Avengers: Endgame has officially come to theaters, destroying every box office record with a ferocity and ruthlessness that would make Thanos proud. And while the movie has received an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and fans alike, the massive movie has also raised a fair amount of pointed questions. Like who was that random teen at Tony’s funeral? Who makes outfits for Hulkified Bruce Banner? And, most importantly, why did Endgame completely waste Captain Marvel? After all, the newest Avenger seemed destined to establish herself as the baddest hero around but instead, she did very little in terms of what actually happened in the movie.
Before we look at Marvel’s surprisingly small role in Endgame, let’s look at why people assumed she would have a big role in the first place. The biggest reason that most of us assumed Captain Marvel would have a massive presence in Endgame‘s endgame was her sudden and mysterious prominence in the larger MCU canon, starting with Nick Fury reaching out to her just as he was about to disintegrate at the end of Infinity War. As the architect of the Avengers, Fury has always prided himself as a man with all the answers and so it stood to reason that if he used what could possibly have been his last moments of existence making sure Captain Marvel returned to earth, she must be pretty fucking essential to saving the day.
This line of thinking was only magnified by Captain Marvel coming to theaters a little over a month before Endgame, as well as the movie itself, which made a clear demonstration of the fact that the titular hero had powers that would even make Thor shake in his Asgardian boots. The cherry on top of the speculative cake was Captain Marvel‘s mid-credits scene, where we see Captain America, Black Widow, Bruce Banner, and War Machine in a S.H.I.E.L.D. hideout wondering about the pager when suddenly, Captain Marvel appears and asks where Fury is.
With this mountain of evidence, speculation naturally abound. Some wondered if she would team up with Ant-Man to use the Quantum Realm to travel through time. Others said she is the one strong enough to beat Thanos. But no matter what particular theory you subscribed to, there only seemed to be one logical conclusion: Captain Marvel would prove to be the key to the Avengers undoing Thanos’ unique form of population control.
But it turns out, Marvel’s role in Endgame was pretty cool but mostly inconsequential. She shows up to help the Avengers find Thanos working on his garden, allowing Thor to finish the job and behead the being responsible for wiping out half the universe, which is shown to be little more than a moral victory. After that? Marvel is basically relegated to second-tier status on the Avengers, as she is briefly shown five years later just to let everyone know that she was off helping other planets, taking her completely out of commission during the time travel saga (aka the actual plot of the movie).
Marvel does return in time for the massive final showdown against Thanos and his forces and, to be fair, she kicks a whole lot of ass during the super war to end all super wars. But even as she is making her case to take the title of mightiest Avenger from Hulkified Bruce or Thor, she still doesn’t have a hand in the plan to take down Thanos other than participating in the extended game of keep-away with his beloved gauntlet.
Why did Captain Marvel play such a small role? The obvious answer seems to be due to the fact that this is the last ride for Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, so the majority of Endgame was dedicated to the original Avengers. But if that’s the case, why was perennial B-lister Ant-Man so fucking important to the plot? And given Endgame’s three-hour runtime, it’s hard not to feel like Marvel’s overall presence in Endgame was entirely underwhelming and a massive waste of an opportunity by the MCU.
With Tony and Steve officially riding off into the sunset, this was the perfect time to reassure fans that they were still in capable hands with the remaining supers, especially the brand new hero who arguably has the best powers of any of the Avengers and shares the name with the damn franchise. It stands to reason that Captain Marvel’s role in the MCU will only grow with the upcoming Fourth Phase and what better way to understand her place in the Avengers than to actually give her something important to do? Instead, she was forced to mostly sit on the sidelines while Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the OG gang got to have all the fun. What a waste.