Captain Marvel’s Origin Story, Powers & Movie Changes Explained

Captain Marvel arrives in theaters next year, and Marvel Studios is banking on their first female-led superhero film to lead the way into the future as Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wraps up. The character’s popularity has increased over the last few years in the Marvel comic fandom, thanks to a stellar run by Kelly Sue DeConnick, and the time is ripe for Brie Larson to help catapult Carol Danvers and her alter ego into the mainstream.

Relatively little is currently known about Captain Marvel, beyond what we’ve able to glean from set photos and sound bites from the actors. The character has a fairly convoluted history in the comics, and it will be a heavy task for directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to streamline her origin story for casual fans and general moviegoers.

Related: Every Captain Marvel Reveal From EW’s Cover Story

Carol Danvers’ journey from USAF personnel to a premier superhero of the Marvel Universe is marked of warring alien races, doomed mentors and love interests, not mention erratically changing power-sets, so the challenges in adapting the character for the MCU are not inconsiderable. Here’s everything we know so far about how Captain Marvel will be changed from the comics, and what elements of the character will stay the same.

What is Captain Marvel’s Origin Story?

In the Marvel comic books of the late 60s, Carol Danvers was not the first to carry the mantle of Captain Marvel. That distinction belongs to space alien Mar-Vell, a member of the Kree Imperial Militia. Initially sent to observe Earth due to the human race’s preparations for space travel, Mar-Vell poses as scientist Dr. Walter Lawson, and begins to fall in love with security chief (and former USAF pilot) Carol Danvers. Ultimately turning against the Kree Supreme Intelligence’s devious plans for mankind, Mar-Vell – or Captain Marvel, as he later comes to be known – becomes a protector of Earth. That is, until he is sadly taken by cancer inflicted upon him by the villain Nitro in the seminal graphic novel The Death of Captain Marvel (1982).

Before his death, Mar-Vell had been engaged in a battle with an old superior officer/jealous love rival from the Kree military named Yon-Rogg (Jude Law could be playing either role in the upcoming movie, but currently all parties involved are keeping quiet on his character’s name; the only thing that’s known about him truly is that he’s a “devout” Kree warrior and leader). Yon-Rogg had kidnapped Carol Danvers, and in the ensuing rescue by Mar-Vell, Danvers was subjected to radiation from a Kree machine, changing her DNA to become half-Kree. This caused her to gain powers similar to Mar-Vell’s, which she used to fight crime and villainy under the guise of Ms. Marvel. Soon after,  she joined the Avengers. She’s also spent some time fighting alongside the X-Men, after the power-and-personality leeching then-villain Rogue absorbed all of her memories and powers.

In 2012, Carol finally accepted the mantle of Captain Marvel (following stints under codenames like Binary and Warbird), following a team-up against the Phoenix Force with a briefly resurrected Mar-Vell. Considering the Captain Marvel legacy and its significance to her life, she takes on the name with Captain America’s blessing, who assures her that Mar-Vell would want her to have the name. She embraced the role with aplomb, becoming one of the Marvel Universe’s premier heroes.

Related: Theory: Captain Marvel’s Weakness Is Her Memories, Wiped By Jude Law’s Villain

How the Captain Marvel Movie Has Changed Carol Danvers’ Origin

According to Entertainment Weekly’s coverage of the production, Captain Marvel will open with a sidestep of the traditional origin story as usually witnessed in big screen superheroes. Carol will already have her powers, and is already a member of the Kree race’s elite military team, Starforce. How she comes upon her powers is still unknown, but the fact that she ends up fighting alongside Starforce as a key member of the team is a break from her comic book history. In the comics, Starforce only ever came up against Captain Marvel when Monica Rambeau was carrying the mantle, and even then they appeared consistently as antagonists (largely during Operation: Galactic Storm). How exactly Danvers winds up on Hala as part of the team will likely be addressed in the movie, but for now all we know is that it’s a deviation from Marvel comics continuity.

The Starforce team on-screen will be led by Jude Law’s currently unnamed Kree commander; early theories suggested Law would be playing Carol’s mentor, love interest and predecessor Mar-Vell, but the recent set pics and his alignment to the once and future enemy of the Guardians of the Galaxy – Ronan the Accuser – suggest he might fit the more villainous mold of Yonn-Rogg. In either scenario, this element indicates that Danvers on-screen will align to an extent with her comic book origin, in being closely tied to a Kree war hero and authority figure.

Starforce exists in the comic book canon as a vital military element of the Kree-Skrull War – a fan-favorite conflict that will be adapted for the storyline of the movie. The warlike Kree and the more clandestine, shape-shifting Skrulls have been at war for as long as either race can remember, and the movie appears to keep to the same template.

Starforce in the comics has been comprised of characters such as Captain Atlas, Ultimus, Minerva and Korath the Pursuer, but only the latter two make an appearance as members in the movie that we know of (with Djimon Hounsou reprising his role as Korath from Guardians of the Galaxy, which is set almost twenty years after the events in Captain Marvel, and Gemma Chan (Humans) playing Minerva). The team is described as the “SEAL Team Six of space” by directors Boden and Fleck, which is in-keeping with their comic book depiction.

In the movie, Captain Marvel will return to Earth at some point to combat the infiltration by the Skrulls. Led by Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos, who at some point will go undercover within SHIELD – which brings us in to contact with a young Nick Fury and Phil Coulson. The Skrulls being a part of Captain Marvel’s story either at her origin or later in her career as a costumed adventurer doesn’t fit with comics history, as she never played a part in the Kree-Skrull War. Her interaction with Skrulls didn’t occur until the Secret Invasion storyline of 2008, and even then it was as a team member of the New Avengers rather than any solo adventure. The fan theory that Marvel Studios is setting up their own Secret Invasion storyline for the next Phase is intriguing, however.


Page 2: Captain Marvel’s Powers in the Comics and MCU

Captain Marvel’s Powers In The Comics

The history of Carol Danvers’ power set is a convoluted one. Danvers was initially exposed to a Kree machine (that turns imagination into reality) named a ‘Psyche-Magnitron’ during a fight between Mar-Vell and Yon-Rogg. Due to her proximity to Mar-Vell (who saved her from the machine exploding) she was imbued with half-Kree DNA. This allows her increased strength, durability and flight, with her Kree physiology also allowing her immunity to toxins and poisons.

Carol was later subjected to experimentation by insectoid alien race The Brood, who gifted her new cosmic powers – after which she took up the mantle of Binary. She drew these abilities from her connection to a “White Hole,” and they included manipulation of energy (including gravity itself), and the ability to survive in the vacuum of space. However, these powers only lasted for a short while before the connection to the White Hole was severed. Carol held on to a semblance of these powers, allowing her to absorb energy and shoot it from her hands in photonic form.

Read More: 12 Powers Only True Fans Know Captain Marvel Has (And 9 Weaknesses)

Changes to Captain Marvel’s Powers in the MCU

There hasn’t been any solid confirmation on Carol Danvers’ precise power set in the upcoming movie, but producer and MCU architect Kevin Feige has gone on record to say that she is “more powerful than any character [they’ve] introduced thus far.” Whilst we can count on her being super strong and durable, this doesn’t yet confirm whether she’ll have her abilities of flight or energy redistribution.

The stills from the film released so far show Captain Marvel with two costumes: the green-and-black Kree military garb of Starforce, and the iconic red, yellow and blue of Captain Marvel as we know her from the comics. What’s present on both costumes is a pair of thick gloves – almost gauntlets – that could end up being the Nega-Bands used by Mar-Vell in the comics (but never by Danvers).

If Danvers is gifted these Kree weaponry on-screen, they’ll assist with her flight, and be able redirect energies from the Quantum Realm (or the Negative Zone in the comics) to withstand attacks and micro-pressure from the stresses of interstellar travel. Marvel could just as easily not give Carol the Nega-Bands, and instead have her flaunt these abilities by virtue of her half-Kree DNA.

Keep an eye out for a teaser trailer to drop sometime very soon for more clues as to Captain Marvel’s powers and origin in her first big-screen adventure.

More: Captain Marvel: Kevin Feige Explains Why MCU Hasn’t Had Female-Led Movies

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