Warning: SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame ahead
Marvel Studios' Avengers: Endgame focused on the original six Avengers and a few other heroes, but Captain Marvel was particularly underused in the movie. To its credit, Avengers: Endgame was tasked with wrapping up the story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, which kicked off more than 10 years ago in Iron Man. As such, Avengers: Endgame needed to be the culmination of 22 movies and 11 years of storytelling, which is a high bar to meet and there were bound to be disappointing aspects.
Although Avengers: Endgame movie reviews have been largely positive, there has been some confusion about the Avengers' time travel plot. Plus, with so many characters participating in the Avengers: Endgame big battle sequence in the third act, there are sure to be fans who don't think their favorite hero got enough screen time - to say nothing of Thanos, who reverts to a one-dimensional villain after Avengers: Infinity War spent so much time developing him as a character. One such character who doesn't get enough time to shine in Avengers: Endgame is Captain Marvel, despite only recently making her MCU debut.
After being teased in the Avengers: Infinity War post-credits scene, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) was officially introduced to the MCU earlier this year in her solo Captain Marvel movie. Since its premiere, Captain Marvel earned positive reviews and struck a chord with many viewers. Further, the success of Captain Marvel can be seen in its $1 billion haul at the worldwide box office. So where was she for most of Avengers: Endgame?
Avengers: Endgame Writes Captain Marvel Out For Most Of The Movie
After arriving on Earth in the Captain Marvel post-credits scene, which presumably takes place moments before Avengers: Endgame, Carol becomes a part of the Avengers' discussion on how to defeat Thanos. Early on in Avengers: Endgame, Carol explains away her absence from Earth since the rise of the Avengers with the fact that there are other planets who need a hero. Then after the five year time jump, Carol tells Black Widow she won't be returning to Earth for some time because she's covering a lot of ground in space. However, Carol still manages to return in time to participate in the big final battle against Thanos.
Certainly, Captain Marvel has little allegiance to Earth (aside from her found family), and her solo movie proves she's more likely to choose helping aliens in space. But it still seems as if the Avengers: Endgame writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, used it as a convenient way to write her out of the script for the majority of the film. Viewers don't get to see who Captain Marvel is helping or how other planets in the galaxy are affected by Thanos' snap. Although that may be explored in future Captain Marvel movies, it effectively removes Carol from the main story for most of the film.
In the context of Avengers: Endgame, this comes across as the writers purposefully sidelining Captain Marvel for most of the movie, and even if they had good reason to do so, it's not well handled.
The Story Reason: Avengers: Endgame Is The Original Six’s Movie
For all the characters who appear in Avengers: Endgame, the movie truly belongs to the original six Avengers. It's the swan song for Tony Stark aka. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers aka. Captain America (Chris Evans) in particular, giving both heroes the sendoffs their characters deserve. Beyond those two, though, Endgame also spends a great deal of time focusing on the four other original Avengers: dealing with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) losing his family and becoming Ronin, Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) grief over failing to kill Thanos in time, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) sacrificing herself for her found family, and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) accepting both his human and Hulk sides.
With all that going on, there's very little room for any focus on other characters. But Avengers: Endgame still manages to give other characters something to do. War Machine (Don Cheadle), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) go on the time travel mission with the original Avengers - certainly there was room for Captain Marvel to join in as well. That's from a storytelling perspective. From a narrative perspective, it can probably be argued they didn't have enough Pym Particles or Carol turned down the mission to focus on keeping peace elsewhere. But those are plot contrivances to keep Avengers: Endgame focused on the original Avengers.
Of course, it's understandable Markus and McFeely would want to keep the story focused on those six characters since it's the last time all six will be together on screen. And considering the rave reviews of Avengers: Endgame, particularly how it handles Tony and Steve's story, that was ultimately the right decision. But it still reveals a lack of awareness about how popular Captain Marvel would be after her solo movie.
The Real Reason: Marvel Didn’t Know How Successful Captain Marvel Would Become
Something similar happened with Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther. The latter movie opened just a few months before Infinity War, and Black Panther was a massive success, becoming a cultural phenomenon in its own right. As such, fans were excited to see King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and the residents of Wakanda return in Infinity War. But they weren't in it very much, until the end when the big battle sequence takes place in Wakanda. The lack of Black Panther characters in Infinity War seemed to come down to Marvel Studios not being able to predict just how popular the movie would become.
Now we've seen the same thing happen with Captain Marvel. Carol received her own solo movie less than two months before Avengers: Endgame hit theaters, but then she sat out most of the action in the team-up movie. Captain Marvel does get a few moments to shine in Endgame, just as Black Panther, Okoye, Shuri and M'Baku did in Avengers: Infinity War. But there's still a disconnect between the huge amount of popularity Captain Marvel garnered from fans of her solo movie and her incredibly small role in Avengers: Endgame.
Certainly, as previously stated, it makes sense for Avengers: Endgame to focus more on the characters whose storylines the film is wrapping up. But that focus on the past means Avengers: Endgame doesn't give as much time to setting up what's to come in the MCU. Everything about the movie is meant to signal it's the end, from Tony's death scene to Avengers: Endgame's lack of post-credits scene. But if Captain Marvel is meant to be key figure in the MCU going forward, Avengers: Endgame should have featured her at least a little more than the movie did. Captain Marvel is underused and underserved since she's meant to be a leading character of the MCU in Phase 4. At least fans have a Captain Marvel sequel and hopefully many more appearances from Carol Danvers to look forward to after her lack of role in Avengers: Endgame.
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