A month ago, the Sorcerer Supreme finally joined the MCU, and as #DoctorStrange was released to cinemas, fans were excited to see these mind-bending and innovative comics brought to life. And yet, shy of the special effects which were appropriately psychedelic, Doctor Strange was not innovative at all. In fact, the story was an aggravating re-tread over an origin story that seemed far too familiar — it's basically Iron Man, but with wizards this time.
The film lacked character depth and development, yet Stephen Strange took over half the movie's run time to become the powerful sorcerer we know him to be. This slow plod through his backstory wasn't just tired, it also made us concerned about the next hero due to be added to the Avengers lineup: The long-awaited Captain Marvel.
Granted, we've got a while until Carol Danvers graces the silver screen, and the next solo movies in Marvel's roster — Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther — will break away from the origin story structure. But Captain Marvel needs to come in strong, and an origin story might be the worst way to do that.
A Different Introduction
If Captain America: Civil War proved nothing else, it's that we don't need a whole movie to be introduced to a superhero, as audiences warmed to the already-established hero Black Panther, and Spidey swung into the story as though he'd been in the MCU all along. In this day and age, the media has been totally saturated with superhero stories for at least a decade. The fact is, we don't need to be spoon-fed an explanation of who someone is and how they got their powers.
These days, the movies that really grab us are the ones that take the superhero concept and run with it — The Winter Soldier totally subverted our idea of what a superhero is; next year's Logan looks like some kind of pared-down post-apocalypse AU, and we can't wait.
So how could Captain Marvel be introduced in a different way than an origin story? The Civil War approach could be perfect here, and there's a team-up movie coming up just before Cap's own film: Avengers: Infinity War. It's entirely possible, even probable, that Marvel Studios will take #InfinityWar as an opportunity to introduce Carol — maybe as an Air Force colonel who is tapped to be an Accords-sanctioned superhero after she gets her powers.
After that, the solo movie could continue Carol's story, developing her character rather than taking us back to the beginning. Which is probably a good idea, considering Carol's origins are somewhat confused.
Reinventing Captain Marvel
Superhero origins are essentially much of a muchness, with the hero in question gaining powers through something delightfully as nonsensical as lightning blast, or a chemical spill — unless they have defining traumas like Batman or Spider-Man, it doesn't really matter how the character got their powers.
Carol has no such trauma. Even back in 1977, how Carol got her powers was a paint-by-numbers story: She got caught in the explosion of an alien device, mixing her DNA with that of the Kree Mar-vell (the then Captain Marvel). Carol then became Ms Marvel, the costumed hero companion of Mar-vell.
There's already evidence that the Captain Marvel writers are struggling to update this origin story — recently, writer Nicole Perlman revealed that she changed Carol's origin to prevent comparisons with Green Lantern.
"If you were just going to do a straight adaptation of the comics, her origin story is very similar to Green Lantern. And obviously, that’s not what we want to do. There’s a lot of reinvention that needs to happen."
Yet this isn't the story of how Carol got her powers but rather how she became Captain Marvel, jumping forward to Mar-vell's death — a dying alien bestowing their mantle on their companion is something Carol and Hal Jordan's stories have in common. Of course, they're also both pilots... but Carol's Air Force Colonel status better not be the element they're reinventing, because that's what sets her apart as a truly fascinating character.
Removing Mar-vell would make sense though, as adding another superhero to the MCU only to kill him off would seem a little abrupt — not to mention the questions it would raise about why the Avengers didn't know about the original Captain Marvel.
The Best Of Both Stories
Ultimately, we do need some clarification of who Carol is, how she got her powers, and how she became Captain Marvel. But we don't need two hours to slowly follow Carol through all of this. The solution? A combined approach, like the one the Netflix Defenders shows use.
At the beginning of Daredevil, Matt Murdoch is already a vigilante; Jessica Jones got her powers and tried to be a hero long before the start of her show; and because Luke Cage was introduced in Jessica Jones, he never got an origin story either. We slowly learned what we needed to know about these characters' backstories through context, or flashbacks later on.
While the Netflix shows do have the benefit of being hours upon hours longer than a movie's run time, there's no reason why a flashback approach wouldn't work in a film, and shaking up the chronology might help give Captain Marvel a fresh approach. That way, we also wouldn't have to wait half the film to see Carol kick butt as the costumed hero we know and love.
There are so many interesting elements to Carol's story — she's traveled in time, lead a squadron of pilots in space, struggled with alcoholism, and started yet another Civil War against Iron Man. Here's hoping we get to see some of this in her solo movie, and not just slog through a how-she-got-powers story that we've seen countless times.