The upcoming '90s-set superhero origin story Captain Marvel may create a plot hole in The Avengers, a movie in which Nick Fury claimed that Thor was the first alien S.H.I.E.L.D. had encountered on Earth. If so, it's a perfect example of one of the biggest challenges of the shared universe model: trying to maintain a consistent timeline amid an ever-more complex map of movies and TV shows.
That's particularly the case with Captain Marvel. Set in 1995, this film is essentially a prequel to the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. It features an early adventure of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury and Clark Gregg's Phil Coulson, and is expected to explain just why Fury became a firm believer in the Avengers Initiative. There are explicit ties to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies as well, with Lee Pace reprising the role of Ronan the Accuser and Djimon Hounsou returning as Korath the Pursuer. It even looks as though the film will involves the Tesseract.
All that means Captain Marvel is the biggest retcon the MCU has ever attempted. It will shine a whole new light on some of the MCU's most important characters (and potentially even upon the Infinity Stones themselves, if new information is revealed about the Tesseract). But how well does this retcon sit with the MCU as we know it?
- This Page: Thor Was The MCU's First Alien
- Next Page: Fixing The Captain Marvel/MCU Plot Hole
Thor Was The MCU's First Alien (Until Captain Marvel)
The core problem is that, until Captain Marvel, the MCU had consistently argued that S.H.I.E.L.D. didn't know about the existence of aliens until they crossed paths with Thor in New Mexico. In one scene in The Avengers, Nick Fury claimed that Thor's arrival on Earth was an absolute game-changer for the organization. "Last year, Earth had a visitor from another planet," he explained, "who had a grudge match that leveled a small town. We learned that not only are we not alone, but we are hopelessly, hilariously outgunned." The existence of life on other worlds had been proven, S.H.I.E.L.D. now knew that alien technology was far in advance of our own, and aliens had their own agendas and feuds that could be dangerous for any humans who crossed their paths.
Fury is explicitly claiming that the Asgardians were the first aliens S.H.I.E.L.D. had (at least knowingly) encountered. Interestingly, the wider MCU has been careful never to contradict this; although Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed Fury had acquired a blue-skinned corpse, that alien was long dead and none of its technology was preserved with the body. When Coulson encountered Sif, he asked her about these blue-skinned races, and didn't react at all when she listed the various species out there - including the Kree. As far as the MCU is concerned, then, up until now Thor has been seen as the first time S.H.I.E.L.D. encountered a living alien - and the first time they discovered how dangerous extraterrestrial weapons could be.
Nick Fury Blames Thor For S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Weapons
Supporting this assertion, Nick Fury claimed that S.H.I.E.L.D.'s priorities were changed in the wake of New Mexico. The World Council's response to the Thor incident was to demand S.H.I.E.L.D. find a way to level the playing field as quickly as possible, and so S.H.I.E.L.D. began pursuing advanced technology. The Tesseract Project became an absolute priority; during World War II, Hydra proved that the Tesseract's power could be used to create dangerous energy weapons. What's more, legends tied the Tesseract to Odin himself, suggesting this was an Asgardian power source. Tesseract technology became a major strategic priority. Meanwhile, although it's never directly addressed on the big screen, S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists also began working on the abandoned body of the Destroyer. According to the tie-ins, they took it apart and worked out how to reverse-engineer its energy weapon. The prototype gun was the weapon used by Coulson in his clash with Loki on the Helicarrier in The Avengers; it returned in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s season 1 finale.
Tie-in comics have suggested that Fury believed all these different projects were just distractions from his most important agenda, which he was struggling to get the World Council to sign off on. Fury believed the Avengers Initiative was Earth's last, best defense. He viewed the Tesseract project and the Destroyer experiments as little more than backup plans, to be used in the event the Avengers failed.
Until now, then, Fury has consistently claimed that the first aliens S.H.I.E.L.D. encountered were Thor and the Asgardians. The organisation's strategic priorities have strongly supported this statement, suggesting he was telling the truth.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019