Warning: Captain Marvel spoilers ahead.
The love for Stan Lee is on display before the first frame of Captain Marvel, with the traditional Marvel Studios opening montage memorializing the late comic book legend with imagery from his many appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the years, culminating in the message “Thank you, Stan.” According to co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Marvel approached them with the idea of paying tribute to the iconic creator, who died in November at age 95, and they happily agreed.
But that’s not all. True to form, Lee makes a vintage cameo in the film as well. As Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) searches for a shape-shifting Skrull on a subway car, she spots Lee, who looks up from reading the script for Mallrats and rehearsing the line, “Trust me, true believer.” Considering Captain Marvel is set in 1995, it’s perfectly played: Lee made that cameo in the Kevin Smith-directed Mallrats, which Lee called one his favorites, that same year.
Larson lingers for a moment, warmly smiling at Lee, which gives the moment an especially profound weight. And if you listen to Boden and Fleck, it sure seems like the moment was framed differently in the wake of Lee’s death.
“We certainly had fresh eyes on that scene for sure after he passed away,” Boden said. “It imbues everything with a different kind of feeling.”
The directors called having Lee on the set an “awesome” experience.
“Whether you grew up a Marvel fan or not, when he comes around, you’re just aware of his iconic status and everything that he’s done for the comic world,” Fleck said. “So many storytellers he’s inspired, not just actors but writers and artists. So yeah when he comes around, it’s a big deal, and it was a special moment for everyone.”
The cameo marks Lee’s penultimate appearance in a Marvel movie. Though he didn’t name the film, MCU chief Kevin Feige did recently reveal that Lee will be seen in one more Marvel movie. Our money is on April’s Avengers: Endgame, considering Lee often filmed his cameos in batches — and Endgame was shot back-to-back with 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Considering Endgame rounds out the MCU’s Phase 3 in true spectacle fashion, it feels like like the perfect film to go out on.
Captain Marvel is now in theaters. Watch Brie Larson talk about what the role means to her:
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