On Tuesday, Marvel took us higher, farther, and faster with the release of the first Captain Marvel trailer, which gave fans their first look at Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel.

3 things we learned from the Captain Marvel trailer.
3 things we learned from the Captain Marvel trailer.

As the movie is set in the 1990s, the trailer also features some shots of Marvel institutions Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) after getting a dose of that wonderful CGI youth serum. There’s also a glimpse of Jude Law, whose character hasn’t been confirmed yet, and of Crazy Rich Asians star Gemma Chan’s Minn-Erva, a member of the elite alien military team known as Starforce.

The trailer bolsters what Marvel has said about the movie — that it’s a story about Carol and Earth caught in the middle of a galactic war between alien races called the Skrulls and the Kree — while adding more connective tissue. Carol, as Fury observes, is a renegade soldier, but she has amnesia and can’t recall who she is or what she’s supposed to be.

While we’ll have to wait until March 8, 2019, for the movie to fill in the blanks, the trailer dropped some major clues about Carol’s origin story and some comic book references to think about — some of which are either so brief or so sly that they’re easy to miss. Here, then, with the help of some slowed-down GIFs, are three things we learned from the Captain Marvel trailer.

The Skrull invasion is underway, and Nick Fury needs Captain Marvel’s help

Captain Marvel punches an old lady (who is actually a Skrull). Marvel
One of the big moments in the trailer is Captain Marvel absolutely decking an old lady on a bus. It’s visually shocking to watch memaw’s gray hair whipping as Carol’s fist meets her face — and bluntly humorous, because sucker-punching septuagenarians isn’t how Marvel superheroes are supposed to act.

What’s being implied here, though, is that Carol sees something the rest of the population, including the audience, doesn’t: She knows that this old lady is actually a Skrull, part of an alien race with the power to shape-shift. They use this power to infiltrate and spy on their enemies, so it stands to reason that the lady Carol is punching is a Skrull. (Or, alternatively and less likely, that the person who looks like Carol is a Skrull who’s going around punching innocent old ladies.)

This tells us that Carol has a Skrull-detection ability, which seems to be important to Nick Fury.

Marvel hasn’t really explained (nor should we expect it to, because it would defeat the purpose of the movie) what motivates Skrulls other than they are villains of the film and they’re enemies of the Kree, another alien race that Carol happens to be allied with. But in an extremely brief scene in the trailer, it appears that a young Nick Fury and two other characters are present while a Skrull body is being examined:

 Captain Marvel trailer
Nick Fury examines a Skrull corpse in the Captain Marvel trailer. Marvel
Considering alien autopsy scenes are often used to convey the idea that the humans have no idea what they’re dealing with (see: Independence Day), it makes sense for Fury to track down Carol to explain the appearance of Skrulls on Earth, and perhaps inquire about an impending invasion.

We’ll see Captain Marvel get her powers
In the comic books, Carol Danvers is granted powers like super strength and flight through a freak accident involving an exploding Kree device. Now, there’s no hard rule that movies must follow everything that happened in the comic books (nor is there a rule that comic books can’t change what happened in the past, an act colloquially referred to as a retcon). But there’s a scene in the trailer that might reference Carol’s superhero origin story:

Explosion scene in the Captain Marvel trailer. Marvel
Disclaimer: This could totally not be Carol Danvers, just someone with the same hair and physical stature, and could also have nothing to do with the voiceover during this scene, which directly refers to Carol.

But if this is in fact Carol, the thing to notice during this bright explosion is the uniform she’s wearing. It’s not the green metal suit she wears when she’s crashing down to Earth at the beginning of the trailer — it looks like a dark green Air Force jumpsuit. And if this explosion is happening while Carol is in her jumpsuit, it signals that she’s still human when this is occurring, and this could be the explosion that gave her her powers.

That in mind, it seems like the aftermath of that scene is this other moment from the trailer where Carol, in her jumpsuit, is knocked down. The setting (the dusty, rocky field and the trees) looks to be the same:

Carol Danvers in the Captain Marvel trailer. Marvel
If this is indeed how Carol gets her powers, it seems like the movie will then fill us in on how an earthling with powers eventually made her way to marching with Starforce, the elite military unit of the Kree:

Starforce in Captain Marvel. Marvel
There may be another villain waiting in the wings

Who is the mystery villain here? Marvel
The most puzzling element of the trailer is who we see Carol going up against when she assumes her identity as Captain Marvel. In a new red-and-blue uniform that’s different from both her Starforce uni and her Air Force jumpsuit (see: the fingerless gloves), Carol seems to be preparing to fight a being in a black spacesuit. We don’t see his or her face, but it seems like this isn’t a part of Fury’s team, nor does the uniform seem to match the suits worn by the Skrulls we see in the trailer:

The Skrulls in the Captain Marvel trailer. Marvel
While the movie’s synopsis is pretty clear that Carol is stuck in the middle of a war between the Skrulls and the Kree, and though we’ve heard reports that Skrulls are the major villains in the film, it wouldn’t be surprising if there’s a twist and a secondary villain shows up to crash the party (think of the twists in Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2).

Unfortunately, we’ll probably have to wait until the movie is released in March 2019 to see whom Carol is going up against. Luckily, though, we have this amazing shot of Carol powering up to tide us over:

HELLO, FELLOW KIDS, do you remember the ’90s? Flannel? Riot grrrls? Pulp Fiction? Lacing up the ol’ Doc Martens and going to the comics shop? Don’t worry if you don’t; Marvel is here to remind you.

Yes, the long-awaited first trailer for the MCU’s long-awaited Captain Marvel is finally here, and it’s full—nearly too full—with Clinton-era references and sight gags.

There’s the Blockbuster Video store that Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Oscar winner and all-around delight Brie Larson) crashes into in the trailer’s opening shot. Then there’s the pager, and the shot of the Los Angeles bus terminal of yesteryear, and the not-quite-visible-but-we-know-it’s-there Nine Inch Nails shirt that Danvers wears. So many ’90s signifiers are crammed into the not-quite-two-minute trailer that you’d be forgiven for thinking Marvel’s plan to defeat the Skrulls was to pummel them with references.

Why the ’90s, anyway? Well, Captain Marvel needs an origin story, and the mid-20th century was taken up by Steve Rogers/Captain America, Agent Carter, and Tony Stark’s dad, Howard. The 21st century belongs to the Avengers as we know them. So, strictly in terms of continuity—and the fact that over at DC,

Wonder Woman has the Cold War locked down—the best place to put Carol Danvers is in the grunge era. Just enough technology that we recognize the world, just old enough that we don’t need cellphones in every scene. Not to mention the added synchronicity of Marvel’s first female-centered standalone film happens during the birth of Third Wave feminism.

It also makes sense as fan service. Most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Day One fans, and the comics fans that begat them, are Gen Xers and Gen Yers—people who came of age in the 1990s and might be feeling phased out by the end of the MCU’s Phase 3, which wraps up with next year with Captain Marvel and the Avengers:

 Infinity War sequel. That’s not to say those fans won’t stay with the franchise during Phase 4 and beyond, but as folks like Chris Evans/Captain America leave and make way for the new generation of Spider-Men and their ilk, Marvel would be smart to appeal to fans’ warm memories of bygone days.

3 things we learned from the Captain Marvel trailer.
Brie Larson (left) plays Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel in Marvel’s upcoming superhero tentpole—but despite this Top Gun moment, everything’s coming up ’90s.

But there’s a fine line between easter eggs and overkill. If the plan is to tickle fans’ nostalgia bone, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck need to do it carefully. The beeper shown in the trailer makes sense—it’s a tie-in to the Infinity War post-credits scene, when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) pages someone—presumably Danvers—as Thanos wipes out half of the Earth’s population. The Blockbuster is cute, because Hey, remember when we used to have to go out to rent movies? If the movie becomes a game of reference-spotting Whack-a-Mole, though, it’ll get old fast.

“The ‘90s doesn’t feel that long ago to us because we’re really old,” Boden told Entertainment Weekly. “But doing this movie has really made us realize how out-of-date so much stuff from the ‘90s actually is, and we’ve been having a lot of fun with that.” Have fun, but just remember: One of the joys of Marvel movies is that they’re always a little out of step with the real world. They mention World War II and occasionally other current events, but the Avengers aren’t out here like the X-Men, taking on President Nixon in Days of Future Past. If President Clinton shows up for a boxers-or-briefs joke, the suspension of disbelief might kinda be shot.

Moreover, if the goal is nostalgia, visual cues and throwaway lines won’t cut it. The better bet would be to recreate the feel of the ‘90s, not just the logos and objects people remember. Stranger Things does this (for the most part) effectively, even when the show turns Eggos into plot devices. Nostalgia clicks in when we’re reminded of something, not shown it outright. If Captain Marvel does that, it will have succeeded—and given Marvel’s first headlining superheroine the movie she deserves.


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