What can Captain Marvel tell us about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? A lot, if you're willing to read between the lines.
Here's a look at what Marvel Studios' most recent film suggests about Avengers: Endgame, the Captain Marvel sequel, and more.
1. Carol's Endgame arrival: We already knew that Carol Danvers would join the fight in Endgame, but it was anyone's guess exactly how much screen time she'd have and when she'd make her debut in the film.
Captain Marvel sheds light on this. Carol answers Nick Fury's distress call and arrives at the Avengers Facility in a post-credits scene, which looks to be ripped right out of Endgame. In it, Captain America still has his beard from Infinity War, even though he's clean-shaven in the Endgame trailers.
That means this scene must take place before nearly all of the events of Endgame, suggesting that Carol arrives in the opening minutes and is a central cast member rather than a deus ex machina. This also strongly supports the fan theory that Carol was digitally removed from the Endgame Super Bowl ad, and the fact that she arrives before Tony Stark probably means she's not the one to rescue him. Thanks for the clues, Cap's beard!
2. Everything's riding on Carol and Scott: In Endgame, the Avengers must figure out how to reverse Thanos' decimation of half the universe, but they also must be able to physically take him on despite missing 50 percent of their team.
Ant-Man and the Wasp teased a solution to the former problem, suggesting that Ant-Man will discover the ability to time travel while in the Quantum Realm. Now, Captain Marvel presents a solution to the latter problem. Not only does Carol become the strongest living Marvel character, but her powers are revealed to be connected to the Space Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones Thanos used to unleash destruction. This could mean she'll be able to destroy this key weapon of his — in Infinity War, Scarlet Witch could briefly destroy the Mind Stone since it's the source of her powers — rendering Thanos unable to assemble the full Infinity Gauntlet again.
3. Another prequel? Captain Marvel's ending sets up another encounter with Ronan the Accuser, the Kree who fires missiles at Earth but whom Carol ultimately routs. In an ominous last scene, he says he'll come back for her.
This line certainly seems to be a sequel hook. But while Captain Marvel is set in 1995, Ronan previously died in Guardians of the Galaxy, which takes place in 2014. So this "tune in next time!" closing moment implies that Captain Marvel 2 won't be set after Endgame but will instead be another prequel.
4. Will Secret Invasion still happen? Marvel fans had speculated that after Endgame, the next big storyline adaptation might be Secret Invasion, a comic book event in which the villainous Skrulls infiltrate the Earth.
But this is complicated by Captain Marvel, which unexpectedly turns the Skrulls into the good guys. Sure, it's just one group of Skrulls that we see, but would Marvel really make a different group of them the villains so soon? It seems unlikely.
5. A new hero: Captain Marvel introduces viewers to Monica Rambeau, the daughter of Carol's best friend. In the comics, Monica is actually a superhero who has gone by a variety of names, including Photon and Spectrum. Seeing as Monica would be an adult in the present day, this could be a setup for her to join the Avengers in a future film.
6. The end of the line for Captain America? Carol doesn't actually take on the name Captain Marvel by the end of her eponymous movie. This has sparked an ominous fan theory that she'll start going by that moniker at the end of Endgame as a tribute to two fallen heroes: Mar-Vell and Captain America, the latter of whom fans theorize will perish in the battle against Thanos. Sure, she could take the name just as a tribute to Mar-Vell alone, as Captain America suggested she do in the comics. But with Chris Evans looking set to retire, connecting the origin of her name with his departure in some way would be appropriate, signaling the end of an era for Marvel — and the arrival of an exciting new one.