Captain Marvel is unlike any other film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—and not just because a woman is finally leading the charge. "In many ways, it's a classic Marvel origin story, but told in reverse," executive producer Jonathan Schwartz explained. "You meet her as an awesome, badass superpowered space hero, then learn who the human is behind that aspect of herself."
Last year, E! News and other outlets visited the film's set on the Sony Studios lot in L.A. and spoke to Brie Larson, who stars as the titular heroine (a.k.a. Carol Danvers). "If I was seeing this movie, it would mean so much more to me knowing there was that type of dedication put into it and that it's not, 'Girls are strong with CGI,'" Larson said. "It's, 'Girls are strong [period]!'"
Carol's incredible abilities notwithstanding, her story is grounded in her human characteristics. "Thematically, the movie very much is about embracing your own humanity—and to some extent, embracing your own emotion. When there are a lot of mentors in Carol's life over the course of this movie, some of them have good intentions toward her and some of them less so. Learning who to listen to and when to listen to yourself is one of the most important themes of the movie," Schwartz noted. "Ultimately, Carol's power comes from her own self-knowledge and her own self-acceptance—and her journey to that moment is what makes the movie fun."
Credit the film's "fun" elements to directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who co-wrote the script with Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Jac Schaeffer. "We tend to approach movies from the perspective of character and really just thought, 'This is an amazing opportunity to introduce audiences to a new superhero and take her on a very powerful journey of self-discovery throughout the movie,'" Boden explained. "And we really grounded ourselves in that journey, and that character's journey, and the journey of somebody who's kind of discovering her own power and realizing the more herself she becomes, the more powerful she becomes."
Captain Marvel was introduced in the comic books in 1968, and several iterations of the character have been introduced since then. While some fans believe Jude Law was cast as Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel, the studio has not confirmed which role he will be playing—other than to say he plays a Kree warrior. "The character of Mar-Vell in the comic books is really important to Carol's origin story, and Mar-Vell is equally important to Carol's origin story in this movie. I think anything beyond that is going to be a little too spoiler-y," Schwartz teased, adding, "That origin story had to be updated a little bit for a modern audience, and I'm really curious to see what fans of the character think about what we've done with that moment."
Schwartz is excited for audiences to see what Boden and Fleck have created. "They had a really cool sensibility and a take on the sci-fi genre that was a little more grounded than what we'd seen in some of the other Marvel movies, which was really cool," he said, noting that they were inspired by Captain America: Civil War and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. "When you look at their movies, there's a real amazing naturalism and really amazing characters and performances, which is what these movies are all based in. So, we felt confident with their body of work and their sensibility and with their pitch that they could make a really cool Marvel film."
Casting Larson as the film's leading lady was a no-brainer, according to Fleck. "She's just so fierce. Everything she does is a hundred percent," Fleck marveled. "It's like every day, we're super inspired and awed by her." Added Schwartz, "She's added a lot in terms of who the character is and how that character comes across on screen—because she is that person."
In the 1990s-set blockbuster, Captain Marvel finds herself on Earth with no memory of her past. The one thing she does know? The up-to-no-good Skrulls have already invaded the planet. "As a long-time book reader, I was always really interested in the Kree-Skrull war and specifically those shape shifting Skrulls," Schwartz revealed. "Being able to bring that aspect to life, especially as embodied by Ben Mendelsohn, who is such an amazing actor, is a real treat."
To save the day, Captain Marvel must team up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to defeat the alien race and return to her home planet, Hala. When they first cross paths, she's "just a crazy lady that broke into Blockbuster," Jackson jokes of her bombastic entrance. "She's standing there telling me she came from some plane, and she's got on strange clothes and she's saying that there are these shape-shifting people that have infiltrated Earth. And we're kind of looking at her like a normal person would look at a person who tells you something like that: 'Yeah, right.' Then she runs away and later on, I discover, 'OK, she might have been telling the truth.' So that changes that dynamic 'til the next time we see each other."
At this point in Nick's career, he's been "riding the desk" at S.H.I.E.L.D. and isn't "as cynical" as he is in future MCU storylines. "Things are changing. The world is changing for him—[especially] how he views it in terms of who we are in respect to the rest of the galaxy," Jackson said. "There is a much greater thing out there than who we are and what we are, and they pose a greater threat than anyone knows." Worst of all, he said, "We literally have no defenses against them."
Audiences will also learn more about Nick's back story, too.
"It's been amazing to have Sam Jackson on set for this long, because in the past Marvel movies, it's been a pop here or a pop there, and they haven't really been Nick Fury centric," Schwartz said. "And for a lot of the movie, this is a two-hander between Captain Marvel and Nick Fury—and a version of Nick Fury we haven't seen before, which is super exciting. We shot a little bit with Clark Gregg...who's an amazing actor and is super excited to be back in the movie world."
As for Mendelsohn and his band of baddies? "We're the tough guys of this universe, and surrounded by a lot of punks," he joked of blending in with the general population. Although they share a sense of community with the human race, "They're out to do what they got to do."
But the Skrulls are up against Captain Marvel, one of the most "powerful" characters in the galaxy—a word several people on the production used to describe the actress who plays her. "Brie is an amazing person and she's the hardest working actor I think I've ever met," Schwartz told E! News of the Oscar winner. "She has really thrown herself into the role and embraced it in a way I could never have imagined in my wildest hopes for the way that [it] would work out."
Captain Marvel hits theaters March 8.