Is Captain Marvel the Secret Invasion?
The MCU has so far been very liberal indeed when it comes to adapting comic book stories for the big screen. Even the closest adaptations take major liberties; take Avengers: Infinity War, essentially a blend of Jim Starlin's Thanos Quest and Infinity Gauntlet comics. While the film ended in a scene lifted straight from the comics, with the Mad Titan extinguishing half the life from the universe, it built up to it in a very different way, and Thanos had a completely different character and motivation to the comic book version. Looking forwards, the distance between comics and films seems only set to increase. That means it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Secret Invasion consigned to one movie, rather than becoming an epic arc running through multiple films.
There are two advantages to this approach. The first is that it allows the Secret Invasion to become a tightly-focused story, centered upon a handful of individuals as they struggle to work out just who they can really trust. In the comics, the build-up to the Secret Invasion was far more effective than the ultimate payoff, because it became a sprawling event story that involved far too many characters, and thus lacked in terms of emotional impact.
The second advantage to keeping Secret Invasion contained to one movie is that this avoids repetition. It's safe to assume that Carol Danvers will uncover the Skrull invasion, and ultimately confront the villainous Talos. Any follow-up movie would presumably strike the same notes, meaning it would risk becoming stale. It would be better for Marvel to do this once, and make it work well, than milk it until audiences have become overly familiar with the Skrulls.
Will Phase 4 Continue Secret Invasion?
All that being said, the advantage of a shared universe model is that each film coexists with the rest of the franchise. Captain Marvel will introduce the Skrulls to the MCU, and they'll always remain a part of it. Assuming the race aren't somehow rendered extinct, it's certainly that possible Marvel has a longer-term plan in the works.
It's crucial to note that the synopsis for Captain Marvel refers to Talos as the "spearhead" of the Skrull invasion. In military terms, a spearhead is the leading military unit, going ahead of the main attack. That suggests Carol Danvers could be facing a smaller incident here: a single crack team of Skrull warriors who have arrived on Earth in order to prepare the planet for conquest. Captain Marvel's defeat of them would delay the main Skrull invasion, as they adjusted their plans accordingly, but it wouldn't stop it altogether. Presumably the main attack would begin sometime after Captain Marvel, and consequently be running on through the MCU up till now. If that's the case, the Skrull could easily have replaced a lot of key figures - even members of the Avengers. The emergence of the Skrull threat could become an ongoing narrative, with the core "Secret Invasion" in Avengers 5.
Marvel would need to be very careful, though. In the comics, Bendis was very cautious indeed when it came to choosing who had been replaced. This was shortly after the events of Civil War, and the writer realized that it would be something of a cop-out if he implied that the conflict had been orchestrated by the Skrulls, perhaps even with major players really Skrull impostors. The issue becomes even more significant for movies, which tend to be rewatched a lot more. Imagine, for instance, a scenario where it's revealed Happy Hogan has been replaced by a Skrull - an alien who's been monitoring Tony Stark for over a decade. Could viewers rewatch Iron Man 3 and experience it the same way? The studio would need to choose their Skrulls wisely, assessing exactly how each doppelganger forced audiences to reinterpret scenes in previous movies.
It's too soon to say for certain which approach Marvel will take. Will the Skrull invasion be a one-and-done, or will it become a narrative thread that runs on through Phase 4, leading up to the next Avengers movie?
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019