(MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for the ending of "Avengers: Infinity War." If you've made it this long without being spoiled then you might want to leave.)
When Brie Larson's Captain Marvel enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2019 just two months ahead of "Avengers 4," she's potentially going to have a big impact on the story left hanging at the end of "Avengers: Infinity War."
Sure, "Captain Marvel" won't take place at the same time as "Infinity War" or any of the other current Marvel movies -- instead, it's hopping back in time by a couple of decades. But we have every reason to believe the film will serve as a direct lead-in to the battle with Thanos, thanks to the post-credits scene in "Infinity War."
Taking place just after Thanos completes his Infinity quest and eliminates half of all life in the universe, the scene features Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) driving around a major city just as people begin to disappear. As Hill fades from existence, Fury scrambles to activate a device he's apparently been carrying with him the whole time: a boxy, souped-up 1990s pager. Fury manages to send a signal just as he himself disappears, and as the scene ends we see a pixelated version of Captain Marvel's star symbol flashing on the pager's display.
So it's very likely that the Captain Marvel's stand-alone film will provide some major hints as to how the Avengers will be able to recover from their crushing defeat and bring back all their dead friends.
There's a lot of info to go through here, but we'll start with the basics of what we know about the film and the Captain Marvel character from the comics.
There isn't a ton of known information about what will happen in the movie version of Captain Marvel's story -- Marvel has kept details tightly wrapped -- but we do know some key items. The film is a prequel that takes place in the 1990s and will center on human Carol Danvers, who will be played by Brie Larson, as Danvers becomes Captain Marvel. Danvers will be mentored by the alien Mar-Vell (believed to be the role Jude Law is playing). Nick Fury will appear. And the plot concern the Skrulls, a race of powerful, shape-shifting aliens with green skin, wrinkly chins, pointed ears, and an interstellar empire.
We got our first look at the flick in action, thanks to the trailer that Marvel dropped on back in September, and even more in the just-dropped second trailer, but they're still clearly keeping their hand close to the vest because it's pretty light on plot details and doesn't appear to contain anything that would provide much in the way of insight into how "Captain Marvel" will set up "Avengers 4."
But there is one small detail that does nod to the ending of "Infinity War" -- a shot of Nick Fury's pager that he uses in the post-credits stinger, but before it gets outfitted with all that cool extra tech that allows him to contact Captain Marvel. But that's really the only link that we got from the first trailer.
The big thing, for us, that we took away from that second trailer was a brief appearance by Annette Bening's as-yet-unrevealed Kree character. We have a guess about who that character is -- Phyla-Vell, one of the crazier cosmic characters in Marvel lore. But we don't know what that might mean for the story yet. We'll speculate a little more below.
In the comics, Carol Danvers wasn't the original Captain Marvel. Instead, it was Mar-Vell, a Kree warrior and hero among his people. The Kree are the blue-skinned people we saw in "Guardians of the Galaxy," including Ronan (Lee Pace), who will also have a role to play in "Captain Marvel" since it takes place well before he died.
Mar-Vell was part of a white-skinned subspecies among the blue-skinned Kree, so he could blend in on Earth. As such, he was sent to Earth to observe humanity's progress and assess if they are a threat to the Kree. But while he was there, Mar-Vell engaged in some super-heroics, causing humans to misinterpret his name and dub him "Captain Marvel."
Carol was an Air Force pilot tasked with investigating Mar-Vell, but befriended and later fell in love with him. During a battle with Mar-Vell's enemy, Yon-Rogg, Carol was caught in the explosion of a Kree device that infused her DNA with Kree DNA. That gave her a number of special powers like what Mar-Vell has, including flight, strength, durability and the ability to absorb energy.
As for the Skrulls, in the comics they're frequently at war with the Kree, as the two alien cultures have similarly powerful, similarly expansive interstellar empires.
Notably, neither Captain Marvel nor Mar-Vell are involved in the comics story that most closely resembles the plot of "Infinity War": A six-issue 1991 miniseries called "Infinity Gauntlet." But looking through the comics (Thanks, Marvel Unlimited!) beyond the "Infinity Guantlet" storyline, there are several concepts that could easily connect Captain Marvel to the action.
First, Thanos and Mar-Vell have a ton of history in the comics. Mar-Vell was enlisted to stop Thanos' nihilistic plans in the comics, and was given the mantle of Protector of the Universe by a cosmic guardian entity called Eon. His capacity as Protector of the Universe allowed Mar-Vell to get a powerful artifact, the Cosmic Cube, away from Thanos after he used it to take over the universe. When Thanos briefly left his body as a cosmic, astral projection, Mar-Vell used the opportunity to nab the cube, return time to a point before Thanos took over, and destroy it.
The Cosmic Cube has a counterpart in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the Tesseract, AKA the Space Infinity Stone (though it's not an Infinity Stone in the comics).
Second, Mar-Vell was also involved with Titan, a major location in the movie version of "Infinity War," where he helped powerful beings known as the Eternals fight off the moon's world computer, ISAAC, which was corrupted by Thanos.
Mar-Vell eventually died of lung cancer on Titan, too -- and in the comics, Thanos' spirit appeared to lead Mar-Vell to the afterlife. Carol later took over the mantle of Captain Marvel after originally calling herself Ms. Marvel.
All of this certainly sounds pretty relevant to the aftermath of "Avengers: Infinity War." It might even explain not only why Nick Fury contacted Captain Marvel, but also why he hasn't contacted her sooner. After all, "Infinity War" is definitely not the first world-threatening cataclysm the MCU's Earth has faced.
Perhaps Mar-Vell was the reason that Thanos didn't go after the Infinity Stones before the start of the MCU -- specifically, Thanos may have had to wait until after Mar-Vell's death. And hanging out with Mar-Vell, Carol Danvers probably would have heard about his exploits fighting Thanos, and she might know how to deal with him.
Annette Bening as Phyla-Vell, should that bit of speculation turn out to be true, could also play into Thanos beginning his crusade and/or Carol having the ability to reverse his finger snap. Though it's tough to guess exactly how, but we took a look at some of the possibilities here.
It could be that Captain Marvel was lying dormant to conserve her power to deal with Thanos. Or maybe she's been off Earth, looking for a means of dealing with him, and detailed a specific scenario that would warrant calling her back home -- people fading to dust around the world for no apparent reason, which is what sparked Fury's distress call, is certainly very specific.
There's another aspect from the comics that could come into play with Mar-Vell and Carol Danvers, and would dovetail with some of what was depicted in "Ant-Man and the Wasp," as well. That movie ends with Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, getting trapped in the strange alternate dimension the "Ant-Man" movies refer to as the "Quantum Realm." There's no direct parallel for that place in the comics, but there is a mention of something that looks and sounds awfully similar in the comics, which was brought to our attention thanks to an obscure superhero from the '80s named Quasar.
In the Quasar stories, the character uses powerful objects called Quantum Bands to travel to the "Quantum Zone," which is a sort of side-dimension that allows Quasar to quickly travel across the universe. He uses his bands to create a passage into the Quantum Zone, and then from there, can pop out wherever he wants in the universe. Quasar's not much of a part of the Marvel Comics world and so highly unlikely to pop up in the MCU, but he was the Protector of the Universe after Mar-Vell -- and it seems possible given the setup of the Quantum Realm and Mar-Vell's role in "Captain Marvel" that some of Quasar's abilities could be part of Carol's deal.
In fact, if Carol got the Quantum Bands or some other version of Quasar's ability to pop into the Quantum Realm, it would give her a way to travel the universe, and maybe even through time. That would match up with some set photos from "Avengers 4" and a hint from "Ant-Man and the Wasp" that suggest time travel could be part of the way the heroes try to take on Thanos in the second half of his story. It would make a lot of sense that the "Ant-Man" movies set up the Quantum Realm, with "Captain Marvel" giving Carol a way to make use of it, just in time for "Avengers 4."
On top of all that, we found another little detail that we think could be very important, involving the Soul Stone. The Soul Stone's appearance in "Infinity War" was very unusual for the MCU because it was completely out of left field -- its location was never before hinted at, and we never saw its effects hidden in some other form, like we did with others like the Space Stone, Time Stone, Mind Stone, and Reality Stone.
The detail we found particularly intriguing is the planet on which it's located, Vormir. In the comics, Vormir is a really, really obscure reference -- it's never actually been depicted on the page as far as we know, and the only thing it's known for is being the home of lizard monster called the Star-Stalker that the Avengers battled in a handful of issues in the the early '70s.
The most compelling detail about Vormir itself is that it's located in Kree space in the Large Magellanic Cloud -- which would put it square in the part of space that is very relevant to "Captain Marvel."
Sort of tangentially interesting is the story of the Star-Stalker, from Avengers #124. The Star-Stalker spends most of that issue giving a lengthy monologue to the Avengers explaining how it got to Earth, and its story involves a visit to a nameless prison planet where the Kree exile a bunch of pacifist political dissidents. The planet is described as "without sunlight, minerals or vegetation" -- that sounds an awful lot like what we see of Vormir in the movie, which is a planet experiencing a permanent solar eclipse and very much has the vibe of a place that's all sand and salt water.
Here's a panel depicting this prison planet, for reference.
Those Kree dissidents, by the way, are known as the Priests of Pama, also a pretty obscure name in Marvel lore. It would make sense for the Soul Stone to have some accompanying priests, if Marvel Studios wanted to go there.
This is all just speculation, of course -- educated speculation, but still speculation because it's probably going to be a while before we find out anything more concrete about how "Captain Marvel" fits into this incredibly upsetting tale.
Speaking of which, we have some ideas about that -- at least in regards to how "Ant-Man and the Wasp" and "Captain Marvel" will impact the story being told between "Infinity War" and "Avengers 4," as well as how some other plot threads from "Infinity War" will play out. Our "Captain Marvel" discussion you just read, but we've got plenty more. Click here for our discussion of the whole Vision situation and whether he's really dead. Click here for a closer examination of Doctor Strange's actions in "Infinity War," and how losing this fight might end up being the key to winning it later. And, finally, here's our run-down on how the comic book version of these events played out.
The home video release of "Avengers: Infinity War" also introduced a lot of new information about the state of the MCU. Here's everything we learned from the "Infinity War" director commentary, and why Red Skull is probably pretty happy about the Thanos situation. We also learned why Spider-Man lingered a bit after Thanos' snap; that you don't have to be "worthy" to wield Thor's new "Stormbreaker" axe; why Thanos didn't go after the stones years ago; and why Thanos didn't just double the universe's resources.