Spend more than a few minutes in Los Angeles, you start to notice weird stuff. Spend more than a few days, and the oddities become normal, especially when you’re on a studio lot. On an April 2018 morning in Culver City, a nondescript white truck on the Sony Studios lot opens up to reveal a full-scale workshop packed with otherworldly gear.
We’re on the set of Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel, and in-between rows of equally nondescript white trucks and trailers, tables are set up with a variety of weapons that represent the best in alien tech from two competing races — the Skrulls and the Kree. For Vers – aka Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel – (Brie Larson) and the rest of Starforce, the blasters are sleek, and whether it’s a pistol or a rifle, each is a precision instrument highlighted by straight lines and an emerald-teal finish. For Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and his army, the blasters have a sinister, organic feel, as if each becomes an extension of the user.
Property master Drew Petrotta, an industry vet whose recent credits include The Hunger Games, Thor: Ragnarok, and the Oscar-winning Black Panther, shows off the assortment. I play with a few before ending up wielding a blaster rifle that will eventually be used by Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan) in the film.
On the table sits a familiar cube from Marvel lore — a Tesseract. Maybe that’s a spoiler, maybe it’s not, but it’s sitting right there in plain sight. It’s not a stretch to figure that somehow there might be one around in the ‘90s era of Captain Marvel, particularly since Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), and S.H.I.E.L.D. is around. Going back to Captain America: The First Avenger, Red Skull was obsessed with this “cosmic cube,” and when we last saw it in Avengers: Infinity War, it was crushed by the hand of Thanos (Josh Brolin).
“If you’ve ever been on one of our sets before, you may have seen the Tesseract,” says Petrotta. “It’s just a simple, clear cube filled with battery-powered LED lights, but we can use it to reflect light onto the actors before the digital team replaces it with what we know from the films,” he explains.
Holding onto it myself, it feels surprisingly close to the toy version that Hasbro produced as a Comic-Con (SDCC) exclusive. It has a nice weight to it.
Across the lot, our group makes a quick stop at a massive set that’s still under-construction. Stacks of fresh wood line the soundstage as dozens of crew members feverishly work. Around the corner we step into a finished section that I thought looked very similar to a First Order TIE Fighter hanger as seen in the Star Wars sequels. With its sharp angles, there’s a definite Kree vibe, but the crew remains mum.
Passing in and out of darkness and daylight, we’re into our third soundstage when we encounter an impressive set. From its rounded walls and curving hallways, it becomes clear that we are on a Skrull ship. A few clicks and the glow of LED lighting begins to illuminate control panels and devices. Devices such as the Mind Fracker.
It wasn’t until the trailers and TV spots arrived that I realized we’d used this wrong, but not being skilled in Skrull tech, I had no way of knowing that I should’ve been tortured upside-down as Danvers is in the film.
A loud bang distracts the group as members of the crew cut away a section of ceiling for a future shot. Aside from the ceiling, the entire ship is modular, allowing for walls to be removed for a wider shot selection, and the entire set to be stored for future use.
Back to reality, there’s one last stop to make as our group hits the pavement and heads toward a row of trailers for the costume and wardrobe department. Up the steps and into the trailer, we’re the first group of outsiders to officially (some leaked photos hit the web right before) see the costume that Larson will wear as a member of Starforce. In true Hollywood style, there’s several there, all in various stages of wear and damage. The iconic red, blue, and gold suit is not there, but we’re assured that “it’s coming.” On the subject of suits, there are rows of clothing with some familiar names written on masking tape, Jackson, Gregg, Mendelsohn… Lee.
The release of Captain Marvel is an emotional one for many Marvel fans, the first installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to be released since the passing of Stan Lee last year. His cameos are a Marvel tradition, and he’d filmed his latest just days before our arrival. Latest, but not his last.
Captain Marvel will open in theaters tonight with a touching tribute to the man who put Marvel on the map, but according to MCU chief Kevin Feige, there’s still one more appearance yet to come.
Photos: Marvel Studios