Captain Marvel – Story Structure Analysis

Avengers: Endgame is going to hit cinemas in nine days – and I haven’t done the analysis for the last Marvel film, yet. Eeek! Time to change that: here goes my take on the Captian Marvel’s story structure.

Mandatory SPOILER ALERT!
Don’t read if you haven’t seen the Marvel’s Captain Marvel yet: spoilers galore ahead!
As I usually do, I use KM Weiland’s story structure to identify the beats of the rising action as well as the setbacks of the story and its climax.

Story Structure – Overview:

Hook: Kree Starforce member Vers suffers from weird nightmares.
Inciting Event: The Kree Supreme Intelligence clears Vers for a Kree mission with her commander Yon-Rogg against
Key Event: The mission is a trap, Skrulls take Vers captive
First Plot Point: Vers escapes from the Skrull’s ship, crash-lands on earth, and meets Fury
First Pinch: Skrull leader Talos shapeshifts into Fury’s boss Keller
Midpoint: Vers learns about her past as Carol Danvers, the origin of her powers, the Kree manipulation, and the Skrull’s refugee status
Second Pinch: Yon-Rogg and his crew take over Mar Vel’s ship in Earth orbit, thwarting Skrull rescue plans
Third Plot Point: Carol successfully fights the Kree Supreme Intelligence’s mind manipulation and sets free her full powers
Climax: Carol/Vers fights her former Kree team incl. her mentor and commander Yon-Rogg, and protects Earth from Kree Accuser Ronan’s missiles
Climactic Moment: Carol refuses Kree teachings, allowing her to fully taps into her powers.
Resolution: Carol sends Yon-Rogg back to Hala with a warning/promise and leaves Earth to aid the Skrulls in their search for a new home

Detailed Analysis of the story structure: rising action, setbacks, and climax:

Captain Marvel starts out with setting the mood for the movie: the visuals of a battlefield with the heroine, battered and bloody amidst the remains of her vessel, facing an approaching enemy (Skrull). The audience soon learns that the scene is one of Kree Starforce member Vers’ dreams – reoccurring and disconcerting nightmares she can’t seem to shed nor make sense of. This works well as a hook: for one thing, most people relate to the trouble nightmares cause and for another, the obscure meaning of the dreams, their unknown cause as well as the questions attached to it, immediately pique the interest of the audience.

Vers’ night visions prompt a visit with the Kree Supreme Intelligence (SI), who tries to ascertain Vers’ ability to fight/function as a member of the Kree Starforce. The SI reminds Vers of her duty to use her powers for the benefit of the Kree race (or lose them again). Vers affirms her ability and willingness to fight in Yon-Rogg’s team of spec-ops. She is granted permission to join them on a search and rescue mission, extracting a Kree spy from behind the frontlines (inciting incident).

The mission turns out a failure. The whole thing is a set-up, a Skrull trap contrived to capture Vers. After abducting her, the Skrulls probe the same warped memories that feature in Vers’ nightmares, forcing her to re-live the same scenes over and over again (heavily featuring an older woman by the name of Wendy Lawson). In the process, she becomes aware of her situation and breaks free. She fights the Skrulls and escapes their heavily damaged ship on a rescue pod. The pod crash-lands on Earth. Some of the Skrulls make it off the destroyed ship and to the surface, too. These events qualify as the classic First Plot Point: Vers is stranded on a foreign planet = literally in another world, and she can’t easily remedy the situation.

Marooned on Earth, her gear somewhat damaged, and only mid-1990’s tech available, Vers try to contact Commander Yon-Rogg is shortlived. The connection is brief, barely long enough to submit her whereabouts, then fails. Now, Nick Fury of SHIELD shows up. His original amusement over Vers’ declaration of her status as “member of the Kree Starforce” vanishes when the Skrulls attack again. Vers’ Kree training kicks in and she springs into action at once. While she pursuits the Skrull on foot/public transport, Fury follows in his car. The chase ends with one Skrull dead, the other(s) escaped, Vers in possession of a Skrull data crystal, and a flabberghasted Fury, looking down on a Skrull corpse.

We arrive at the First Pinch Point when the antagonistic forces (the Skrulls) show their cunning and power. Fury, who can’t very well deny the alien’s existence flat-out anymore meets his boss Keller at the Skrull’s autopsy in the mortuary. But it’s not Keller, but Skrull leader Talos disguises as Fury’s boss. He deftly contains the scope of the investigation to Fury only. Meanwhile, Vers has accessed the data on the Skrull crystal and gleaned some hints where to continue her search for the ominous Wendy Lawson and any information that might shed some light at the whole business of seemingly contradictory dreams/memories/recollection.

She and Fury team up. They use Fury’s access to secret SHIELD facilities and gain knowledge about to Dr Lawson and more details of Vers’ past on Earth. They learn the whereabouts of Vers’ former Airforce (?) comrade and close friend Maria Rambeau. A shocked Maria provides Vers with her real name, Carol Danvers, and some more puzzle pieces for her still sketchy memories. The last pieces fall in place at the Midpoint, when Skrull leader Talos openly (and as himself) approaches the group in a last desperate bid. He succeeds – Carol, Fury, and Maria listen to the black box recording of Carol and Lawson’s plane crash. Vers/Carol finally remembers what has been purged/suppressed from her mind: she’s not a Kree at all, but a human who survived the explosion of a prototype engine core; Yon-Rogg is not so much her mentor but her captor; The Skrull are the victims, and she’s been deceived into believing otherwise.

The group decides to help Talos. With Carol and Maria’s help, they identify the coordinates Talos was looking for (supposedly to find the power core to help them flee the Kree oppression and start somewhere new) in close range to Earth. Skrull tech-guy Norex (?) refits the cargo plane for space usage, and they reach Dr Lawson’s (aka Kree rebel Mar Vel’s) cloaked lab in orbit. There, they not only find the power core she used to power her experimental engine (the Tesseract) but a large group of Skrull refugees, including Talos’ family. Unfortunately, the antagonistic force now comes back with a vengeance. (note: the antagonist has changed: the Skrulls are no longer the bad guys, but her old crew and the Kree in general are.) At the Second Pinch Point, Yon-Rogg and his crew arrive on Earth. He finds out Vers/Carol knows the truth about his deception. He kills Norex, calls for Ronan the Accuser to come and destroy Earth and takes over Mar Vel’s lab and captures Carol.

Carol is subjected to the mind-game of the SI once more. It’s even sassier than before, desperately trying to salvage any use of Carol as a puppet. But she’s having none of it. She realizes that she didn’t get her powers from the SI, but soaked it up in the explosion of the Tesseract-powered engine. She sheds restrictions imposed on her by the SI, escapes the imprisoning grip of its meta-plane, and comes back to herself. She is now finally able to use her power to its full extent. (Third Plot Point)

Carol’s break from the SI has blown the restrictions the Kree put on her. She can tap into her full powers, but she’s not yet capable of controlling it. She now tries to get the hang of her abilities while fighting against Yon-Rogg and her old crew, who are after the Tesseract. Since she left the artifact with Fury (later swallowed by Goose), this fight serves mainly as a distraction to allow Fury, Maria, and the Skrull refugees enough time to flee the ship. The group makes it to the cargo jet, off Mar Vel’s lab and back to Earth, Maria as the pilot. Unfortunately, now the stakes rise for one last time: Ronan the Accuser turns up and launches a massive attack on Earth. (Climax) Carol, earthbound in free fall, embraces her human core and the emotions she has been suppressing. This is her Moment of Truth (Climactic Moment) – the end of her character arc – where she finally sheds the last of the Kree teachings and banishes the lingering traces of the ‘Lie.’ As a result, she gains full control over her powers.

Now, an empowered Carol brings down Yon-Rogg, destroys the missiles Ronan launched and in a display of power forces him to retreat. She turns to Earth where she blasts Yon-Rogg one last time after refusing his bait to fight her sans powers, and sends him back to Hala with the promise/warning aimed at the SI, that she’d come and make an end to the Kree’s unjust war. The rest of the Resolution centers around her promise to help the Skrull find another home far from the reach of the Kree. She says goodbye to her friends and promises to return if Earth would be in dire need, leaving Fury a modified pager and the (at the time Goose-protected) Tesseract.

That’s it. I hope you enjoyed this post. Anything to add? Write to me in the comments.

Former Posts in this Category:
Marvel-verse: Black Panther and Black Panther Character ArcAvengers: Infinity War
DCEU: Wonder Woman and Aquaman