What ‘Captain Marvel’ Means for ‘Avengers: Endgame’

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Without our cynical understanding that capitalism demands the return of intellectual properties like Spider-Man and Black Panther, the climax of Avengers: Infinity War left its audience feeling pretty hopeless. A big reason so much conversation swarmed around the great dusting of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the absurd notion that Disney would allow the death of T’Challa just months after his solo outing dominated pop culture, as well as the box office, was because to focus on that tiny victorious smile from Thanos would be soul-crushing. The only glimmer of a brighter future was an unrecognizable symbol flickering from Nick Fury’s sci-fi’d pager during the post-credits stinger. As was the case when the Mad Titan first turned to the camera at the end of The Avengers (2012), some in the crowd exchanged knowing looks while the rest murmured “Who? What?”

We had less than a year to become acquainted with Captain Marvel. We spent that time plowing through comic books, analyzing trailers, and comparing her power-sets against those of the Mighty Thor and the Incredible Hulk. Could her inclusion on the team make that much difference against a righteous environmentalist wielding the Infinity Gauntlet? How does one more badass deflect another damning snap of the fingers? Well, we’ve now seen Brie Larson as Carol Danvers charge into battle and absolutely brutalize the competition. She is an added ingredient that will radically alter the course of Avengers: Endgame, but maybe not in the way some are anticipating.

↓ SPOILERS FOR ‘CAPTAIN MARVEL’ BELOW ↓

Most of Captain Marvel is devoted to unraveling the mystery of Carol Danvers. Having spent the last six years as an amnesiac Kree soldier known as Vers, our hero begins to piece her life back together after a cell of terrorist Skrulls invade her mind looking for information. Sifting through her shattered memory, main baddie Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) discovers that a powerful lightspeed engine resides on Planet C-53 a.k.a. Earth. Vers smashes her way to freedom just as the Skrulls hit Earth’s orbit and the film becomes a race towards the latest Marvel MacGuffin.

In partnering with Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nicolas Joseph Fury (the two-eyed Samuel L. Jackson), Vers eventually learns that her life originated on C-53 and the injury that brought her to this current condition in which she can fire photon blasts from her fists is a direct result of an internal conflict within the Kree. The scientist that she knew on Earth as Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Benning) is in actuality the Kree defector Mar-Vell. She constructed the lightspeed engine in an effort to find a home for a group of Skrull refugees, and Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) was dispatched to stop her.

Carol Danvers put her life in between Yon-Rogg and Mar-Vell. As her friend bled to death beside their experimental plane, she drew down on Yon-Rogg. He smiled. How cute, this human thinks she’s a match for moi? She can’t possibly understand how a Kree laser pistol even works. Carol took aim at the lightspeed engine and fired. The explosion erupted around her, buffeting her in unknown energy that she absorbed into her system. Captain Marvel was born.

Ah, but born from what? Mar-Vell used the Tesseract given to her by Howard Stark to power her fancy engine. As we now know from the many MCU films that came before, the Tesseract contained the Space Stone. This gem gave Loki the ability to call down the Chitauri during the Battle of New York, and it recently granted Thanos the power to transport from one planet to another. Assemble the Space Stone alongside those that represent Mind, Reality, Power, Time, and Soul, and you have an unstoppable monster capable of dispatching The Avengers with one click of his fingers.

Captain Marvel’s very being equals one of those fingers. I’m thinking the middle one. When Nick Fury activated his pager, he fired a massive S.O.S. into the cosmos. Help. We need backup. Carol Danvers answered, and as we saw in the mid-credits tag, she looked mighty pissed as she issued, “Where’s Fury?” She’s going to want answers and she’s going to get them. Thanos better watch his back.

Once Danvers gains full access to her superpower faculties she appears to be pretty much unstoppable. Ronan (Lee Pace) and his Accusers appear in their Kree battle cruisers above Earth. They launch a series of warheads in our direction, and Captain Marvel meets them head-on. She rips through the weapons, tearing them apart with ease, and then she penetrates one ship imploding it from within. The action scene barely lasts a couple of minutes. In the face of such strength, Ronan orders a retreat, and the Kree flee with their tails tucked between their legs. What can Thanos do against such might?

Here’s the thing: I would not expect Avengers: Endgame to result in a no holds barred cage match between The Avengers and Thanos. The last time we saw the Mad Titan, he suffered a direct chest blow by Thor’s ax Stormbreaker but used the Space Stone to teleport to safety. The Infinity Gauntlet looked a little ragged with the shine gone and its Eitri craftsmanship all busted. I don’t think that the device has many more snaps left in it.

Captain Marvel will no doubt get her face-to-face moment with Thanos, and she may tear him limb from limb. We’ve never really seen a character as powerful as her in the MCU. Could Thor pop a battlecruiser with one punch? Could the Hulk? They need more than a few to do what she did. Here is an even more interesting question: How long does that farmboy smile last for Thanos? Is he content with the culling he committed? Wiping out half the universe will only buy your resources so much more time. He killed his daughter for a stay of execution, not a cure.

The Thanos we meet in Avengers: Endgame will not be the Thanos we last knew. In the comic books, Thanos is a creature of regret. He’s always grasping for victory, but even when he achieves a win, it never satisfies. Given the state of the Gauntlet, reversing the dusting will be a much larger challenge done through different means.

Captain Marvel will deliver the satisfaction of reducing the villain of Avengers: Infinity War into a weepy pathetic crumble of bones. However, if we’re looking for salvation and the resurrection of our favorite characters, Ant-Man and the Quantum Realm might ultimately provide relief. As Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) said in the mid-credits stinger of Ant-Man and the Wasp, time operates in a unique state within the Quantum Realm. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) knocking on the door of Avengers HQ with Hank Pym’s miniaturized lab in the back of his van will provide the do-over the team so desperately needs.

Marvel Studios enjoys upending expectation. We want to hate on Skrulls, but it turns out they’re not so bad… well, some of them at least. We want to stick it to Thanos, but what happens when the Endgame requires less Captain Marvel smashing and an uncomfortable Titan team-up? We all want a big win after the sorrow of Avengers: Infinity War, but while Marvel Studios often delivers a satisfying conclusion rarely are they what we expect or initially demand.

Brad Gullickson: @@MouthDork Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.