Adapting characters from long-standing sources is often a difficult and long process. No matter what you do, fans will always feel as if an important aspect of the character they’ve fallen in love with is missing from the live action version. Marvel Studios, however, has managed to take beloved comic book characters and breathe new life into them while still staying true to the character.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe moves forward, more and more heroes are being introduced to the big screen. One of the most exciting heroes heading our way is Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel. Being portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson, Captain Marvel marks the MCU’s first attempt at a feature film with a female lead. Clearly, the stakes are high. Marvel has the opportunity to catapult female superheroes into the future, placing the long-overshadowed women of the MCU into their rightful places among all the men. However, if Marvel manages to mess this up, they are going to have one hell of a price to pay. In adapting one of the most powerful women in Marvel’s arsenal, the MCU is going to have to make some major changes.
Captain Marvel’s New Origin
So far, Marvel has been incredibly successful in tweaking origins for their characters, only making mistakes a time or two. However, what Marvel plans to do with Captain Marvel is far from a simple tweak as they attempt to distance themselves from DC (as Green Lantern and Captain Marvel share a very, very similar origin story). Talented screenwriter Nicole Perlman, who also worked on
Guardians of the Galaxy, clearly understands the task she is undertaking. She knows how important getting Captain Marvel right is for the future of the MCU. In a podcast with Comic Book Movie Perlman had this to say:
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a project where I’ve been more mindful about the impact that it could have and the importance of it. She’s obviously such an incredibly kick-ass character and Kelly Sue DeConnick did a great run with her story arc recently. But here’s the thing, 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. And also, she’s her own person and she’s a great character. We have to be aware of what’s happened in other Marvel films and make sure that her particular storyline is unique and fun and also fits in within this world that’s going on at the same time. It’s a little bit of an interesting story gauntlet. It’s been good to have a partner. It’s been an incredible experience. If we can pull it off it could be an incredibly important but also really fun and kick-ass superhero film.”
In order to pull off the incredible feat of bringing Captain Marvel to the forefront of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Danvers will have to undergo some major work. Her origin story will be vastly different. Instead of seeing a young Air Force pilot being protected from a Kree blast by the original Captain Mar-vell (who was a Kree himself), we’ll likely see something that fits in better with the characters and storylines already established in the MCU.
MCU’s History With Changing Characters
Captain Marvel’s reimagined origin story is far from the first time Marvel has tweaked their characters. In order to fit into the ever-changing MCU, characters’ backstories, and the comic book stories themselves have to be slightly (and in some rare cases, drastically) revamped to make sense in the unfolding series of events. Most of the time these character changes work out really well. Critics love them. Fans love them. Everyone has been happy, for the most part.
Marvel Gets It Right More Often Than Not
Marvel has been tweaking characters ever since the MCU was established all the way back in
Iron Man in 2008. Some of the biggest changes, and thus the biggest gambles, have resulted in some of the most beloved characters in the MCU. For example: Drax the Destroyer
Easily one of the best parts in one of the best installments to the cinematic universe, Drax the Destoyer is completely different from his comic book counterpart. In the comics, Drax is the spirit of deceased human Arthur Douglas. Douglas’ spirit is placed inside an artificially-created host with superhuman strength, life detection abilities, and even fire blasts. However, both the comic version of the character and Drax share the same core motivation – the death of his family at hands of Thanos.
Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge success, and it owes a part of its monumental success to Bautista’s excellent portrayal of the reimagined alien. Many characters of the Nova Corps were also tweaked to fit into the cosmic universe director James Gunn and Marvel boss Kevin Feige were going for. Thor
Although you might not realize it, as Thor’s background is pretty consistent with his mythological inspiration, the movie version of Thor is a vastly different character than his original comic book counterpart. In the comics, Thor isn’t always the hunky Asgardian we all know and love. In fact, his secret identity is crippled doctor Donald Blake. Marvel decided to do away with his secret identity to better fit into the world being established by the other movies in the MCU. Thor’s brother, Loki, is even slightly tweaked from his comic book doppelgänger (mostly in that he is much more powerful with magic in the comics).
At their core, the MCU version and the comic version of Scott Lang’s Ant-Man are the same. They both stole a suit from the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, both recently got out of prison for burglary, and they both wanted to reconnect with their daughter, Cassie. However, the similarities pretty much stop there. In the comics, Cassie has a heart defect and the only doctor capable of helping her was kidnapped by Darren Cross (who in the comics is actually a big ol’ pink monster and not the Yellow Jacket).
Hank Pym doesn’t originally allow Scott to be Ant-Man in the comics, either. Instead, Scott tries to return the suit after rescuing the doctor, at which point Hank realizes Scott could actually do some good if he kept the suit. Also, as we saw in
Ant-Man and the Wasp, Hope van Dyne became the Wasp. However, in the comics, Hope is actually Hope Pym and she is a supervillain called the Red Queen.
These examples are just the highlights of the many, many changes Marvel has made to their characters as they continue to weave a movie narrative.
Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, once widely regarded as two of the biggest risks of the MCU, have come to be some of the most beloved, despite their characters varying greatly from their comic book origins. These changes were thoughtfully made to create the most unique characters, the best storylines, and the greatest diversity among heroes. If Captain Marvel’s revised origin is handled as gracefully as the examples above, then we have absolutely nothing to worry about. If. on the other hand, the choices made are more along the lines of the Mandarin ( Iron Man 3) or Malekith ( Thor: The Dark World) then Carol Danvers will be a huge disappointment. What’s The Key To Getting It Right?
Simply put: stay true to the essence of the character. If the character is still the same character at their core, then fans will be happy. Drax is still just a man who wants revenge for his family, Thor is still an Asgardian with a hammer, and Scott Lang just wants to protect his daughter. At the heart of it, they are all still the same character as they are in the comics, simply adapted to fit into the MCU.
Stay true to the heart of the character and you’ll win the hearts of your audience.
However, when the heart of the character is changed it seems like a slap to the face because they are not themselves anymore. So as long as Carol Danvers is a strong, independent, bad-ass woman, her origins can be changed drastically. She doesn’t have to be in the Air Force or working security, she just has to be the same character we respond to. Marvel really has the chance to do something amazing with Brie Larson and Captain Marvel, but the stakes are so high that there is a huge space for monumental failure. However, with the genius mind of Kevin Feige, the writing prowess of Nicole Perlman, and the acting chops of Brie Larson, I think Captain Marvel is in very capable hands.