The Great Marvel Retcon

I saw the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe this afternoon.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from Captain Marvel.  The Carol Danvers I knew growing up was the one whose powers had been permanently stolen by Rogue, who would go on to become an X-Man.  I do a pretty decent job staying away from Marvel spoilers (something I actually learned with DC movies), so I had heard some rumors of things but still wasn’t sure how things would fit together.  If anything, the movie would be important because of its role as connective tissue between Infinity War and Endgame.  Beyond that, it would boil down to how well they handled the intergalactic nature of the story along with the de-aged appearances of Fury and Colson.

The movie works really well.  Brie Larson brought some nice gravitas to her character.  The movie isn’t as funny as many recent entries in the MCU, but it still had its moments (mostly thanks to Samuel Jackson as Fury.  The space stuff was handled quite well, with little if any “dumbing down” of things.  I was surprised to see the Skrulls be so prominent, since I thought they wouldn’t fallen under Fantastic Four domain.  The two biggest issues I might possible have with the movie?  (1) The movie is very dark . . . as in “why is light absent from so many scenes?”  Lots of “indoor”shots, I suppose.  But it made large chunks of the movie unnecessarily murky (much like Solo last year).  (2) The movie never quite settles on any one “thing.”   Part of that is because of the twists and turns in the plot.  It was very 90s, and yet not really.  It was very female-empowerment, but it was not where near as telegraphed as it had been in the trailer.  It was connective tissue, and yet it held its own really well.  So it’s not so much a complaint as it is a feeling that the movie had to walk a number of fine lines, which it did relatively well.

The question for long-term fans, of course, is one of what I call “the great Marvel retcon.”  Retcons are nothing new in comic books: years after an event, creators come along to insert a character or significant moment in a past story that wasn’t part of the original.  This happens often when companies or characters get “rebooted.”  Some retcon happens with the Captain Marvel narrative (and your response to that will be determined by how invested you are in the stories of characters named Captain Marvel before Carol Danvers).  Some retcon happens in the greater MCU narrative.  On that level, it’s a pretty flawless retcon.  It almost makes you want to go back and rewatch the first Colson/Fury scenes that lead up to Avengers.  Does it cheapen some of the tension and joy from the earlier movies?  Maybe a little bit.  I will withhold judgment on that point until I see how it all plays out in Endgame.

I suppose one question that can be asked is “where does the character go from here?”  The stakes are quite high in this movie: it’s big sci-fi stuff.  Will they do a more direct sequel that picks up threads from this movie or will they send the character in other directions depending on how her role fits into “phase four” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?  It will be interesting to see where the character stands when the curtain falls on Endgame.

Here’s a quick clip from relatively early in the movie, where Marvel and Fury discuss the question of reliability, particularly when Skrulls can take on whatever form they have seen.

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