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I’m Still Baffled by the Roll out of Jude Law’s Character in Captain Marvel

Jude Law in Captain Marvel

***Big ol’ spoilers for Captain Marvel***

In the run-up to Captain Marvel‘s release, there was confusion about who, exactly, Jude Law would be playing. This did not do the movie any favors.

I really enjoyed Captain Marvel. Having seen it twice now, I’m impressed with the reverse-chronological origin story, and especially the way that it fakes us out where the Skrulls are concerned. Captain Marvel is full of twists and reveals, and generally, it handles these revelations well. I love nothing more than when a movie shakes things up and leaves us on uncertain narrative ground. Yet Captain Marvel didn’t pull off all of its surprises as smoothly as it might have.

One of the biggest feints is to introduce Jude Law as Carol’s sympathetic commander and friend, only to have him be the bad guy in the end. Unfortunately, I knew something like this was coming for the entirety of the film, because of the strange way that Marvel had danced around who Law was playing.

For most of the movie’s production, reports—and the listing on Captain Marvel‘s IMDb—said that Law was playing Walter Lawson/Mar-Vell, Carol’s original mentor in the comics. Then, in November of last year, a toy leak revealed that Law’s character was Yon-Rogg, traditionally a comics antagonist. Back then, I speculated:

Law is listed on IMDb as playing Walter Lawson/Mar-Vell, so if the Funko POP! is correct, that’s either a total smokescreen or else implies that Law’s Mar-Vell evolves into Yon-Rogg’s role throughout the course of the movie (or that he was always bad and being on Carol’s side was a front for nefarious purposes all along). To see Carol potentially betrayed by her mentor would be quite the twist.

If the Yon-Rogg reveal is true, this may be a massive plot point for Captain Marvel; however, if it was so crucial of a secret that leaks of this sort would totally spoil the movie, I can’t see Marvel letting those details go free into the world, Funko POP! or no. This is the studio that didn’t allow the Infinity War actors to ever see the entire script and is known for creating fake scenes to throw people off of the real plot scent. If Law is Yon-Rogg, that’s important, but probably not an “I am your father”-level moment.

It turns out that this was pretty much on the money. Law being the bad guy who killed the actual Mar-Vell (revealed to be Annette Bening’s Dr. Lawson) is a significant turning point for the movie and for Carol Danvers, but by then we’d also come to realize that the Skrulls and General Talos weren’t the big bads they’d been made out to be. So while I’m sure many people in the audience didn’t see Bad!Yon-Rogg coming, it wasn’t a mind-blowing, earth-shaking, “I see dead people and you’ve been dead the whole time”-type reveal.

Still, for me, the whole momentum of that twist was dampened by the fact that I’d anticipated it because of the toy confusion and the overall bizarre situation wherein Law’s role was never officially confirmed. Was the obfuscation about Law’s character botched by Marvel Studios, or was it intentional? While toy leaks are an unavoidable thing these days that can provide both accurate and inaccurate information, this wasn’t all down to that leak. Several weeks before Captain Marvel‘s debut, official toys were released that named Law as Yon-Rogg (we received one from Hasbro at The Mary Sue office).

Law playing Yon-Rogg was not a tightly guarded secret after all, and anyone familiar with comics lore would know that he was a baddie. I remain super-confused about how this was rolled out. Why not just name Law as “Kree Starforce Commander,” as he was sometimes called, and leave it at that?

My theory is that the folks behind Captain Marvel wanted the biggest surprise to surround Annette Bening’s character(s), and that Law was essentially used as a distraction. At the end of February, Bening went on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and stated that she was playing the Supreme Intelligence. Our Kate Gardner wrote of Bening’s part, “unlike Jude Law’s mysterious role, we’re getting confirmation prior to the film’s release that this is what the role is.”

Of course, it turns out that while it’s technically true that Bening plays the Supreme Intelligence, she’s really only the Supreme Intelligence in Carol’s subconscious. That derives from her being the late Dr. Wendy Lawson, stealth Kree, scientist, Skrullitarian, and Carol’s original mentor.

It seems to me that Captain Marvel‘s creatives were so keen to hide who was actually playing Dr. Lawson that they let it be implied that it might be Jude Law for most of the movie’s production. That … sort of makes sense?

Yet from my own perspective as someone who follows movie news closely, it would’ve made more sense to not kick up so much speculation about Law’s role at all. Leave it as “Kree Starforce Commander,” and I might’ve been really surprised that he ends up being the bad guy all along. Captain Marvel‘s comics canon is well-known to its adherents, but it seems to me that the Dr. Lawson reveal—while great—didn’t require so much subterfuge.

Of course, I’m aware that it’s my job to obsess over movie minutiae and casting to an extent that the average movie-goer is not exposed to. The friends I saw Captain Marvel with hadn’t been aware of the question marks surrounding Law and Bening’s roles, and were caught off-guard when Yon-Rogg’s intentions were made clear. (One pointed out that he guessed the twist midway because “Ronan is bad, so why would you be talking to Ronan if you were a good guy?”)

Even so, I can’t help but wish this had all been presented differently from the start. As Mary Sue readers, you might well have seen our speculation about who Law was playing for months. What did you think of the way this was handled?

(image: Marvel Studios)

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Kaila is a lifelong New Yorker. She's written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.