The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest film “The Marvels” is about to cram elements of multiple Disney Plus television shows, Marvel movies and an understanding of the wider Marvel multiverse canon into one film – giving moviegoers something of a homework assignment.
“The Marvels,” a sequel to 2019’s billion-dollar earner “Captain Marvel,” brings fans back into the journey of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), who finds herself swapping powers with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani). They form a mini-Avengers trio that tackles the villainous Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) and engage with Prince Yan (Park Seo-joon). Oh yeah, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is along for the ride, too.
Marvel has been weaving its interconnected stories between television and film for several years now. By our calculations, a completionist would need to watch more than five films, four Disney Plus shows, potentially pre-Disney Marvel movies and possibly read an interview or two to understand every corner of this movie, making it one of the most Marvel of Marvel films.
So, instead of watching two days’ worth of MCU content, here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know.
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Captain Marvel has an odd comic-book origin story.
Going through the history of the Captain Marvel character is like combing through the history of the Roman Empire – lots of different people taking up the mantle with various origin stories that all tie in to events spanning multiple planets, galaxies and wars.
The first Captain Marvel was a character named Mar-Vell. But over the years, others such as Monica Rambeau (more on her later), Genis-Vell and Phyla-Vell took up the mantle. Carol Danvers was one of the most recent characters to embrace the role.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe adapted the Danvers origin story for the films. “Captain Marvel” (2019) hinted at the other comic-book storylines when Danvers faced off against Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), originally a rival of Mar-Vell (Annette Bening, playing a new version of that character for the MCU).
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Captain Marvel got her powers from an Infinity Stone (kind of).
Carol Danvers was a fighter pilot for the U.S. military before a crash exposed her to energy from the Tesseract, the Marvel MacGuffin housing an Infinity Stone.
Her accident with the stone gave her superpowers that might make her the strongest Avenger out there (though surely Thor and the Hulk would dispute that). Upon receiving her powers, she was captured by the alien Kree military and drained of her memories. She lived under the Kree’s watchful eye and fought against their rival, the Skrull Empire.
After an accidental crash landing on Earth, Danvers discovered she was actually from Earth and unlocked greater abilities – which she used to support the Skrulls instead.
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Captain Marvel is a hero who mostly fights in the cosmos.
Once she saved the many Skrulls lingering near Earth, Captain Marvel rushed off to other parts of the galaxy to help other planets in need. She briefly returned to Earth in “Endgame” to help kill Thanos after he blipped away half of the universe. She left again, only to return when a Thanos from another timeline showed up to avenge himself. Once that saga was over, she apparently ventured off to help defend the galaxy from various threats.
So no, she doesn’t spend a lot of time on Earth. She may be a member of the Avengers, but they haven’t exactly been active since “Endgame,” either.
“The Marvels” appears to bring her back to Earth to help fight off villains and reunite with her allies Monica Rambeau and Nick Fury.
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She has become a leader of the Avengers.
After the events of “Infinity War,” in which Thanos wipes away half of the living universe, Captain Marvel starts working more closely with the Avengers. In the movie “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” we briefly see her help uncover some mysteries on Earth.
Given her stature and her abilities, it’s no question she has become one of the new leaders of the Avengers, especially after Captain America (Chris Evans) became older and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) passed away. With Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) somewhat retired and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) making regular trips to space, Captain Marvel remains one of the few major heroes working with the team.
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She has two new allies, introduced on Disney Plus shows.
For “The Marvels,” Captain Marvel will team up with Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani).
Rambeau was introduced in the original “Captain Marvel” flick as a child, but she returned in the Disney Plus show “WandaVision” as an intelligence agent looking to uncover the mystery of what was happening in the town of Westview. During her adventure there, the now-adult Rambeau became saturated with unique energy, which rewrote her DNA and gave her superhero abilities.
Meanwhile, Kamala Khan made her debut on the show “Ms. Marvel” as a superfan of the Avengers and Captain Marvel.
This is the first time that we will see heroes originating from a Disney Plus show unite with a film-based hero, meaning that Disney Plus shows are somewhat required viewing for this film.
(Nick Fury also appears in the film fresh off the events of his Disney Plus show, “Secret Invasion,” though it’s unclear how much it’ll matter.)
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Her biggest fan is Ms. Marvel, a mutant.
We learn in “Ms. Marvel” that Kamala Khan gained her abilities after finding a special bangle that unlocked a latent mutation within her.
So why does that matter? Well, this is the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s history that we had full acknowledgment of mutants, which make up the X-Men team, the popular superhero squad that has been absent from the MCU.
Rights to the X-Men had previously been owned by Twentieth Century Fox, which was fully acquired by Disney in 2019. The rights are now under Marvel’s control, meaning we might see more mutants and X-Men in the future, with Khan as a potential starting point.
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Her new teammate is the superhero Photon (we just don’t know it yet).
In “The Marvels,” Captain Marvel will also team up with Rambeau, who has rewritten DNA that gives her the power to manipulate energy.
In the comics, Monica actually becomes Captain Marvel before changing her name to Photon and later Spectrum. Under both names, the character became a member of the Avengers.
But in the MCU, Monica doesn’t have an alias yet.
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Captain Marvel might cross the multiverse.
The MCU is caught up in the Multiverse Saga, with multiple projects briefly touching on interconnected universes and timelines. It appears “The Marvels” will follow that plan.
The film’s latest trailer hinted that a separate universe will touch the MCU’s, which means there could be more heroes and characters.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” set up incursions – an event where one universe invades another. The Disney Plus show “Loki,” which is finishing its second season, has also hinted at the multiverse collapsing in on itself.
When it comes to the multiverse (and Marvel), all bets are off.
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How to get caught up
If these tidbits didn’t help you and you want a full scan of what’s happening, here’s a breakdown of what to watch.
Best to watch: “Captain Marvel,” “WandaVision,” “Ms. Marvel,” “Secret Invasion”
“Captain Marvel” and the three Disney Plus shows will help you understand all of the film’s main characters and where they’re at when the movie begins.
Helpful: “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame”
It doesn’t hurt to see how Captain Marvel helped turn the tide for the Avengers against Thanos. “Endgame” also shows us what Captain Marvel is up to after Thanos attacked Earth the first time.
For additional Easter eggs: “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”
These don’t matter all that much, other than that “Spider-Man” tells us a little bit about Nick Fury’s status (kind of) and that “Shang-Chi” shows how Captain Marvel is working with the Avengers.
If you’re a superfan: “Loki,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and [redacted because of potential spoilers].
These movies won’t help you too much besides showing the state of the cosmos and Ronan the Accuser, who has since been replaced by Dar-Benn, Captain Marvel’s antagonist in the new film.
The “Doctor Strange” sequel also briefly shows Rambeau’s mother, Maria Rambeau, as an alternate universe’s Captain Marvel as well. There’s also some multiversal high jinks in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” that add a layer of intrigue.
Lastly, if you believe some of those pesky Marvel rumours, [redacted].