If you had the unfortunate pleasure of watching Secret Invasion this past summer, then going to see The Marvels may prove to be a truly confounding experience for you. The new Marvel Cinematic Universe film is, to be clear, fine. It’s got a great, fun opening and the rest of it is forgettable at best. Compared to Marvel’s other 2023 movies, it sits comfortably in between the effectively bittersweet Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and the abominable Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Regardless of what The Marvels may or may not get right, though, one thing the film definitely doesn’t do is acknowledge Secret Invasion. The new film zips through its story as if the universally derided Disney+ series never happened. On the one hand, that’s understandable. On the other hand, it’s hard to watch The Marvels and not be left scratching your head over the numerous ways that it either contradicts or outright ignores Secret Invasion. It’s a film that will leave you genuinely wondering whether or not Marvel Studios has already retconned the series from MCU canon.
When Secret Invasion begins, the Skrulls are not happy. It’s revealed that the alien refugees have spent 30 years waiting on Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to make good on their promise to find them a new home, all while helping the latter with his own, various espionage missions. The Skrulls’ situation has embittered many of them — leading to an uprising and a revolutionary attempt to take over the entire Earth and turn it into their new home. When Nick Fury consequently arrives to fight the show’s Skrull villain, Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir), he’s disheartened, disillusioned, and haunted by his past failures.
He’s also married to a Skrull named Varra (Charlayne Woodard), who survives the series and decides to join her husband in space at the end of Secret Invasion. Despite that fact, she never appears in The Marvels. She isn’t the only Secret Invasion character who is absent from the film, either. The movie completely ignores the existence of Varra, Gravik, and G’iah (Emilia Clarke), the latter of whom absorbs the powers of nearly every MCU hero in the Secret Invasion finale, including Carol Danvers’. The Marvels doesn’t even address the deaths of Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Carol and Nick Fury’s mutual Skrull friend, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn).
The film’s only Skrull characters include Emperor Dro'ge (Gary Lewis), the leader of a seemingly peaceful, thriving Skrull colony on the planet of Tarnax. Beyond just how jarring the movie’s introduction of the Tarnax colony is coming off Secret Invasion, the planet’s destruction at the hands of the Kree Empire is also what ultimately inspires Carol Danvers to call in a bizarre favor from her friend, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). The Thor: Ragnarok hero shows up and proceeds to take all of the surviving Skrulls to New Asgard on Earth… a planet that was made openly hostile to them at the end of Secret Invasion.
There has, notably, been some confusion online about whether The Marvels takes place before or after Secret Invasion. If the film is set before the series, then the destruction of the Skrull colony on Tarnax does make a certain amount of sense as a lead-in to Gravik’s rebellion. Unfortunately, that explanation still doesn’t fix many of the inconsistencies between the two titles (and raises new questions about why there’s no mention of New Asgard or Valkyrie in Secret Invasion).
Right now, the general consensus also seems to be that — as confusing as it is — The Marvels does, indeed, take place after Secret Invasion. That doesn’t mean that The Marvels has retconned the series by completely ignoring the events of it. The film never officially does anything quite as drastic as that, but it sure acts like the Disney+ show never happened, which may be the best thing for all of us to do at this point.