During the Marvel Studios panel at last week's Comic-Con International, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige announced that the upcoming Captain Marvel movie would be a period piece set in the 1990s, and that the good Captain, a/k/a Carol Danvers, would team up with a younger, two-eyed Nick Fury to battle the Skrulls.
The announcement confirms some rumors that have been swirling around about the project, particularly the inclusion of Nick Fury in the cast. But, the news that it would be set two decades in the past, well before the first Iron Man movie, came as a surprise.
While Captain Marvel's 1990s setting was unexpected, it is not unwelcome. By setting the film in the past, screenwriters Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve have engineered an elegant solution to the problem of Carol Danvers.
In No One's Shadow
One of the biggest challenges with introducing Marvel's first headlining female superhero in the 21st film set in the MCU is that she risks being outshone by the characters around her. The risk is even greater because comics Carol Danvers is a legacy hero who inherited her name and powers from the Kree Captain Mar-Vell. Introducing her into a world already filled with superheroes, sorcerers, Norse gods, Inhumans and various agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. make her yet another face in an already crowded scene. By setting Captain Marvel in the 1990s -- well before the appearance of Iron Man -- Carol will have a chance to show just how amazing she is without having to be in anyone's shadow.
Carol is also perfectly positioned for a major role in a pre-Heroic Age story because of her comics backstory as a former Air Force Intelligence agent. In the comics, secret agent Carol has shown up repeatedly in stories set before Fantastic Four #1, teaming up with Wolverine, a pre-powered Ben Grimm, and her own long-time partner and lover Michael Rossi. In adapting Carol to the MCU, it makes perfect sense that she would have been recruited by the still-covert S.H.I.E.L.D. and have worked alongside Nick Fury to contain threats the world wasn't ready to know about. Making her a part of the MCU's secret past is entirely consistent with Carol's comics backstory and neatly avoids the "why should we care about her more than __" problem.
The Lost Generation
Setting Captain Marvel in the gap in time between Agent Carter and Iron Man also makes the movie an ideal way to explore what happened in the MCU in the intervening years. We know Peggy eventually got S.H.I.E.L.D. up and running, but what exactly did they do in the meantime? And how did that Kree cadaver end up in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s possession? By making Captain Marvel a key part of those missing years, we can finally get a glimpse into Marvel's lost generation.
The Skrull, which Feige revealed will factor into Captain Marvel, are near-perfect villains for a story set during the long gap. They are threatening, while remaining covert. An attempted Skrull invasion could happen without anyone in the wider world taking notice. Connecting an invasion to the broader Kree-Skrull War could also explain how Carol got Kree powers and why she left Earth—she could have been fighting alongside the Kree to stop the invasion at the other end. Plus, the Skrull also happen to share a power set with Carol's first nemesis, Mystique, who cannot be used because she is part of Fox's X-Men franchise.
There's also potential for Carol to meet up with some of the secret heroes of pre-Heroic Age. We know Nick Fury will be making an appearance, but wouldn't it be amazing to see Carol meet up for drinks with Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter and Michelle Pfeiffer's Janet Van Dyne?