WARNING: Spoilers for Captain Marvel.
As a prequel to the entire MCU, Captain Marvel inevitably creates a few MCU plot holes (and has many more retcons besides). Set in 1995, it features a never-before-seen adventure of the young Nicholas Joseph Fury, and even has cameos from Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson as well as Guardians of the Galaxy's villains. But it also introduces a brand new superhero into the history of the MCU, Captain Marvel, who's undoubtedly the most powerful superhero in the shared universe to date.
The problem, of course, is that any retcon has the potential to cause continuity problems. The more complex the continuity, the more likely there will be issues; and the MCU canon is decidedly complex, given it counts another 20 films and an ever-expanding slate of TV shows. In general, Captain Marvel's sense of continuity is remarkable; the film even incorporates the wider MCU, acknowledging Fury's backstory from a Phase 1 tie-in comic, and it goes to great lengths to avoid contradicting anything from Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
However, even Captain Marvel has its weaknesses. Let's take a look at the film's biggest retcons, and also explore whether or not it creates any insoluble plot holes in the MCU.
- This Page: Captain Marvel's Major S.H.I.E.L.D. Retcons
- Page 2: Captain Marvel's Major Cosmic Retcons
- Page 3: Captain Marvel's MCU Plot Holes
- Page 4: Captain Marvel's Own Movie Plot Holes
Why Nick Fury Started The Avenger Initiative
The biggest Captain Marvel retcon of all is the reason Nick Fury formed the Avengers in the first place. The concept of the Avengers Initiative was introduced in the post-credits scene of Iron Man, with Nick Fury stepping out of the shadows to talk about it with Tony Stark. Over the course of Phase 1, it was gradually revealed that this was Fury's ultimate plan, to gather together a team of remarkable people who could fight the battles nobody else could alone. Over the course of The Avengers, Fury showed a remarkable amount of faith in the team, even in the wake of Loki's Helicarrier attack.
Captain Marvel reveals that Nick Fury got the idea for the Avengers Initiative all the way back in 1995, when he learned there were greater powers out there; alien races with advanced technology beyond anything even S.H.I.E.L.D. could muster. He correctly deduced that, if the universe has one superhero, it will have others, and that the best approach would be to gather them together.
It's a sensible retcon, slotting into pre-established MCU canon, although does raise the awkward question of why it took Nick Fury so long to put together the Avengers Initiative. He was initially proposing it back in 1995, but doesn't seem to have gotten to work on it until 2008; why did it take him a decade? Tie-in comics may offer a possible solution, suggesting that the World Security Council didn't really believe in the idea, and so Fury wound up locked in bureaucracy for years.
Related: Captain Marvel’s Ending Explained
Where The Avengers Name Came From
But just why did Nick Fury choose to call his team "The Avengers?" The title has been regarded as something of a misnomer; until now, they've been designed as a first-response unit to deal with impending crises, and until their failure in Avengers: Infinity War, they've had nothing to avenge in the first place. Tony Stark may have adopted the language, saying the newly formed group would "avenge" Loki's attack, but in terms of inspiration, it's long seemed Fury simply liked the name.
Captain Marvel reveals that Nick Fury was in fact inspired by Carol Danvers herself; he was originally planning to call his proposal "The Protector Initiative," but changed it in honor of Danvers' "Avenger" callsign. This means that, in a way, Fury did simply like the name, although there was considerably more personal weight behind it. Again, this particular retcon makes a fair bit of sense, establishing a neat narrative throughline between Captain Marvel and The Avengers. At the same time, it does feel a little too on-the-nose and was frankly unnecessary.
S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Name Has Been Used For Decades
In Iron Man, Agent Coulson introduced himself to Pepper Potts as an agent of the "Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division." A bemused Pepper told Coulson that was quite a mouthful, and he gave a memorable response; "I know. We're working on it." By the end of the film, the problem was solved: "Just call us S.H.I.E.L.D." Coulson told Pepper at the end. It seemed that this was something of an origin for the organization. But Captain Marvel sees Nick Fury introduces himself as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. over a decade earlier, contradicting the very first MCU film.
In truth, though, Marvel had long since decided to ignore that particular line of dialogue from Iron Man. Arnim Zola claimed he was recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 1940s in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, while Hank Pym uses the acronym when referring to his pre-Iron Man time with the division in Ant-Man. This spills over into TV too, with Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. using the name in events set before the 2000s. Captain Marvel simply carries on the tradition.
Page 2 of 4: Captain Marvel's Major Cosmic Retcons
- 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