Back when Spider-Man: Homecoming was yet to be released, Marvel Studios kept the identity of the character played by Zendaya a secret, giving her a moniker, Michelle, unfamiliar to Spider-Man comic lore while refusing to confirm or deny rumors that she was actually iconic Spider-Man supporting player Mary Jane Watson. Michelle did indeed turn out to be MJ, but while everyone was focusing on figuring out whether or not Michelle was MJ, a bigger twist laid waiting in the film. Laura Harrier’s character wasn’t just Liz Allen, she was a version of Liz Allen who was the daughter of the movies primary villain, The Vulture. The mystery of Michelle turned out to be a form of misdirection to help conceal the actual twists behind Spider-Man: Homecoming and a similar approach seem to have been employed with the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe film, Captain Marvel.
When Variety first broke the news that Jude Law got cast in the Captain Marvel movie, they reported that he was playing Walter Lawson A.K.A. the original Captain Mar-Vell in the comics. Just like with the initial reports of Zendaya actually being Mary Jane Watson, Marvel refused to comment on who Jude Law was playing in Captain Mar-Vell, to the point that his characters name was removed from all promotional materials save for Funko Pop! action figures. And just like with Spider-Man: Homecoming, debate over what character one specific actor would be playing in a forthcoming comic book movie ended up distracting from plenty of actual twists in the actual film, chiefly that Law isn’t playing the original Captain Mar-Vell, no, he’s playing Kree villain Yon-Rogg. But Captain Mar-Vell is in this movie, in fact, the one and only Annette Bening is playing that role!
Early on, Bening is revealed to be playing a Dr. Lawson, a reveal that already got my ears perked since Walter Lawson is Captain Mar-Vell’s Earth alias in the comics. Turns out, yep, a gender-bent version of the original Captain Mar-Vell is indeed in the Captain Marvel movie, here reimagined as a Kree scientist who’s trying to use the Tesseract to create a lightspeed engine intended to help Skrull refugees evade Kree soldiers and find a new home. That’s the other big twist in the movie, the Skrulls are not the villains of the piece like they are in the Captain Marvel marketing or in the majority of their comic book appearances, rather, they’re an oppressed people struggling to survive.
Following in the footsteps of brilliant reimaginings of Zemo and The Mandarin, the Skrulls and this version of Walter Lawson (here named Wendy Lawson) seen in Captain Marvel is the newest example of a Marvel Studios movie to heavily rework comic book mythos for the purpose of making a more thematically compelling story. Such revisions certainly work well in context here, particularly in regards to reworking Captain Mar-vell as an inspirational female figure for Carol Danvers to be inspired by. Working even better in execution is my personal favorite scene of the movie, a climactic sequence showing Danvers encounter the Kree Supreme Intellegence and being surrounded by physical manifestations of her memories only to eventually realize that embracing her vulnerabilities and her ability to get back up again after failing is what can make her strong. It’s a visually evocative sequence that’s also so well-paced that it leads to an excellently realized moment of euphoric triumph that left me wanting to cheer.
Oh, and while we’re talking about spoilers, I also thoroughly enjoyed the scene where the Skrulls first probe inside Carol’s head, the unorthodox editing and voice-over commentary by the Skrull characters made it feel like a cross between the Pre-Cog visions in Minority Report and any of the moments in The Emperor’s New Groove where Kuzco breaks the fourth wall to interact with scenes in the movie.