In March 2019, Marvel Studios will release its 21st feature, which also just happens to be its first female-led movie. After 11 years, Captain Marvel will roar into theaters, but if a recent rumor is to be believed, she won't be alone.
According to the report, Samuel L. Jackson's virtually ubiquitous Nick Fury will appear in the film in some capacity. However, Marvel's approach to Nick Fury's role in Captain Marvel could make or break the movie.
Before we dig in, let's take a step back and consider what we know about the film, which, frankly, isn't much. Captain Marvel has writers (Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve), directors (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) and a star (Oscar winner Brie Larson) -- and that's about all the information we have so far. That could be in part because the movie falls after the highly secretive Avengers: Infinity War, or perhaps because production doesn't start until January. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and star Larson have shared some vague statements about the story's direction, but those have hardly been enough to construct an approximate plot synopsis. Additionally, the rumor about Fury is only that; Jackson hasn't yet been confirmed, although the report is credible. That being the case, let's look at how Fury could hypothetically factor into Captain Marvel, and why his inclusion could seriously affect the film.
Fury's involvement could go one of two ways: He could have a large "co-starring" role, as suggested by the initial report, or he could have a lesser role, similar to his presence in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Seeing as the former option could be the most damaging, let's dig into that one first.
Captain Marvel was announced in October 2014 as the first major female-led superhero film since 2005's Elektra. The Hollywood landscape has changed since then, most notably with the resounding success of Warner Bros.' Wonder Woman, but Marvel's announcement was notable in that Carol Danvers would carry her own, self-titled film.
The potential cause for concern lies in whether Fury's apparent inclusion is fueled by the needs of the story, or by the nervousness of studio executives. There are numerous possible reasons for the decision, from a desire to strengthen the film's connections to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to ironing out a kink in the timeline. However, concern that Captain Marvel might have trouble attracting audiences shouldn't be one of them.
Marvel has a proven track record of making blockbusters out of lesser-known properties. Before 2008, superheroes like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor weren't exactly household names and, aside from Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson, the films didn't boast any real superstars. Nevertheless, Iron Man, Captain America and Thor pulled in modest-to-impressive hauls at the box office. In a matter of years, they culminated in 2012's The Avengers, which blew the MCU wide open. That, in turn, paved the way for more of Marvel's properties -- like Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ant-Man (2015) and Doctor Strange (2016) -- to be adapted to film.
These days, Marvel =recruits A-list talent like Michael Keaton, Benedict Cumberbatch and Kurt Russell, and most of the studio's films are met with resounding success. As such, Captain Marvel doesn't need star power (that is, beyond its Oscar-winning lead) or a tentpole character in order to be successful; Marvel has enough box-office clout and fan goodwill to be a hit, even without any bells and whistles. The Marvel brand is known for effective storytelling and character actors -- and, so long as Captain Marvel keeps apace, it too should prove to be a hit.
Further, the success of Wonder Woman should put to rest any doubts about superhero films with female leads. Although it's not accurate to suggest Wonder Woman represents the potential success of all women-led superhero films, Elektra and Catwoman have been used to condemn solo female superhero films across the board for over a decade. That said, Wonder Woman's does show, with a strong star and a strong story, a female-led superhero film can be just as successful -- if not more so -- than one with a male lead. It isn't quite fair to compare Captain Marvel to Wonder Woman, as the latter has been a household name for years, but Marvel's reputation paired with Larson's star power should propel the film to the same levels of anticipation and interest.
Additionally, while Captain Marvel isn't necessarily well known to wider audiences, she has quite a lengthy history in the comics. Carol Danvers made her superhero debut in 1977, and soon developed into one of Marvel Comics' most prominent female heroes. She has more than 40 years of heroism under her belt, plus careers in journalism and the military. In addition to her role as an Avenger and (briefly) a Guardian of the Galaxy, she has a built-in supporting cast. As such, Marvel Studios has a rich history to draw from for the Captain Marvel movie and should focus on developing her own support cast, rather than turning to existing MCU characters.
This isn't to say, however, that Fury will inevitably have a negative impact on Captain Marvel. On the contrary, there are plenty of ways to use the character that would benefit the movie. As a military woman, it makes sense that Carol Danvers encountered Fury at some point in her career; what's more, she was even a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the comics, so there is precedence for her to run in the same circles as the man who put together the Avengers initiative in the MCU.
If he will appear in Captain Marvel, Fury should have a role similar to the ones he had in The Avengers, Iron Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Solider. That is, he should help to steer the course of the narrative; while small, his earlier roles proved incredibly effective, and Captain Marvel should adopt this same method to reap the same reward.
Does Captain Marvel need Nick Fury? Absolutely not. Between Marvel's penchant for success and the hero's rich comic book history, Captain Marvel has more than enough material to hold a film on her own. If Fury has a major role, he could draw away from Captain Marvel's screen time, thus jeopardizing the development of the protagonist and her support characters. However, with a minor part like his previous MCU roles, he could prove to be a valuable asset to the movie.
Captain Marvel is directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck with a script by Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve. The film will star Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and is scheduled to arrive in theaters on March 8, 2019.