We now have a trailer for Captain Marvel. The 21st movie in the MCU is also the first female-led solo superhero flick, and you can bet that Marvel and Disney will capitalize on that as a major marketing talking point between now and March 8. The film, starring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, is a 1990s-set prequel to the Iron Man-to-Avengers 4 MCU narrative, thus continuing the odd trend of modern female-led superhero movies (Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984, the planned Black Widow solo flick, allegedly WB’s Supergirl, etc.) being period pieces as opposed to present-tense adventures. We may have to wait until Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey to get a present-day female-led superhero (or supervillain) flick.
As such, this trailer has a lot of work to do. It has to introduce a period setting, offer the first female superhero who isn’t part of an established team, introduce what will be another hard sci-fi outer-space adventure and avoiding coming off like Marvel’s Green Lantern. To be fair, Doctor Strange arguably qualifies as Marvel’s Green Lantern, at least in terms of being a by-the-book origin story. And just because a film somewhat resembles a prior disappointment doesn’t mean that the new film can’t succeed in ways the prior flick did not.
The trailer offers a kind of mix-and-match of Marvel’s greatest hits. We’ve got a would-be alien falling to Earth and hangs out with Shield (Thor), a human who apparently spends their free time in outer space (Guardians of the Galaxy) and a former soldier turned superhero (Captain America). That’s not a criticism, as comic book superhero stories are all about formula, with the deviations becoming what makes those stories interesting. But it is… interesting.
I don’t know to what extent the Skrull-ish plot of Captain Marvel will set the stage for Phase Four stories, or to what extent Captain Marvel’s newly-introduced superheroism will play a role in wrapping up Avengers 4. It will be amusing if the 22-movie MCU narrative essentially ends with a villain who we only really met in the 19th movie gets defeated by a superhero who we only met in the 21st movie, but that’s speculation. But thus far the trailer gets the job done, introduce a sympathetic and entertaining new superhero who doesn’t feel like a copy of Tony Stark and has more going for her beyond “Hey, this time it’s a female superhero!”
This is also the first MCU movie in a while, since maybe Ant-Man, that I’d argue qualifies as a risk. We knew black audiences (and other interested parties) would show up for Black Panther (even we were expecting numbers closer to Wonder Woman than Star Wars), but will women (and other interested parties) show up for Captain Marvel? We North Americans talk a good game about supporting female-led action flicks and fantasies, but then we comparatively ignore the likes of Walt Disney’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, MGM and Warner Bros.’ Tomb Raider, Focus and Universal’s Atomic Blonde, Sony’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Sony’s Underworld: Blood Wars and Fox’s Red Sparrow and yack about a female Indiana Jones or a female James Bond.
Truth be told, I’d wager that Captain Marvel will pull at least as much money from being a Marvel movie as it will from being another big-budget female-led superhero flick. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel opens March 8 (International Women’s Day) and stars Brie Larson, Jude Law, Lashana Lynch, Clark Gregg, Gemma Chan, Ben Mendelsohn, Samuel L. Jackson and Lee Pace among others. As always, we’ll see.