Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Captain Marvel
It may be the first Marvel Studios production since Captain America: The First Avenger to take place entirely in the past — 1995 instead of 1945 — but Captain Marvel is packed with details that speak directly to the present and future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s Yahoo Entertainment’s exhaustive explainer of the movie’s many Easter eggs.
Stan’s still the man
The first Easter egg arrives before the film even begins: Marvel, whose opening montage interweaves nods to the classic comics and the MCU and has evolved through the years as the studio’s movie output has increased, takes things all the back for Captain Marvel. Instead of featuring a variety of heroes, the intro is all Stan Lee, featuring the late Marvel mastermind’s myriad cameos over the past decade-plus, ending with the message “Thank you, Stan.”
There’s a new Mar-Vell in town
Back in 1967, Stan Lee had a bright idea: create a Captain Marvel that Marvel Comics could call its own. But the character also had to be different from the other Captain Marvel, the popular Superman-esque hero published by Fawcett Comics from 1939 to 1953 (who will soon get his own big-screen vehicle in the form of Shazam!). So Lee’s version became a Kree warrior who called himself Mar-Vell and arrived on Earth to help his own people’s cause, before deciding to align with humanity instead. Despite their wildly different backgrounds, one similarity shared by Mar-Vell and Captain Marvel is that they were both dudes in colorful costumes.
That’s not the case with Captain Marvel and Shazam; while Zachary Levi plays a muscle-bound Cap in the upcoming movie, Mar-Vell is revealed to be none other than Annette Bening’s supposedly human scientist Dr. Wendy Lawson. A Kree champion, Mar-Vell came to Earth in the mid-20th century following the trail of a strong energy source that turned out to be an Infinity Stone. Like her comic-book predecessor, this Mar-Vell meets an untimely death, but not before witnessing the birth of the female hero who will continue her name: Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Vers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson).
Root, root, root for the Skrull team
Captain Marvel chooses sides in the Kree-Skrull War … and it’s not the one you’d expect based on the comics. In this telling of Marvel’s vintage galactic conflict, the shape-shifting Skrull are the victims of Kree aggression and oppression, as embodied by Jude Law’s ruthless Kree commander, Yon-Rogg. Forced from their native world, the surviving Skrulls are desperate to find a new home where they can live in peace. It’s no accident that their plight is directly analogous to the experience of Earth-bound refugees fleeing their own war-torn nations.
The tale of Talos
For the first half of Captain Marvel, Vers believes that Skrull leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) is her primary enemy. But then he shares the Skrulls’ sad story with her and reveals that his own family are among the exiles, pieces of news that spark her transformation from brainwashed Kree foot soldier to independent heroine.
That’s a big change from his personality in the comics, where he honed a fearsome reputation on the battlefield — despite an inability to shape-shift, a shortcoming that’s been corrected for the movie version — that gifted him with the equally fearsome nickname Talos the Untamed. But Talos experienced a serious fall from grace when he opted not to follow custom and kill himself while in Kree custody, a black mark on his reputation that he’s never been able to fully expunge.
The cat from outer space
Superman has a dog, Aquaman has an octopus, Kitty Pryde has a dragon and Captain Marvel has … a Flerken? Yup, Captain Marvel‘s adorable feline scene stealer, Goose, is anything but your average terrestrial tabby cat.
That’s not apparent to any Earthlings that cross his path, including the usually savvy Nick Fury, who takes an immediate liking to Goose and thinks the Kree are kidding when their scans suggest there’s more to this kitty than meets the eye. His mind is immediately changed when he witnesses Goose display a tell-tale sign of Flerken-hood: shooting tentacles out of his mouth to swallow objects (and aliens) whole. This species first appeared in the first issue of the 2014 Captain Marvel reboot, which introduced us to Carol’s cat, Chewie.
At least, she thought it was a cat anyway. Rocket Raccoon ID’d him an alien, and that was confirmed when Chewie laid eggs … 117 of them to be precise. For the record, Goose — named after the Top Gun wingman rather than Star Wars copilot — is more into eyeballs than eggs.
The eyes have it
Nick Fury has always been coy about how exactly he lost his left eye. That’s probably because the actual origin story isn’t quite as badass as the eyepatch makes him look. In our world, it’s a look that comes straight out of Marvel comic books, where the soldier-turned-spy sustained a severe eye injury during World War II courtesy of a Nazi-tossed grenade. (World War II was updated to the Gulf War for the Ultimate Marvel incarnation of Fury, who provides the direct inspiration for Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal in the MCU.)
2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier provides some of the biggest clues about the reasons for his split vision. During one scene, he tells Steve Rogers “The last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye,” implying that his peeper was plucked out by a close pal. That “someone” turns out to be Goose, who scratches Fury across the face in Captain Marvel‘s climax. Offered the opportunity to pop a S.H.I.E.L.D.-approved glass eye in that now-useless socket, Fury instead decides to keep Goose’s scar as a souvenir of his first alien battle. Maybe he should just ask for a novelty T-shirt next time?
A dynamic S.H.I.E.L.D. duo
We already saw how the friendship between Nick Fury and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) ended (tragically) in The Avengers. Captain Marvel shows us how it begins. Coulson is a mere rookie when he and Fury turn up at the L.A. Blockbuster Video where sightings of a stranger in a strange costume have been reported.
Fury then pursues a fleeing Veers with a Coulson-masquerading Skrull riding shotgun. You might think that would ruin any trust between them, but the real Coulson gets himself back in his future boss’s good graces when he helps Fury and Vers to evade the clutches of the various forces pursuing them. By the end of the movie, the Coulson/Fury alliance is in full effect. We miss that friendship, darn it.
New hero alert!
Young Monica Rambeau (Akira Akbar) is fortunate to be growing up with two powerful women in her life: her Air Force-trained mother Maria (Lashana Lynch) and soldier-turned-superhero, Aunt Carol. With those two as her role models, she knows there are big things in her future. And we know that as well: in the comic books, Monica became one of several Captain Marvels before adopting the name Photon — which happens to be her mom’s callsign in the film. With Carol poised to return to Earth in Avengers: Endgame, she’ll almost certainly meet a grown-up Monica and continue to help her become the best hero she can be.
New planet alert!
Captain Marvel adds Torfa to the MCU’s ever-growing galaxy of interstellar destinations. In the film, Kree commander Yon-Rogg leads his team to this planet in search of a Skrull-infiltrating operative. But the mission ends in a firefight that leaves Vers in Skrull custody, before she busts loose and falls to Earth. In Marvel’s comic universe, Torfa was believed to be a “poison planet” populated entirely by robotic-suited residents named the Sentimault. In fact, that poison was merely the excessive pollution brought on by the Sentimault’s Vibranium mining operation. Clearly, that’s another planet in need of a Green New Deal.
Let’s go to the mall, rats
Kevin Smith’s sophomore film, Mallrats, may have been a box-office flop, but it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between New Jersey’s most famous comic book geek and New York’s most famous comic book creator, Stan Lee. The Marvel icon — who passed away in December — made a memorable cameo appearance as himself in Smith’s 1995 movie, dishing out relationship advice and easily spotting sailboats in magic eye pictures. While pursuing a Skrull on an L.A. subway, Carol spots Lee studying a copy of the Mallrats script and getting into character. It’s the best cameo Smith has had in a Marvel movie since Daredevil.
Kelly Sue who?
Apparently, the L.A. subway system is a great place to meet Marvel Comics writers. Not long after her Lee sighting, Carol is glimpsed walking through a station and passes by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who rebooted Captain Marvel to great acclaim in 2014. While DeConnick seems alternately confused and impressed to see the character she wrote on the page walking around IRL, Davners strides by her author with barely a backwards glance. Fictional characters grow up so fast.
The mighty Quinjet
Looking for a quick way out of the Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. base, Carol and Nick Fury hop aboard a “Skimjet,” an early version of the signature S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft that became an important part of the organization’s combat operations 20 years later. It’s likely that Fury expressed some strong opinions on how to spruce up the Quinjets when he took over as director. The descendants of this prototype are sleeker-looking, and also boast more on-board weaponry, making them ideal for fighting rather than simply running way.
It’s all in the name
It’s hard to imagine a (Marvel cinematic) universe in which the Avengers weren’t called the Avengers. But had Fury stuck to his original proposal, the super-team would be called … the Protectors. That’s per the document he’s seen typing up at the end of Captain Marvel where he proposes that S.H.I.E.L.D. launch a “Protector Initiative” to assist in case the Earth is once again visited by aliens, be they of the friendly or hostile persuasion. But then he glances at a picture of his pager pal, Carol, and decides that her call sign — “Avenger” — is a much better name for a group of super-people. Hopefully, he’ll pay her royalties when they meet again in Endgame.
There is such a thing as a Tesseract
This glowing blue home for the Space Stone has appeared in so many Marvel movies, it’s practically an Avenger itself. Originally introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger as a key part of the Red Skull’s quest for world domination, the Tesseract has repeatedly changed hands over the years, passing from Howard Stark to S.H.I.E.L.D. to Thor to Loki to its current owner, Thanos.
Captain Marvel takes place in the late ’80s and mid-’90s when S.H.I.E.L.D. is still in possession of the cube and they’re using it for Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. — an initiative headed up by Mar-Vell’s human identity, Dr. Lawson. The goal of this top-secret operation? To design a superior engine, capable of long-distance space travel. The Kree army would love to get their hands on the Space Stone, but Goose ensures it stays on Earth, swallowing it whole during the climactic battle on Lawson’s cloaked space station. The post-credits stinger shows the Flerken coughing the cube up like a square hairball, straight onto Fury’s desk. We can’t imagine the Tesseract was a particularly tasty treat, either going down or coming back up.
Bring on the Endgame
Like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel apparently lifts an entire scene from another movie as a mid-credits bonus moment. Ant-Man included a clip from Captain America: Civil War that hinted at Paul Rudd’s recruitment onto Team Cap, while Doctor Strange previewed Thor’s trip to the Sanctum Sanctorum in Thor: Ragnarok. Captain Marvel, meanwhile, makes room for the first face-to-face encounter between Carol and the Avengers who survived the Snapture — a momentous meeting that will presumably occur early on in Avengers: Endgame, which arrives in theaters on April 26.
The scene begins with Captain America and Black Widow (Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson) grimly staring at the mounting death toll in the wake of Thanos’s snap—up to 3 billion and steadily climbing. Enter War Machine (Don Cheadle), who has partnered up with a still Hulk-less Bruce Banner to study the pager they found at the site where Fury and Maria Hill turned to dust. The device has stopped transmitting its signal, and Cap gives the order to broadcast it again.
Turns out the reason why the signal stopped is because it reached its intended recipient. When Black Widow turns around, Captain Marvel is there … and she doesn’t look thrilled to see someone other than her old friend. “Where’s Fury?” she demands, as the screen cuts to black. She’s not gonna like the answer to that question.
Captain Marvel is playing in theaters now
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
- How ‘Captain Marvel’ avoided controversial comic-book past to create empowered female hero
- It’s ‘Captain Marvel’ vs. the trolls on Rotten Tomatoes
- From Build-A-Bear to Adidas, shop the best ‘Captain Marvel’ merchandise now
Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle’s newsletter.