Captain Marvel shattered all kinds of glass ceilings when Marvel Studios’ first female-fronted blockbuster flew into theaters March 8. And here’s another record for the history books: Its release marks the first time a female editor has edited three Marvel movies back-to-back-to-back. Since joining the studio in 2017, Debbie Berman has assembled the inaugural adventures for three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s most exciting new heroes — Spider-Man, Black Panther and now Carol Danvers. “I feel like the luckiest person in the world,” the South African-born Berman tells Yahoo Entertainment. “To be part of bringing Spidey home to Marvel was just spectacular, and Black Panther was a phenomenal experience. To end that off with Marvel’s first female-led film — I just couldn’t have asked for more. Each film has been a gift in its own way.”
One of the gifts of working in the editing room is taking an active role in how each movie takes shape by helping to decide what stays in and, more importantly, what gets cut out. And Captain Marvel experienced a number of major and minor alterations on her way to becoming the hero that moviegoers are meeting for the first time on the big screen. Here are a half-dozen secrets about the global hit straight from the Captain Marvel cutting room.
Carol originally took a solo space flight at the end of the film
Having unlocked her full powers, reclaimed her name, beaten back Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and vanquished her mentor/mental manipulator, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Carol deserves to just kick back and watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with Maria and Monica (Lashana Lynch and Akira Akbar) as Captain Marvel draws to a close. Instead, she almost immediately embarks on another mission: locating a new home for Skrull leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and his fellow shape-shifters, far from their Kree oppressors.
In the original cut of the movie, Danvers left on her planet-finding mission by herself — a choice that Berman found jarring. “That’s something I flagged early on — ‘Where is she going?’ We realized she had spoken a little about what she was doing, but it wasn’t being visually supported by just seeing her fly off into space alone, especially since she’s leaving behind her re-found family. It felt like we needed a stronger visual to support her leaving.”
Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck came up with that necessarily visual during a round of reshoots in the fall of 2018, adding shots of Talos and the other Skrull survivors following behind Carol in their spaceship. “That gave more resonance to the ending,” Berman explains of the simple, but effective tweak. “It was like, ‘If she’s going to disappears [for 20 years], we know who she’s with and what she’s doing.’ It added to the specificity of their mission.”
The Supreme Intelligence confrontation was supremely difficult to get right
It took more than a few additional shots to arrive at the right version of Captain Marvel‘s most important sequence: Carol’s second face-to-face encounter with the Supreme Intelligence. Both times, the Kree’s A.I.-enhanced ruler appears to her in the form of Dr. Wendy Lawson, a.k.a. Mar-Vell (Annette Bening), but it’s only in the film’s climax that Danvers fully understands the significance of that particular face. Berman says that the first cut of that encounter was much longer, as she and the directors tried to work out how much information needed to be communicated during that scene about Carol’s self-discovery, as well as how her mental fight with her adversary should play out. “The visual effects all kind of came together at the last minute; there were a lot of variations on what the chamber looked and felt like. And the idea of it falling apart at the end was something that we came to late in the game.”
Certain key moments happened in a different order as well. For example, the moment where Vers tearfully reclaims her Earth name occurred earlier in the scene, where it played more like a moment of self-discovery rather than a declaration of purpose. “That moment is so pivotal, it felt more like an emotional climax instead of a revelation,” Berman notes, adding that Larson’s performance of the line “My name is Carol” was almost radically different as well. “There were a lot of takes where Brie did it in a really strong and kick-ass fashion, the kind of performance that you’ve almost come to expect in that moment where it’s really powerful and determined. But then I was going through the takes, and I saw one with a tear running down her cheek. I’d never seen that before — someone in their most powerful moment also displaying emotion. That’s kind of the theme of the whole film: you shouldn’t run from your emotions, because they can empower you. So I went with that take expecting a bit of a kick-back [from the filmmakers], but everyone really loved it. To me, that’s the most powerful moment in the film — that line and that take.”
Another strong candidate for Captain Marvel‘s most powerful moment is the rousing montage of Carol rising to her feet as a young girl, a teenager, an Air Force recruit and, finally, a superhero. It’s a sequence that’s so effective and so emotional it became a key part of Marvel’s advertising campaign. And Berman says that she and the filmmakers realized what they had right away. “Once we did that standing-up montage, it stuck. It’s interesting how people react to it differently. Some people just want to cry and some people want to cheer, and some people want to do both. So the editing of it was instinctively leaning into what feels the most emotional in a moment like that. We found what felt like the most powerful moments and gave them enough time to settle so you could feel it in your gut.”
The mid-credits scene was helmed by ‘Avengers: Endgame’ directors
Rather than wait until April to show us the first momentous first meeting between Marvel’s two Captains in Avengers: Endgame, a mid-credits bonus scene drops us directly into Infinity War‘s wake, when Thanos’s finger-snap has reduced the world’s population by over three billion and counting and transformed the Avengers into the Glum-vengers. Fortunately, the defeated super-team gains a new ally when Carol shows up demanding to know where her old pager pal, Nick Fury, is. Berman confirms that this sequence was helmed by Infinity War and Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo, but can’t guarantee that it’ll appear in the next Avengers film in exactly the same form. “I haven’t seen Endgame!” she admits. “They would sometimes start talking about it in front of me and I’d get really mad and say, ‘No spoilers!’ Because I’m a fan, too, you know? So that scene did come from the Russo brothers, but it’s cloaked in secrecy.”
A fond(er) farewell
Before his death last November, Marvel icon Stan Lee filmed a number of cameos for upcoming MCU movies, including his appearance in Captain Marvel where he’s glimpsed studying for his role in Kevin Smith’s 1995 favorite, Mallrats, on an L.A. subway train. Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment before the movie’s release, Boden hinted that they re-edited that encounter after his passing: “We certainly had fresh eyes on that scene for sure after he passed away.” And Berman confirms that Carol’s lingering smile as she looks at Lee is a new addition to the movie. “Originally, we didn’t pause the scene to acknowledge him — it was more insignificant. We kind of break the reality of the scene for a moment, and she gives him a sweet smile almost as a tribute. It’s so lovely and emotional, and it was important to honor that moment correctly.” The editor admits has a personal reason for wanting to pay tribute to the late, great Lee. “Stan Lee and I are birthday buddies! We were both born on the 28th of December. I drive everyone at Marvel crazy, because I always remind them of that.”
There’s more footage of Carol as a child
Talos may turn out to be one of the good Skrulls by the end of Captain Marvel, but he’s as guilty as Yon-Rogg in terms of messing around with Carol’s mind. Early on in the movie, he captures the brainwashed Vers and scans through her Kree-altered memories looking for clues to the whereabouts of Mar-Vell. “Each little snippet [of those memories] came out of almost a full scene,” notes Berman. That means there’s a longer sequence of 13-year-old Carol (Mckenna Grace) getting yelled at by her dad after wiping out on the Go-Kart track, as well more screen time for 6-year-old Carol (London Fuller). “The original version of that sequence was significantly longer, and it was a very collaborative process of trial-and-error trying to decide what you needed to see. We needed to plant some of the people and story lines we will adhere to later in the film, while at the same time tell the story of the scene — which is that the Skrulls are going through her mind looking for very specific information.”
Getting the last laugh
When is a comic book movie also an extra-long cat video? When one of your stars is a scene-stealing feline … uh, make that Flerken. Four different cats played the role of Goose, the adorable tabby who befriends Carol and Fury before revealing his actual identity as a highly-dangerous alien. “My job was to watch cat videos and choose different cat takes,” laughs Berman, who declines to pick a favorite of the kitty thespian quartet. “These cats are curious performers, so there wasn’t any sort of mad mayhem. They’re working kitties, so they were in character.” And the editor made sure to enhance their performances whenever possible, even at the last possible moment.
According to Berman, Captain Marvel was completely finished when she asked to make one small — but not insignificant — change. It involved the post-credits scene of Goose leaping up onto Fury’s desk at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, whereupon the alien promptly hacks up the Infinity Stone-containing Tesseract. “Originally, the scene would start, and there would be this little two-second break and the cat would jump on the table,” Berman remembers. “I was watching the film during the sound mix, and I realized that the scene would be so much funnier if you just stared at the desk for a little while. It would build anticipation, like, ‘What’s gonna happen?'” Even though the film was scheduled to be delivered to theaters, she persuaded Marvel to let her add additional frames to that last shot, delaying Goose’s entrance. “I remember running from the sound stage, saying ‘There’s going to be a long pause—it’s going to be hilarious.'” And everyone was like “‘What?'”
Despite the potential for a distribution delay, Marvel agreed to Berman’s 11th hour request. “The film had gone out the door, but we pulled it back in the door,” she says, proudly. “One thing I always believe in is just fight to make the film better even after the film’s done; it’s worth it. Because when I sat and watched that with an audience, I could feel that the whole thing played better with that moment of anticipation in the beginning.”
Captain Marvel is playing in theaters now
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment
- ‘Captain Marvel’ Easter eggs and end credits, explained: All about Stan Lee, Fury’s eye, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and more (spoilers!)
- After Captain Marvel, here are all the female superheroes coming to theaters
- Captain Marvel joins reunited Avengers in latest ‘Endgame’ trailer
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