's a lot of novelty in its overall strange vibe. But after years of delays and reshoots you can definitely feel the hand of the focus group a bit too much.
32. "Blade 2"
Beloved nerd Guillermo del Toro took over for this one and ramped everything up to 11. More vampires, more blood, more people getting sliced up -- and of course baddies whose jaws can split open and swallow a person's head whole.
31. "Big Hero 6"
Disney Animation Studios made a Marvel movie, and it's really sweet. Sure, it's the kiddie version of Marvel, but that doesn't prevent it from being a wholly satisfying experience.
30. "Captain Marvel"
It’s fine, but “Captain Marvel” feels like a movie from before Marvel Studios really hit its stride in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Right now it’s a movie that seems very much out of place.
29. "Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2"
An improvement on the first film, and an absolute delight from moment to moment -- but it never quite coalesces into a coherent whole because so many subplots distract from the core story and rob it of its emotional impact. Would be a top 5 comic book movie if it had just reigned in the plot.
28. "Iron Man"
It was Robert Downey Jr.'s reemergence on the big screen, and he's flawless in this origin story that takes Tony Stark from billionaire playboy weapons manufacturer to billionaire playboy other-things manufacturer.
27. "Avengers: Endgame"
This movie is, frustratingly, far from perfect. In fact, it’s kind of a huge mess. But it’s also awesome and thrilling and hilarious and contains some individual moments that are perfect. I wish it was better, but with everything required of a movie that exists to wrap up 21 movies’ worth of story arcs, I’m glad it’s as good as it is.
In 2003 the modern wave of superhero movies was still in its infancy, and Ang Lee -- still the best filmmaker to do a comic book movie -- got experimental with "Hulk." And what he made was an incredible melodrama with visual stylings meant to ape comic book panels. It didn't sit well with audiences, but "Hulk" remains one of the most compelling and interesting Marvel movies to date.
25. "The Wolverine"
This was, like, just a legitimately enjoyable melodramatic action movie. Sure, it turns into a video game boss battle by the end, but for most of its running time it's just an actual movie.
24. "Punisher: War Zone"
Whereas the previous "Punisher" movie was melodramatic and contemplative, this one is just murderous. And it's awesome.
How can anybody resist the pull of Tom Hardy doing comedy? This movie knows exactly what it's trying to be, and what it's trying to be is dumb and fun and nothing else. And it is extremely fun.
22. "X-Men: Days of Future Past"
Its time travel logic is a bit iffy, but "Days of Future Past" is still tremendously entertaining because, while epic, it's not overly serious. As "Back to the Future" taught us long ago, you can get away with a lot of logical leaps if you strike the right tone.
In the angsty and angry times we live in, "Deadpool" is perfect. Aggressively violent and flippantly meanspirited, it's the exact emotional release we needed.
19. "X-Men: Dark Phoenix"
The main series "X-Men" movies have never achieved any sort of greatness, but at least "Dark Phoenix" ends the whole thing with one of the best efforts of the bunch. And that sequence on the train in the third act is easily the best action sequence of these movies.
18. "Spider-Man: Far From Home"
It’s frustrating that it doesn’t really deal with the immense fallout from “Avengers: Endgame,” but it’s still as visually creative as any movie in the MCU, and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is an all-timer of a villain. Dude goes all the way out in this.
17. "X-Men: First Class"
The first "X-Men" movie that could be described as "fun." It's basically two movies crammed into one, story-wise, but director Matthew Vaughn's touch is so breezy and enjoyable that it totally works anyway, thanks in large part to a brilliant cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy.
There's some amount of "bit off more than they could chew" with this one because there is so much stuff we've never heard of that needs explaining -- the classic origin story problem. But the action is unbelievable, and probably the best and most interesting we've seen in the MCU in that regard. If they can hold on to director Destin Daniel Cretton I bet the second movie, unburdened from those standard first movie issues, is gonna rip.
15. "Spider-Man: Homecoming"
Not quite the best "Spider-Man" movie, but still an absolute delight, with a cast full of scene stealers. Michael Keaton as the Vulture makes for one of the best Marvel villains ever.
14. "Deadpool 2"
While you may get whiplash from the "Deadpool" sequel's occasional very serious and emo scenes, the rest of the movie is thoroughly delightful, somehow managing to be even funnier -- and more hilariously violent -- than the original.
"Ant-Man" represented a first for the MCU by being a straight-up comedy. And it's a very good one, with a cast that's perfectly suited for it. Aside from Paul Rudd who plays Ant-Man himself, Michael Pena is the true standout as Scott Lang's best friend and former cellmate.
12. "Ant-Man and the Wasp"
It's ever so slightly frustrating that this one doesn't fully integrate into the "Infinity War" situation, but even so it's thoroughly a delight. Evangeline Lilly is so good at the Wasp that I'm retroactively irritated that she didn't don the suit in the previous "Ant-Man" movie.
11. "Doctor Strange"
If it weren't hamstrung with all the requisite elements of an origin story, "Doctor Strange" might have been the best Marvel movie ever. That's the power of the astonishing visual imagination on display here. People love to talk about the nebulous concept of capturing some long lost childlike sense of wonder though the magic of cinema -- "Doctor Strange" is one of the only movies I've watched as an adult that really accomplishes that.
10. "Spider-Man 2"
This is a movie that fully understands its main character and taps into what made him such a captivating figure for so long. Yeah, Peter Parker's a superhero, but he's also a college kid working a minimum wage job to make rent while also taking university physics classes. Peter buckles under the pressure, something we can all relate to.
9. "Iron Man 3"
As far as I'm concerned this is the "Iron Man" movie. Somehow, Shane Black was able to infiltrate the MCU and make a legitimate Shane Black movie with all the wit and raw humanity you'd expect from him. It carries exactly the sort of authorial identity we should want all these movies to have.
8. "Thor: Ragnarok"
A thorough delight. This might be the most fun we had at the movies in all of 2017, and so we can't help but love it.
7. "Captain America: Civil War"
Multiply the two previous best Marvel movies by one another and you get "Civil War." It packs the sort of emotional payoff all the disconnected Marvel movies can't really provide. And as an action film it's easily the best of the superhero genre.
6. "Avengers: Infinity War"
You could certainly make the argument that "Infinity War" does not really hold up on as a complete movie on its own, because it kinda begins with the second act. But I don't care. The culmination of this ten-year shared universe experiment should stand on the shoulders of the movies that came before it. The fact that it packs such a profound emotional punch, however, is what really makes it work.
5. "Black Widow"
Natasha's long-overdue solo is held back a little by some fully unnecessary trademark Marvel CGI nonsense, but otherwise this film has a vibe that is fully it's own thing. It does away with the Marvel house style, aside from in two big action sequences, in favor of a low-key indie look that feels so much more intimate than any previous MCU flick.
4. "Black Panther"
It's held back a little by being saddled with standard "origin movie" issues -- introducing audiences to the world of Wakanda isn't a quick and easy task, and it could use an extra 15-20 minutes to flesh out the supporting characters -- but still manages to be the most substantial superhero movie ever. It's kind of amazing that Disney let writer/director Ryan Coogler make this overt a political statement -- it's the most openly political mega-budget movie I've ever seen . Also, while I'm listing superlatives: Michael B Jordan delivers the best performance ever in a superhero movie. Good lord.
James Mangold's small-scale western is a game changer for the entire superhero genre, daring to defy pretty much standard by which you expect these movies to operate. It's just a great movie by any normal standard. Where "Civil War" elevated the genre, "Logan" opts instead to be something else entirely and we're all the better for it.
2. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"
The best superhero movies, and movies in general, are the ones that are truly most human. And "Spider-Verse," despite being animated, despite the wacky cast of Spider-People, despite the outlandish premise, is as real as movies get.
1. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
The Russo brothers, who made their entrance to the MCU directing "Winter Soldier" before taking the reigns on "Civil War" and, eventually, 2018's "Avengers: Infinity War," really impressed with "Winter Soldier." It's a classic spy thriller with a superhero twist. And Robert Redford as the bad guy is a really nice touch.
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Decades of big-screen Marvel adaptations demand a long, ranked list. This is that list
This year will end up bringing us five (5) new Marvel movies, but somehow we're just getting started. "Shang-Chi" is the second after "Black Widow" -- let's see how it stacks up against all the previous theatrically released Marvel movies, both inside and outside the MCU.