The drought is finally over and my internship alma mater, Entertainment Weekly, has finally given us nerds what we’ve so badly craved: the first official images of from Marvel’s first-ever female led superhero film, Captain Marvel.
Alongside the photos star Brie Larson promised would “break the internet,” EW released some juicy new plot details from the film, which premieres in March 2019. There’s lots of tantalizing tidbits to keep fans hanging on until the release, but one in particular caught my attention: in Captain Marvel, the titular hero, also known as Carol Danvers, will already have her superpowers – i.e., the film isn’t an origin story.
Presumably, by avoiding another origin story Marvel is attempting to shake up a formula well-worn over the course of 20 releases over the past ten years, to varying degrees of multi-million dollar success. Although taking more creative risks has proved a strong move for the company (see Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, and even the original Guardians of the Galaxy), it still stings to know that of all the title character films we’ve seen from Marvel, it’s the female-led film that won’t be an origin story.
Perhaps the failure of past female-led superhero films still haunts studio executives. The universally derided 2004 film Catwoman was an origin story – but to be fair, it was one completely made up for the movie instead of one the fans could recognize (about a business woman named Patience who, I guess, got Egyptian cat powers, instead of the more well-known, streetwise Selina Kyle). However, I’d have hoped the spectacular success of Wonder Woman, a joyful origin story that followed Diana from birth to adulthood coming into her godly powers, would have put those fears to bed.
Within the current iteration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, female origin stories are scarce. The most well-known female superhero in the MCU, Black Widow, has only ever vaguely hinted at her mysterious Russian-spy past: the most we’ve seen of her origin was the upsetting, mind-warpy flashbacks in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The glaring lack of solo film or origin story for the studio’s most prominent female hero led to her story being ripped off entirely in the recent Jennifer Lawrence film Red Sparrow. All things considered, with a Black Widow solo film finally in the works nearly 10 years after her debut, that film isn’t likely to be an origin story, either.
Two other recent additions to the Avengers roster skipped the “origin story” route: Peter Parker/Spider-Man and T’Challa/Black Panther, who were both introduced in Captain America: Civil War. For Spider-Man, there really was origin story fatigue, after seeing Uncle Ben shot in twice on the big screen in ten years pre-Homecoming. Black Panther did discuss the origins of Wakanda and the Black Panther persona in his solo film (I expect Captain Marvel to do something similar), but the movie wasn’t an “origin story” in the traditional sense. In his case, one might make a similar argument that it’s disappointing that the first solo film led by a black man in the MCU didn’t get his origin story, either.
Why does it matter which solo films feature a hero’s origins? From a story perspective, it doesn’t, not really. Spider-Man: Homecoming proved that Marvel could build a well-developed, highly entertaining first film in media res. And of course, Black Panther, a story which picks up in the almost-immediate aftermath of Civil War, was a success the likes of which even the MCU had never seen.
The disappointment is more a matter of principle, based on the culture that Marvel has already created. Every other hero who has gotten a solo film (white dudes, all) has begun with an origin story. If it’s good enough for Captain America, and Iron Man, and Thor, and Ant-Man?!, and Doctor flippin’ Strange, and even a pre-Ruffalo Hulk, why shouldn’t it be good enough for Captain Marvel?
I don’t mean to nitpick, because the honest truth is that I personally will probably see Captain Marvel in theaters on opening night and again like three times and have already given her my whole heart. But I do think, after being deprived for so long of some really fantastic onscreen female superhero solo outings, the clamoring public deserves to get to see every inch of those stories. The reception to Wonder Woman proved that fans were waiting to give all the same enthusiasm they had for male superheroes to female ones, too. So if that’s the case…why not give the girls origin stories?