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Why did Captain Marvel punch this nice old lady? She’s a skrull

Not everything in Marvel’s new movie is as it seems

From the first trailer for Captain Marvel (2019). Marvel Studios
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

In Marvel Studios’ long-awaited Captain Marvel, our hero comes upon a nice old lady. Then she punches that nice old lady right in her nice old face. Unexplainable! Unforgivable! Or is it?

In the Marvel Universe, where the alien shapeshifters known as the Skrulls are around, even nice old ladies might not be very nice. In fact, as we saw in the movie’s second trailer, the only thing nice about her is her moves:

She’s not an old lady at all: She’s a skrull warrior.

Ben Mendelsohn as the skrull leader Talos (left) and three other skrulls in Captain Marvel.
Ben Mendelsohn as the skrull leader Talos (left) and three other skrulls.
Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

Who are the Skrulls?

The above image might look like a ’90s alt-rock band, but this is what skrulls look like in their true form: green-skinned, elf-eared aliens with striated chins (kinda like Thanos’). In Captain Marvel, Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Ready Player One) plays a skrull leader known as Talos, seen above on the left.

Skrulls are one of the Marvel Universe’s most infamous alien races, and while they might not have the best starships or the biggest military in the galaxy, they do have one huge advantage: Every skrull can shapeshift, perfectly mimicking both animate and inanimate objects, up to and including people. Some elite skrull soldiers — those who have undergone heavy military experimentation — can even mimic superpowers.

In the history of Marvel Comics, the skrulls have been at war with an alien race known as the kree for thousands of years — and it looks like the Kree have a big part to play in Captain Marvel as well. It looks like they may have given our hero her powers, and drafted her into their war.

But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Kree on screen, either. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the kree were introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy, with the characters of Ronan the Accuser — the movie’s hammer-wielding villain, played by Lee Pace — and Korath — Ronan’s underling, played by Djimon Hounsou. Both actors are returning to play decades-younger and less villainous versions of their characters in Captain Marvel. (You can catch Ronan in the trailer if you’re quick enough.)

The Kree-Skrull war has a lot of battlefields, and that’s how Earth and its superheroes became caught up in it, in the comics. Most famously, in 2008’s Secret Invasion event, it was revealed that Skrulls had been secretly kidnapping and replacing major Marvel characters for years, including Elektra, Black Bolt, Hank Pym, Spider-Woman and even Jarvis. It looks like that might be happening in Captain Marvel, too. Here’s another picture of Ben Mendelsohn in the movie — it seems that his Talos will be posing undercover as a SHIELD agent.

So, in conclusion: As a seasoned member of Starforce, an arm of the kree military, it’s totally reasonable for Captain Marvel to punch an old lady in the face. If she’s really a skrull.

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