[Spoilers for Captain Marvel]
As with any MCU movie, Captain Marvel is filled to the brim with subtle easter eggs, clever cameos, and lots of references to both the wider MCU and the character’s comic book origins. Here is The Opinion Arcade’s list of the best we spotted.
Starting out as a mysterious part of Carol’s dreams, and eventually being a huge part of revealing her past, ‘Project Pegasus’ plays a pretty significant role throughout Captain Marvel. Over the course of the movie, viewers learn that Project Pegasus was a joint S.H.I.E.L.D and NASA research project headed by Dr Lawson/Mar-Vell. Apparently, only Mar-Vell knew the true power of the Tesseract, and the project was based around converting energy into something that could allow instantaneous space travel (thanks to it holding the space stone).
The movie reveals that the energy fused with Carol and thus gave her powers, but also implies that the project ended after Lawson died. At least for a while, as Fury seemingly restarts the Pegasus at some point between Captain Marvel and The Avengers, with Project Pegasus being seen at the start of the Avenger’s MCU debut. It’s a brief shot, but ‘Project Pegasus’ is clearly seen on the sign for joint S.H.I.E.L.D and NASA facility at the beginning of the first Avengers movie, with Fury presumably restarting the project to further research the Tesseract and it’s energy creating potential, at some point after Thor’s appearance on Earth (as Fury himself explains in the Avengers).
One of the more surprising parts of Captain Marvel is the inclusion of the Tesseract. The Space Stone concealing cube played a key role in Marvel’s Phase 1, and Captain Marvel seemingly shows even more of what S.H.I.E.L.D were doing with it after Howard Stark retrieved it doing his search for Captain America following WWII.
It also sets up a few other Tesseract related events, mainly with Ronan the Accuser learning of its location on Earth, which could play into his knowledge/use of the Power Stone in Guardians of the Galaxy (which takes place in 2014, nearly twenty years after Captain Marvel).
But perhaps the best Tesseract reference is the fact that the Flerken known as Goose the cat, eats the Tesseract, which in itself is a reference to Mark Ruffalo’s first appearance as Bruce Banner (in the first Avengers movie). When Black Widow goes to recruit Banner and explains the mission, and the Tesseract, he asks “what does Fury want me to do, eat it?”, not knowing that someone eating (and then regurgitating it) is exactly how Fury got the Tesseract in the first place.
The Avengers Initiative:
The MCU’s first ever post-credits sequence was an appearance from Nick Fury at the end of 2008’s Iron Man. In his (and the MCU’s) debut Fury explained that he wanted to talk to Tony about ‘The Avengers Initiative’. From there the initiative is mentioned again in Iron Man 2, where Tony seemingly fails the qualification test and is recommended on a consultant-only basis. With the initiate eventually coming into full fruition in 2012’s The Avengers, uniting Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye against Loki and the Chitauri. The initiative is explained during the first team-up of the MCU’s heroes as an idea to unite the worlds heroes in times of great need.
Captain Marvel reveals that Fury got the idea for the initiative after meeting Carol Danvers during the events of the film, and after seeing that there were alien threats out there as well as how much just one superhero can do against that threat, thought it might be a good idea to get ready for the arrival of some more hostile aliens.
The final scene of Captain Marvel shows Fury working on a document called ‘The Protector Initiative’, which has a rough explanation of it being a protocol to unite heroes against bigger threats. As he works on typing he sees a picture of Carol getting into her plane (from pre-1995), with her callsign as ‘Avenger’ (rather than ‘Cheeseburger’ as it is in the comics). He smiles and changes the name of the Initiative to ‘Avenger’ rather than ‘Protector’.
It’s a cool nod to how the Avenger’s Initiative began (although realistically you’d want a ‘protector’ to stop the attack, rather than someone to come in afterwards and avenge it), as well as showing that Captain Marvel has actually been a part of the Avengers ever since the beginning – long before her eventual inclusion in Avengers: Endgame.
With each Marvel movie out to fit in as many references as possible, Captain Marvel brings attention to the ‘Protector Initiative’ in its closing scene, with Fury changing the name to ‘Avenger’. And although this scene appears to be a cool (if not a little on the nose) nod to the Avengers, there is actually a deeper reference in the word ‘protector’ than it might first appear.
Protector is actually a number of separate characters in the Marvel Universe, the first of them appearing in Tales to Astonish, one of Marvel’s earliest books, running from 1959 to 1968. Another ‘Protector’ featured in Fantastic Four #205 and #206, as a hero of Xandar, defending Xandar against the Skrulls (with obvious implications from there to Captain Marvel’s own story).
But the most notable Protector is another Kree known as Noh-Varr, who features heavily in the Civil War and Secret Invasion storylines, as well as prominently in the Marvel Comics Universe ever since his debut. Over the years Noh-Varr has taken on the identities of Marvel Boy, Protector and even Captain Marvel, and so it’s only fitting he gets some sort of reference in Captain Marvel’s debut movie.
Setting a movie in the nineties means that there are certain things that have to be in there somewhere, and there is nowhere more nineties than the now (almost) non-existent Blockbuster. Blockbuster Video was a hallmark of the nineties and early two thousands, and provided an affordable rental service for games, movies and tv, long before streaming existed. Blockbuster’s appearance in Captain Marvel was one of the bigger talking points of the early trailers, firmly setting the movie in the mid-nineties, as well as leading to a number of other very nineties references.
After landing in the store Captain Marvel shoots at a True Lies cutout (which was released in 1994, and so fits perfectly with being available to rent the following year). As Carol leaves the store she also passes a number of era-appropriate movies such as The Right Stuff, and Hook. Only adding to how fun the Blockbuster Easter Egg is the fact that it was actually filmed in the last remaining Blockbuster in the US, which is in Bend, Oregon.
The Right Stuff:
After recovering from her crash into Blockbuster, Carol (or still ‘Vers’ at this point) walks through the store, eventually picking up a VHS for a closer look. The video she picks is clearly ‘The Right Stuff’, which manages to double as a pretty smart reference to Captain Marvel’s own past, even if she can’t remember it yet.
The Right Stuff was adapted from Tom Wolfe’s book of the same name and tells the story of the United States military’s test pilots and their efforts on the first manned spaceflight. The story obviously shares a number of threads with Captain Marvel itself, which also follows a military test pilot, who was flying experiment aircrafts and went to space. There is also a decent chance that Carol, before being taken to Kree was a fan of The Right Stuff, again given it’s ties to her own life.
Stan Lee as Stan Lee:
The cameos of the late Stan Lee are some of the MCU’s most recognisable moments, and since Captain Marvel is the first MCU movie to be released following Stan Lee’s death, there are a number of references to him. The first is an altered Marvel Studios intro which sees images from his numerous cameos rather than the regular shots of various superheroes, which is immediately followed by a “Thank You Stan”. His next appearance, however, is a lot more meta and sees Stan Lee as himself. With most of his cameos as various different characters, and his appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 seemingly confirming that all of his other roles were actually part of his work as a ‘Watcher’.
In Captain Marvel, we see Stan as Carol chases a Skrull onto a train. Walking through the compartments she looks across to Stan Lee reading the script for Mallrats. A movie he appeared in, in real life back in 1995 (the same year Captain Marvel takes place), where he also played himself. Doubly confirming Stan Lee plays himself in this movie, the credits confirm ‘Stan Lee as Stan Lee’. Stan, like so many characters in the MCU, created the original Captain Marvel, and so his inclusion in the movie was a must.
Towards the end of the film, after Carol has learned of her true origins, and that the Kree vs Skrull war isn’t everything she had been led to believe, she decides the Kree colours are no longer appropriate for her suit. Asking Monica to give her some advice on an alternate colour scheme for her armour.
The sequence that follows sees Captain Marvel’s suit cycle through a number of colour variations, some of which reference some different suits for the character, from the comics. The Red and Black version hints at Danvers’ time as Ms. Marvel, but the most prominent is the White and Green suit, which looks to be the closest the MCU will get to showing off Captain Marvel’s original suit from the comics.
In the comics, Carol Danvers is the most prominent person to take on the mantle of Captain Marvel, but far from the first, with the original version being a Kree hero named ‘Mar-Vell’. Mar-Vell, who eventually arrives on Earth and decides to become an earthbound superhero, takes on the secret identity of Walter Lawson, eventually training and mentoring Carol as a successor to the Capital Marvel mantle.
In the MCU’s version, however, a few things are different, with the original character almost being split into two, with a new twist. The mentor figure and person who trains Carol/‘Veers’ is seemingly Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg, but in reality, the real mentor (and actual good guy) is the now female Mar-Vell. Mar-Vell is using the alias Wendy Lawson, and seemingly learned the truth about the Kree vs Skrull war, hoping to harness the Tesseract’s power and stop it.
Kelly Sue DeConnick:
Aside from Stan Lee, the MCU has filled its world with a number of other prominent and influential real-world comic book creators, mostly ones who had a particularly big influence on the featured characters. Amongst a huge list of cameos, J. Michael Straczynski appears in Thor, Ed Brubaker and in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain Marvel adds itself to that list, with a cameo from Kelly Sue DeConnick.
Kelly Sue DeConnick is an acclaimed comic book writer who has reinvigorated a number of heroes, specifically Captain Marvel, and even introduced a lot of the modern elements to her origin story, which in turn inspired the movie. Kelly Sue DeConnick is one of the first people Carol sees as she leaves the train, after her fight with the Kree.
Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser is, of course, the primary villain of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, where he is cited as a ‘Kree fanatic’, intent on ignoring the peace treaty between the Kree and Xandar. Ronan brokers a deal with Thanos only to later turn on him as well and is arguably one of the more ‘evil for the sake of evil’ villains in the MCU.
Ronan wasn’t the most developed of villains and it looked as though an appearance from a younger Ronan in Captain Marvel may make up for this. However, Ronan only features in a few scenes, and has a glorified cameo at best, thanks to some deleted scenes. His scenes do however set the stage for a possible return in future Captain Marvel movies, and it was a fun way to further flesh out the MCU.
In a similar way to Ronan’s appearance, we also see a younger Korath, who isn’t yet working for Ronan but is clearly a Kree loyalist, showing some discomfort at Yon-Rogg’s apparent preference for Veers/Carol. And with that, you can see the beginnings of why he would want to work with a Kree fanatic like Ronan.
Fury’s Eye Explained:
As his most recognisable feature, Nick Fury’s eye patch has stuck with him through almost every iteration, and yet the explanation for his loss of an eye has so far been unexplained in the MCU. In Fury’s first comic book iteration, he lost sight in his eye after being hit by some shrapnel during WWII, and in the Ultimate series, it was an explosion during the Gulf War which caused the damage to his eye (while transporting a certain ‘Weapon X’). In terms of the MCU, the only reference we’ve had to how Fury lost his eye so far, is a line from Captain America: The Winter Soldier where Fury says “Last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye.”
Captain Marvel finally reveals the truth behind it, that Goose the cat/Flerken scratched Fury’s face and, given how dangerous Flerken’s are, the scratch eventually caused Fury’s loss of vision and blue glowing eye. Interestingly (and hilariously) it also implies that Goose was the last person Fury trusted, and after being scratched, has had trust issues ever since.
Places Beginning with ‘B’:
With Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury playing such a prominent role in Captain Marvel, and this being audiences earliest chronological look at Fury, it’s only right that there are plenty of references to both where Fury has been, and where he’s headed next. When Fury and Carol decide to get to know each other a little better, in an effort to make sure neither of them is a Skrull, Fury brings up a number of his past missions, mentioning that he likes places beginning with a ‘B’.
Aside from his mentioning of Budapest being a reference to one of Black Widow and Hawkeye’s best moments in the original Avengers movie (when Black Widow compares the Chitauri attack to their time in Hungary’s capital, to Hawkeye’s “You and I remember Budapest very differently”), it also hints at Fury’s eventual assignment in Bogota. Fury’s Bogota mission is where he meets Alexander Pierce, there he ignores Pierce’s orders and ends up saving a number of lives (including Pierce’s daughter). This led to a (kind of) life long friendship between Pierce and Fury, and eventual betrayal from Pierce during Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Any movie that puts its hero (or villain) in an unfamiliar setting, in need of some transport and a change of clothes, and doesn’t take the opportunity to make a Terminator homage, is a wasted opportunity in my opinion. Thankfully Captain Marvel does just that, with Carol stealing a (douchey) guy’s motorbike and a perfectly nineties outfit complete with a leather jacket before setting off to find out who she really is.
In a similar way to Carol’s callsign actually having a deeper meaning, Captain Marvel also decided to use Maria Rambo’s callsign as an easter egg as well, one that has a number of layers, and potentially some big implications for the future of the MCU.
Not only is ‘Photon’ a Marvel superhero her in her own right, and was even Captain Marvel before Carol Danvers, but her real name is Monica Rambo – who is of course played by Akira Akbar in the movie, and is Maria’s daughter. In most MCU movies this could just be a cool hint at a hero that may come into play years down the line, but it’s important to keep in mind that Captain Marvel is taking place over twenty years in the past, from the present MCU, and so Monica would be in her thirties by now, and could very possibly be Photon already.
With the relationship between Carol, Maria, and Monica, being a central part of the movie, their conversations are also filled with easter eggs and references. One of the best is Carol calling Monica ‘Lieutenant Trouble’, which is another big hint at the Captain Marvel comics.
Lieutenant Trouble is perhaps better known as Katherine ‘Kit’ Renner, the self-proclaimed biggest fan of Captain Marvel in the comics.
Captain Marvel shares a lot in common with a number of alien invasion movies, one of the most obvious being Independence Day. Both movies have main characters that are US Air Force pilots who protect the Earth from aliens. And it seems as though the filmmakers were aware of the similarities, and decided to reference it with a very similar scene.
Towards the climax of the film, as the showdown between Carol and Yon-Rogg begins, Carol attacks Yon-Rogg’s ship forcing him into a crash landing in the desert. She then takes him out very quickly and drags him across through the sand. The scene almost exactly mirrors the iconic scene from Independence Day where Will Smith’s Captain Steven Hiller shoots down an alien and drags him across the desert (inside his parachute).
One of the hints at how Carol Danvers will reappear for Avengers: Endgame, is a reference we knew was coming at some point. After seeing Fury’s very nineties pager a few times throughout the movie Carol gives it an upgrade before leaving, telling him to call her if he needs her help. The next time we see him using it is in the post-credits scene for Avengers: Infinity War, where he calls for Marvel’s help just before he fades into dust. Other nineties tech in the film includes an original 8-bit Game Boy, a Sony Discman, and a very slow pc using Alta Vista (which was brand new in 1995).