What would the MCU have been like if Captain Marvel had been introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron as originally considered? Writer and director Joss Whedon was determined to expand the MCU with Avengers: Age of Ultron, and he toyed with introducing the character of Captain Marvel. He didn't plan for Carol Danvers to play a major role in the film, though; instead, Whedon intended Carol to make her MCU debut at the very end, when she'd appear as a new member of the Avengers, unexplained.
He got as far as creating plate shots of Captain Marvel, which have finally been unveiled to the public in the Infinity Saga box set. In the end, though, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige wasn't impressed by the idea. "To me," he explained, "it would have done that character a disservice, to meet her fully formed, in a costume and part of the Avengers already when 99% of the audience would go, 'Who is that?'" In the end, Marvel used the plates to let Scarlet Witch fly into the frame instead.
But what would the MCU have looked like if Kevin Feige hadn't gotten his way? Carol Danvers would have made her MCU debut four years earlier, while Scarlet Witch wouldn't have been an Avenger at all after Ultron's defeat. As a result, the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have been very different.
Would Brie Larson Still Have Played Captain Marvel?
Let's start with the most obvious question of all; would Brie Larson still have wound up playing Captain Marvel? It's worth noting Larson was pretty busy in 2014 and 2015, netting an Academy Award for her starring role in Room. As a result, it's entirely possible Larson would have been unable to clear up her schedule to film a brief appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron, meaning a different actress could have been cast instead. Marvel's never commented on their initial casting ideas for Captain Marvel, but back in 2015 rumors pegged the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron, and Jessica Chastain. The last of these is probably the most likely, given she's known to have had meetings with Marvel around the time Age of Ultron was being drafted, so they may have considered her for the role.
Of course, if either Lawrence or Chastain had been cast for the role, it would have had a significant impact on the superhero genre as a whole. Marvel has always been quite territorial with their talent, and they're known to have had several actors sign exclusivity contracts so as not to compete. That may well have meant Jennifer Lawrence would have left the X-Men franchise after 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past, while Chastain would presumably never have signed up to be the villain in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
It's important to note that the very character of Captain Marvel may have been slightly different. The real MCU version is largely inspired by the Kelly Sue DeConnick run, but that was still in its early days at this point. As a result, the MCU's portrayal may also have been influenced by Brian Reed's run, which kicked off in 2006 and lasted for several years, and was for a time viewed as the iconic Carol Danvers.
Which Side Would Captain Marvel Have Been On In Captain America: Civil War?
It's safe to assume that the Phase 3 slate would have been relatively fixed by the time Carol Danvers was cast; as such, viewers' first experience of the character would have been in Captain America: Civil War, when she'd have been presented as a powerful new asset. Scriptwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely would probably have been under pressure to make her quite a major figure in the plot, simply because she was an unknown quantity and needed to be developed as a superhero in her own right. It's possible she'd have taken Scarlet Witch's place as the trigger for the Sokovia Accords, particularly given Carol Danvers has a troubled history in the comics; she's actually a recovering alcoholic, and she once caused a major disaster while under the influence of alcohol.
But would Carol Danvers have been Team Tony or Team Cap? In the comic book story that inspired the film, Carol Danvers sided with Tony Stark, and in fact became both his deputy and his lover. Coming from a military background, Captain Marvel found herself leading tactical teams in order to arrest unregistered superheroes. She could potentially have played a similar role, helping Iron Man chase down Captain America. If so, then the power dynamics would need to have been switched up a little; Marvel would presumably have had to make Vision part of Team Cap in order to balance it out.
It's reasonable to assume there would have been substantial debate over Carol Danvers' powerset. On the one hand, there is clear comic book precedent - running all the way back to the 1980s - for Captain Marvel to pack the kind of punch seen in the MCU. On the other, she'd have been first demonstrating her abilities in a movie where she was going up against other members of the Avengers, meaning Marvel would likely have downgraded her powerset a little so as to make her beatable.
Phase 3 Would Have Played Out Very Differently
Naturally, the changes would have rippled on to Avengers: Infinity War, which would have been very different. The first act saw Marvel take a number of heavy-hitters off the table - Vision was injured, Hulk wouldn't come out to play, and Iron Man and Doctor Strange headed to Titan. A smart approach would have been to make Captain Marvel part of the Titan team; it's not hard to imagine a scenario where Doctor Strange picked up both Tony Stark and Carol Danvers, especially if they were a couple.
Avengers: Infinity War would still have featured the return of Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, simply because Marvel clearly wanted to develop the relationship between Wanda Maximoff and Vision. But in this reworked narrative, Scarlet Witch and Vision would have both been hiding away since Captain America: Civil War, both fugitives from justice. Their arc here would only have needed to change a little; Wanda would be less developed as a character by this point, but that would have been the only real difference.
Marvel seem to have always intended Captain Marvel's solo movie to come out after Avengers: Infinity War, and it would probably still have been an origin movie. But it may have been very different, simply because it was dealing with an already-established character rather than introducing her; writers would already know what the MCU's Captain Marvel was like, and her powerset would already be familiar to viewers meaning a "Binary" revelation would have lacked impact.
Finally, it's safe to say that Captain Marvel would have had a major presence in Avengers: Endgame. In the actual MCU, writers Markus and McFeely were unsure what to do with Carol Danvers, simply because the script for Captain Marvel hadn't been written yet. In this scenario, again, they'd have been dealing with a known quantity - and one probably tied quite closely to Tony Stark. The film may well have ended with Captain Marvel taking on Pepper Potts' role in the MCU, the single mother who was parent to Tony Stark's child. While this would have been quite an organic fit, it would have risked reducing Carol Danvers to the point where her arc was determined by her relationship with a man. Frankly, things have turned out for the best.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021) release date: Jul 16, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Black Panther 2 (2022) release date: May 06, 2022