*Warning: The following has major spoilers for "Captain Marvel," in theaters now, with some spoilers for "Avengers: Infinity War" sprinkled in.*
After years of speculation and "The Last Jedi"-like levels of wailing from giant manbabies, "Captain Marvel" has arrived in theaters. The film isn't without its tropes, but Brie Larson's compelling performance, a game supporting cast and some surprises helped it stand out among against the 20 other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's output beyond the obvious significance of it being the first to rest solely on a woman without a man to share the title. The MCU has established a continuity and sprawling universe in the years since 2008's "Iron Man" but its latest film managed to upend what general audiences and comic book diehards thought they knew about the MCU and its characters. Let's dive into the some of the surprises and new elements the film had for us:
1. Captain Marvel's abilities go beyond what most MCU heroes can do
Human Carol Danvers, or "Vers," as she goes by while thinking she is a member of the alien Kree race for most of the movie, is shown to be able to shoot concentrated energy blasts out of her hands at first. We later find out that a device on her back that was implied to be the source of her abilities that could be removed if she got out of line was actually dampening the entire range of her powers. By the film's climax, we get an idea of what we she can really do. Glowing radiantly, she soars around unaided, firing "Dragon Ball Z"-esque blasts at an armada of enemy ships. It actually hurts the climax a tad, since she steamrolls over the ships in a matter of minutes without being impeded much and sends the man who manipulated her into thinking she was Kree, Yon-Rogg (Law) flying without much effort, but the enthusiasm Larson gives Carol upon being able to let loose and the revelation that the Kree had been exploiting her still allow the last act to come together.
Still, while being to fly around without aid and fire lasers without a weapon may be old hat to DC's Superman and to many comic book heroes, these abilities are actually still fairly new among the MCU's ranks. Iron Man and the Falcon can only fly with technology, and the aforementioned armored Avenger and Star-Lord can't shoot those lasers on their own. Well-known Marvel figures who can fly, such as the Fantastic Four's Human Torch and the X-Men's Human Torch will likely be waiting in the wings for a while since the Disney-Fox deal isn't finished yet. It took Thor five movies — by 2017's "Thor: Ragnarok" — to discover that the power he thought his hammer possessed was inside him the entire time, and that he could fly and unleash electrical hell all by himself. Many of the Marvel heroes the MCU used to establish its franchise happened to be unable to do similar things without assistance. The only two MCU heroes who come to mind who have a lot of the same abilities are Vision and Doctor Strange, but since they were killed off in "Avengers: Infinity War," it's a good thing Carol will be bringing her might to next month's "Avengers: Endgame."
MCU fans might have thought before this that Thor and the Hulk were at the height of power in these films, but they have competition. While the jade giant is likely a match for Captain Marvel in pure physical strength, Captain Marvel is still bringing a new level to the MCU. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has said several times that Captain Marvel is one of the most physical powerful characters in the MCU, and sure enough, we see Carol clean up the bad guys with a speed most of the other MCU protagonists can't manage. And after seeing billionaires and the like soar on screen i the MCU and shoot lasers, it's interesting to see a character do the same without help. Even after a decade, we're still seeing our heroes reach new heights.
2. Nick Fury is a lot weirder than we thought he was
Ever since S.HI.E.L.D. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) appeared out of the shadows and shattered 15-year-old Kelly's brain with excitement at the end of "Iron Man," Fury has been depicted as the pragmatic man with a plan, as quick with a trigger as he is with a lie to tell right to your face if it it means working toward the greater good. Despite eight appearances in the MCU, we had learned little about him and could only speculate about his origins and inner workings. "Captain Marvel," however, reveals a fuller picture, and it's probably not what you would expect of a guy who is James Bond meets well...Samuel L. Jackson. We learn he always was a hero, as 1995-era Fury mentions trotting around the globe on missions in the past, but we get a much larger sense of his history and his quirks. And boy, are there quirks. Turns out Fury is a bit of a dork on top of being of a dedicated government boogeyman.
He can't eat toast diagonally, he is a cat person to the point that he immediately breaks out into "Wook at da widdle baybee" in the middle of an alien invasion and even sings "Please Mr. Postman" by The Marvelettes unprompted, undeterred by a severely damaged eye. I did not expect to see Nick Fury's jazz hands once credits rolled on "Captain Marvel," but I'm glad I did.
This Fury is a far cry from the jaded covert mastermind who apparently dipped Phil Coulson's Captain America trading cards in blood (!) in order to unite distraught heroes in "The Avengers." It makes you wonder what happened to him during his further exploits with S.H.I.E.L.D. pre-"Iron Man" to turn a guy who takes the revelation of shape-shifting aliens and the loss of an eye in stride into the jaded man we later see. Maybe we'll get some insight from the slated "Black Widow" film, which is rumored to be a prequel. All the same, "Captain Marvel" turns this mysterious authority figure into someone more recognizably human. And a guy you'd want to hit up a karaoke bar with.
3. Everybody was wrong about the Skrulls
Ever since their scaly mugs hit the cover of "Fantastic Four" #2 all the way back in 1962, the shape-shifting Skrull race has been portrayed consistently in the comics as planetary conquerors who infiltrate and take over. At one point, they had an empire of worlds under their control. Comics related to the 2008 story line "Secret invasion" — in which the Skrulls strategically replaced certain super heroes in a bid to overtake Earth — make it clear that the Skrulls' entire religion is based on domination. There have been some sympathetic Skrulls over the years who gave up war-mongering in favor of living on Earth in disguise — my personal favorite is the one who spent decades on Earth in the form of John Lennon — but for the most part they have been a go-to villainous force in the comics.
All signs pointed to this depiction holding steady for their film debut. The Skrulls were announced as the antagonists in 2016 and the casting of the fantastic Ben Mendelsohn, who recently usurped Christoph Waltz as Hollywood's go-to baddie for every other blockbuster, as Skrull leader Talos seemed to cement this. The movie appeared to be running with it as well, as we are told early on that the Skrulls and the Kree have long been in a bloody conflict and the Skrulls are invading planets.
Then we find out half way through Talos has just been trying to find his wife and son and other members of his people for years and that the Skrulls are refugees trying to find a planet to settle on. It forces you to reconsider every thing you saw in the movie beforehand. Their combat with other characters becomes self-defense and and their shape-shifting seems more like something they simply had to do in order to keep going and survive as they hop from planet to planet. The fact that the Kree, who appear to look almost exactly like human beings outside of some of Vers' blue-skinned teammates, are portrayed as the aggressors by the end of the film and the Skrulls, with their crevice-covered chins, ears pointed like pointed daggers and green skin — an immediate recognizable way of signaling to the audience that a alien race is otherworldly and scary — are actually fairly peaceful and just want to avoid persecution forces audiences to question who we immediately align ourselves with and why. The Kree not being the noble warriors they make themselves out to be in the beginning shouldn't be a huge surprise to comic fans, given that they have an empire themselves and they aren't shown to be pacifists at all, but the well-executed revelation utilizes both the Skrulls' comic portrayal and some assumptions based on appearance — a smart commentary on current events and human history in general, to say nothing of the refugee aspect — against the audience.
4. Mar-Vell and the Supreme intelligence are played by who!?!?!
The role Oscar-nominated Annette Bening would be playing in the film had been secret right up until it's release, and we find out why: She was playing the pivotal parts of the Kree leader The Supreme Intelligence and a woman named Mar-Vell. The Supreme Intelligence in the comics looks like the love child of Cthulhu and Zordon from Power Rangers," while in the film it is an AI who appears as whoever the person interacting with it admires most. The Supreme Intelligence is shown to Vers as a mystery woman played by Bening, but she doesn't know why. We later learn the woman was Wendy Lawson, a scientist based on Earth who was actually the Kree Mar-Vell, who tried to help refugee Skrulls and kept them hidden from the Kree for years. This last reveal is a particularly big change from the source material, as the Mar-Vell in the comics was a male who had powers similar to Carol and factored heavily into her origin back when she was called Ms. Marvel. This Mar-Vell has taken on somewhat of a mythic status for comics fans, because he died of cancer instead of sacrificing himself in some universal interplanetary conquest and because, some time-travel trickery aside, he's actually stayed dead in the resurrection-happy comics realm since his demise in the early 80s. This deviation allows the film to avoid the trope of a woman being brought to prominence by a man, and builds on the theme of women supporting each other, as seen through Carol's bond with her best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch). Plus it's cool that a pivotal — if unsung — hero in the history of the MCU was actually an older woman. Also, if we're being honest, it would have been incredibly difficult to make a comic-faithful version of the Supreme Intelligence look good on film.
"Captain Marvel" brought some new elements into the MCU and made some surprising alterations, but what stuck out for you? Did I miss anything? Did I over hype the above elements? Let me know!