'Captain Marvel' Will Be An Origin Story

When someone eventually gets around to writing that comprehensive book tracking the history and evolution of the modern superhero movie, there needs to be a chapter dedicated to how audiences have grown alongside comic book adaptations. Once upon a time, these movies had to meet the viewer halfway. Yellow costumes became black leather and so on. These days, audiences are more than willing to just roll with the punches. Movies like Captain America: Civil War and Suicide Squad simply wouldn't have existed a decade ago.

And because of this shift, origin stories have become something of a dirty word. They're passé. We can now meet a new Peter Parker and just accept that this guy is Spider-Man and get going. So the news that Captain Marvel will be an origin story is interesting...and it actually says something about the state of the modern superhero movie.

Let's start with the hard facts. CinemaBlend attended one of those Doctor Strange preview events that screened 15 minutes of IMAX footage for audiences around the country and their screening was attended by director Scott Derrickson and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. When asked about origin stories in the current slate of Marvel movies, Feige said:

[BlackPanther is not really an origin story, since we saw him already in Civil War. But his standalone certainly introduces you to 99% of his world that you never saw. And Captain Marvel is certainly an origin. It's an origin story from the start.

Because semantics can sometimes be amusing, Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman has previously said that his first solo movie will act as an origin story of sorts, fully explaining the hero's background and powers:

Civil War was a jumping off point for the Black Panther character. It's not necessarily an origin story because he remains a mystery through most of the movie. When I take the mask off and it's revealed that it's the Prince of Wakanda, that's the guy whose father was just killed – it's a surprise [...] So then, you're learning – as you watch the movie – what his powers are, because you're not sure. He remains a mystery through most of the movie.

Anyway, I find this all very interesting for reasons that go beyond learning a smidgen more about Captain Marvel. We have reached a point where superhero movies are so common and popular that audiences have begun speaking their language. Everyone knows how Spider-Man got his powers. Everyone knows why Bruce Wayne decided to fight crime. Even shows like Jessica Jones don't feel compelled to dwell on the origin of her super-powers, tossing off a barebones explanation in a single sentence and saving the details for a later season. These stories no longer need to hold the hands of everyone watching because they have become the new normal.

But we have also reached a point where a character like Captain Marvel, someone who was totally unknown to the vast majority of people who watch movies a decade ago, is getting her own major movie. We've run out of superheroes who are wired to our cultural DNA, who have evolved into shorthand. We've reached the point where we're making movies about comic book characters who actually demand an origin story because your average moviegoer isn't going to know that Air Force pilot Carol Danvers gained flight, super-strength, and other abilities after being caught in an explosion triggered by an alien weapon. Heck, so few people are intimately familiar with that origin that Marvel could easily modify it for her big screen outing and no one will blink.

Captain Marvel, which will star Oscar winner Brie Larson, is set for a March 8, 2019 release. It's worth noting that Carol Danvers is all-but-confirmed to have a role in the first Avengers: Infinity War movie, which is due out on May 4, 2018. Does this mean her origin story will be told after she's introduced, making this the first time the Marvel Cinematic Universe breaks its always-forward continuity? Or does this suggest that she will be an ordinary human in her first appearance, only to gain powers later on?