*Spoilers for Captain Marvel ahead*
After 11 years, 21 movies, and two to three Incredible Hulks depending on which studio you’re asking, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become as complex and occasionally perplexing as the long-running comic book arcs the franchise is based on. It’s fair to say that back when Iron Man debuted in 2008 nobody predicted the thing to tie this massive shared world together would be a RadioShack-ass pager from the 1990s. But here we are; Captain Marvel is decidedly the most important pitstop between the universe-upending Avengers: Infinity War and the massive conclusion to the Thanos saga, Avengers: Infinity War. The film might serve primarily as a 90s-set introduction to Brie Larson’s super-powered fighter pilot Carol Danvers, but Captain Marvel also offers no shortage of clues as to what in the name of Steve Rogers’ dearly departed beard is going to happen when we finally get to the most anticipated comic book movie…ever? Let’s just go with ever, and dive right into how Captain Marvel brings us right into the Endgame.
By now, you’ve probably re-thought and re-examined Captain Marvel‘s mid-credits scene to death, so just a brief recap: Surviving Avengers members Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) watch the post-snap dust toll rise when the pager we saw in the Infinity War credits scene stops doing, in Rhodes’ words, “whatever the hell it was doing.” One dramatic camera pan later and Carol Danvers has arrived on Earth once again, looking pretty much exactly the same as she did in 1995. Captain Marvel‘s biggest connection to Endgame is its most obvious: Carol Danvers will play a vital part alongside the Avengers in the final fight against Thanos. (Most likely after the required hero-vs-hero misunderstanding tussle that every comic book team-up must include.)
But why is she so key to victory? As 11 years of Easter Eggs and after-credits scenes have taught us, there is nothing more important or powerful in the MCU than the six Infinity Stones—Soul, Reality, Mind, Power, Space, and Time—that currently reside in Thanos’ gauntlet. One of Captain Marvel’s biggest reveals is that Carol Danvers’ space-ship-blasting, galaxy-traversing powers come courtesy of the Space Stone itself, which Mar-Vell (Annette Bening) was using to build a light-speed engine in the 1990s while it was still encased in Marvel’s favorite shiny MacGuffin, the Tesseract. This immediately puts Captain Marvel on more of an even footing with Thanos than even the Avengers’ strongest members; you’ll remember Thor couldn’t kill the Mad Titan even with an axe through the chest, and Iron Man dropped a whole dang planet on his head for a single drop of blood. You’ll also remember that the Avengers’ only other two Infinity Stone-charged heroes—Vision and Scarlet Witch, both given powers by the Mind Stone via the Chitauri Sceptre from Avengers—didn’t make it out alive from Infinity War. (Also a reminder that at one point Thanos had the Mind Stone and entrusted it to Loki, the literal god of trickery.)
While it’s still mighty unclear exactly what role Captain Marvel has in the Infinity Wars to come, one of the specific abilities granted to her by the Space Stone bodes well for another Avenger. The first trailer for Endgame revealed that Tony Stark and Nebula, following the failed fight with Thanos on Titan, are aimlessly floating through space with oxygen running dangerously low. It just so happens that one of the perks of Carol’s abilities allows her to seamlessly traverse the cosmos, a power she’s presumably been using since the end of Captain Marvel to find the surprisingly chill Skrulls a new home. Unless Marvel plans to have Tony Stark’s eleven-year journey end with him horrifically suffocating in outer space, it’s likely Carol plays a significant part in bringing him home.
But the idea of Iron Man dying at all is an interesting one; as expiring contracts, comic book context, and Chris Evans’ carefully worded tweets suggest, not all of the OG Avengers will be around after Endgame to see Marvel’s Phase Four. But that new era is still a’coming—kicking off with Spider-Man: Far From Home just three months after Endgame—and very well might need new faces to fill out the ranks. To that end, Captain Marvel‘s most low-key connection to the future of the MCU might be its most significant. The film introduces Larson’s Carol Danvers, yes, but it also reveals Monica Rambeau (Akira Akbar), the young daughter of Carol’s best (human) friend, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch).
In the comics, Monica not only grows up to be a superhero, but eventually takes over as leader of the Avengers. Because comic book continuity exists to confuse, Monica Rambeau is actually the first Marvel character to go by the name Captain Marvel—but still not the first Captain Marvel overall—while Carol Danvers originally existed as Ms. Marvel. Monica has appeared under several titles, though, including Photon, Pulsar, and Spectrum. While it’s no guarantee the character pops back up in the MCU any time soon, 24 years have passed between Captain Marvel and Infinity War, and it’s worth noting the nickname on the side of Monica’s mother’s plane.
For more on Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Marvel’s Phase Four, check out the links below:
- ‘Captain Marvel’ Review: A Superhero Who’s Stronger Than Her Origin Movie
- ‘Captain Marvel’ Post-Credits Scene Explained: We’re In the ‘Endgame’ How?
- Kevin Feige on ‘Captain Marvel’, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Title, ‘Eternals’, Disney+ Content, and More
- ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Runtime Still at 3 Hours; Russo Brothers Talk Test Screenings