WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Captain Marvel, in theaters now.
With its 1995 setting, Captain Marvel has plenty of opportunities for nods to the future of Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. to the Avengers Initiative. But, like most any film, the 21st installment of the MCU also falls victim to plot holes, some relatively minor and others a little more significant.
An additional warning: We're about to become the embodiment of the "Well, actually ..." subclass of nerds. Admittedly, some of these plot holes are instances of acute nitpicking. Others, however, are whirling maws just howling for any sort of explanation. That said, we're not going to get hung up on the film's minor anachronisms, like the fact that Carol wouldn't have heard Nirvana's "Come As You Are," as she was off-planet when the song was released. On the other hand, we will also address purported "plot holes" raised elsewhere that actually have logical explanations.
Let's just get this out of the way: Stan Lee's cameo in Captain Marvel creates an in-universe paradox. While searching for a Skrull on a bus, Carol comes across Stan Lee reading a script for 1995's Mallrats, in preparation for his cameo role. For his cameo in Mallrats, Lee offers Brodie advice on romance, citing his own work on The Amazing Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk while dodging questions about The Thing's thing. Incidentally, Mallrats was filmed between March 1995 and April 1995, while Captain Marvel is set in June.
Honestly, we're going to let that paradoxical anachronism slide. The Mallrats script is a clever way of incorporating Lee into the film, and acknowledging his first cinematic cameo. Furthermore, this cameo is the only instance in the MCU in which Lee explicitly plays himself.
KEEP BOTH EYES OPEN
Dramatically rising out of a chair in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury explains to Steve Rogers, "The last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye." From Cap's perspective, Fury is hinting at skullduggery from a former ally. In actuality, Fury is referring to that time he got too friendly with Goose the Flerken, an alien powerful enough to engulf the Tesseract while still retaining the omega-level cuteness factor of a cat.
Some claim that Goose's actions retcon Fury's original statement, but hilariously enough he is still technically correct. Fury wanted cuddles from what he thought was a "motherflerkin" friend, only to get an eye scratched out. This also explains why Fury is sterner outside of Captain Marvel, because the last time he got cuddly, he lost an eye. Incidentally, when Fury reveals his dead eye in The Winter Soldier, his scars match Goose's scratches.
WHY DO THE KREE HATE THE SKRULLS?
The biggest twist in Captain Marvel is that the Skrulls, the heavily advertised shape-shifting antagonists, aren't actually the villains of the film. In actuality, they're alien refugees, trying to find peace while being pursued and exterminated by the militaristic Kree. While we're told that the Skrulls are invaders, that's merely Kree propaganda. Beyond the Skrulls' refusal to serve the Kree, no explanation is given for the latter's genocidal levels of hatred. We'll have to assume the Kree are just racists, even though their empire is more ethnically diverse than humans.
IF THE APOCALYPSE COMES, BEEP ME
Without a doubt, the biggest plot hole in Captain Marvel is why Carol has been absent throughout 20 films, despite being the most powerful hero in Nick Fury's contact list. Alternatively, why did Fury wait until half of the universe had been snapped out of existence to call in the cavalry using his modified pager?
ONLY '90s KIDS WILL REMEMBER THIS
With her powers fully activated, Captain Marvel tears through an attacking Kree fleet with ease, and simultaneously punches out a volley of missiles targeting Earth. While this feat is impressive enough to cause Ronan to retreat, it also raises the question: Why doesn't anyone remember when Earth was almost destroyed by an extraterrestrial orbital bombardment in 1995? We don't care how clandestine S.H.I.E.L.D. can be – everybody saw that go down. Furthermore, why does no one remember Captain Marvel, who was publicly using her powers?
While we have no explanation for why nobody ever mentions the events from Captain Marvel, we do get a hint as to what the Skrulls have been up to. During the autopsy scene, Fury refers to a Skrull as a "lizard person." That loosely implies that every "lizard people" conspiracy theory actually refers to the Skrulls, at least within the MCU.
THE QUOTE-UNQUOTE SUPREME INTELLIGENCE
During the final battle of wits and Nirvana music between Captain Marvel and the Supreme Intelligence, the super-computer Kree dictator shows Carol a montage of her "failures" in life, ranging from crashing a go-kart to falling from a ropes course. But rather than demoralizing her, the montage actually jogs Carol's memory, as immediately after each failure she found the strength to rise again. Now motivated, Carol finds the courage to keep fighting.
Supreme Intelligence, have you never seen Inside Out? Every clip from this epic-fail compilation immediately led to formative moments of determination. In all likelihood, Carol was probably already using these memories to motivate herself. Furthermore, by the Supreme Intelligence's own admission, Carol is only human, so it's not as if she's infallible. Surely, there's a memory somewhere where Carol had an awkward handshake or mistrusted a fart.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Jude Law as the commander of Starforce, Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser, Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer, Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva, Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau, Algenis Perez Soto as Att-Lass, McKenna Grace as a young Carol Danvers and Annette Bening as the Supreme Intelligence.