We’re six months out from the release of Captain Marvel, which means that Marvel’s internal marketing alarm has gone off and, like clockwork, they dropped the first trailer yesterday.
I LOVE IT.
On the heels of a strong first look, this trailer manages to both introduce Carol Danvers and a mystery surrounding her—she’s a superhero who doesn’t know something important about herself. That is a great hook and a clever way to get around a traditional origin story. Carol is going to require some explanation so they can’t avoid the origin entirely, but this way, the audience can discover the root of her power as she does in the narrative. Instead of watching passively, we’re positioned to go on this journey with her. Carol has always been a character divided against herself, and this is a perfect way to bring that into the movies without making her a total trainwreck (as some of the poorer of her books have done).
But let’s talk specifically about this trailer, because there are other versions (we will never see). You never make just one trailer, you make several and then figure out which one best serves your purposes. With Captain Marvel, they could have leaned harder on a girl power tone, they could have gone more comedic, they could have played up the Top Gun-ness of a pilot turned superhero. But what they chose to go with is a relatively dramatic approach that sets up the mystery of Captain Marvel as much as it does the person. (It also features an AMAZING theme which I hope to the gods old and new is Pinar Toprak’s actual theme for the movie and not a temporary track just for the trailer.) Of all possibilities, this is what Marvel chose to show us. Why? What do we get from it?
The heart of Carol Danvers. Sure, there’s young Nick Fury and Agent Coulson, a glimpse of Gemma Chan and Jude Law, and jets and Carol’s laser hands in action. Yes, there’s even a shot of her lighting up with the “Binary” powers that make her so powerful. My inner nerd gasped and squealed throughout the trailer—the faux-hawk helmet! Punching that old lady who is hopefully a secret alien! That shot of Chewie the cat alien’s butt on the poster!— but the reason I watched it a dozen times is because of all the fist-clenching.
This trailer is edited with repeating sequences showing Carol flying, falling, and rising. Of all possible tones and images, what we’re shown is this: Carol pushing herself, Carol falling, and Carol getting back up again. It’s the most important thing to know about Carol Danvers: that she pushes herself, that she sometimes falls, but that she always gets back up. The general public doesn’t know who Carol Danvers is—Lainey still thinks she’s a time-traveling alien—but in a two-minute trailer we get the most important impression of her. And it’s not just once, it’s driven home over and over, flashing between kid Carol and Air Force Carol and Captain Marvel as she continually picks herself up.
Wonder Woman led with Diana’s compassion, and what this trailer is telling us is that Captain Marvel will lead with Carol’s perseverance. There is such a focus on her hands, of her making a fist or hanging on or reaching out. She’s a fighter. She’s a survivor. She’s a seeker. It’s designed to hit you on an emotional level—heightened by that music—and it appeals to a very basic instinct. She falls and we want her to get back up again. We’re rooting for her to pick herself up. And she does, every time. Maybe you didn’t know Carol Danvers, but now you do. She’s scrappy. She doesn’t quit. This trailer is an introduction to a woman who simply will not stay down. Is there a bigger 2018 mood?