Spoilers! How did 'Avengers: Endgame' get Captain Marvel so wrong?
Spoiler alert! The following contains major plot details from Marvel's "Avengers: Endgame," including the ending. Proceed at your own risk.
Marvel has a Captain problem.
"Avengers: Endgame" is a gigantic film that, in its three-hour run time, manages to get great moments in for a host of Marvel superheroes from the 21 films that came before it, with one glaring exception.
Despite how prominently she's featured in the trailer and the movie's marketing, Brie Larson's Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers is shockingly absent from most of "Endgame." When she does appear, she's awkwardly inserted into scenes and underutilized as a character and a hero. And although March's "Captain Marvel" did well at the box office, it too was criticized for a lack of character development on Carol's part. This pattern of appreciating Captain Marvel for her punching over her personality doesn't bode well for the future of the beloved comic-book character.
Second spoiler alert: If you don't want to know the plot of the whole film, this is your last chance to bail.
Carol shows up exactly four times in "Endgame." She arrives in the beginning, sans introduction, to rescue Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), who are adrift in space, and then assists with the early assault on Thanos (Josh Brolin). Fifteen or so minutes later, she shows up in a glorified conference call with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and remarks that she won't be around Earth for a while, as she's helping other planets. She enters the film's climatic final battle halfway through, a ringer who faces down Thanos before he is finally defeated. She also appears in the background of a funeral near the end of the film.
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Far from being an integral part of the destruction of Thanos, like many fans predicted, Carol is an afterthought, a prop to punch the purple guy around before everyone else has big emotional moments. Had you not seen her own film, you might not know her name until 45 minutes into "Endgame."
What, exactly, happened here? How did a marquee character get treated so poorly? Carol is Marvel Studios' first female hero to headline her own film solo. As the original Avengers start to close the books on their Marvel careers (be they dead, stuck in the past or hanging out in space), newer characters like Carol are supposed to represent the future of the mega-billion-dollar franchise. But her role in the film didn't make that future seem very bright.
It's clear that directors Joe and Anthony Russo had a lot they wanted to fit into "Endgame." The film is quite long, as has been oft-mentioned. It also pivots away from the superhero block party atmosphere of last year's "Avengers: Infinity War," with a more focused look at Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye. The movie also has to give emotional and proper goodbyes to both Iron Man and Captain America (Chris Evans), who kicked off the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. This wasn't meant to be Captain Marvel's solo film; she was always going to be a piece of a larger puzzle.
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But maybe she could have been a piece that fit in a little more seamlessly? Audiences don't see her meet the Avengers (we saw her arrive at Avengers headquarters in the "Captain Marvel" post-credits scene, but anyone who missed that movie won't know that), or how she fits into their dynamic. Her lack of introduction is jarring and weakens the film as a whole. She's a glorified bus driver for Tony and Nebula, and then a glorified vise to hold Thanos down as the other Avengers take center stage.
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Carol's mid-film scene exists, mostly, to show off her new haircut and justify the fact that she and her incredible powers can't help the Avengers when they go on Ant-Man's (Paul Rudd) "time heist" to the past. Her late arrival to the final battle also feels like a function of her powers being too strong – had she shown up with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and the rest, they might have killed Thanos right away.
"Endgame" isn't the first film to have trouble with Carol. The problem started with her solo film, which gave her a less-than-awesome introduction. Mostly, it didn't capitalize on the full potential of Carol as a character or give her a definitive identity (it didn't help that she had amnesia for most of the movie). "Endgame" did nothing to correct this.
It also didn't help that "Endgame" used Carol as a prop for a faux "girl power" moment that nearly derailed its epic climax. In a sequence clearly trying to ape the famous "Wonder Woman" trench moment, Carol goes after Thanos, and is suddenly backed up by every single female hero, no matter where they physically happened to be in the scene just seconds earlier. The male heroes, apparently, weren't available. The only way to make that sequence cheesier and more forced would have been to give her a T-shirt that read, "The future is female."
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This isn't the first time Marvel has had trouble introducing a superhero. Edward Norton was infamously re-cast with Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, and Thor was retconned in 2017's "Thor: Ragnarok" to be a comedic hero rather than a self-serious one. There's still plenty of time for a future director to get Carol right, to let the audience get to know her for the gracious and confident woman that she is in the comics.
Captain Marvel is the most powerful hero the MCU has ever seen. When will she get to be fully unleashed?