Captain Marvel is the final stop on the Marvel Cinematic Universe space train that's been tearing toward Avengers: Endgame for the last 11 years. Tying a variety of franchises with varying tones and a huge number of characters together into the masterful tapestry that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe is basically a miracle. This has never been done before--or even attempted--which means there's no set template for how to end it. At some point, Marvel had to decide whether the penultimate movie in the series, Captain Marvel, would be essential viewing to understanding Endgame.
That's an important question for the more casual of MCU fans among us: Is Captain Marvel essential viewing? Do you have to go see Marvel's first movie starring a female superhero if you want to have any hope of understanding what's going on in Endgame?
The answer, ultimately, is probably not. From what we've seen in Captain Marvel, it doesn't directly inform any threads that were left behind in Avengers: Infinity War--but at this point, we can't exactly be 100% certain, considering Endgame is still on the horizon.
Here are the facts: Avengers: Infinity War ended with a pretty killer Captain Marvel tease, as Nick Fury's final act before disintegrating into cosmic dust was to send a message using what appeared--and indeed turned out--to be a modified 1990s era pager. As the camera zoomed in on that strange, retro plot device, an unmistakable logo appeared: Captain Marvel's red-and-blue-flanked star.
The Captain Marvel movie had already been announced as Marvel's first female-led MCU adventure way back in 2014--five years ago!--and Brie Larson was introduced as the actress playing Carol Danvers in 2016. The movie was eventually delayed from a planned 2018 release date into 2019, but other than that, we heard very little about Captain Marvel between 2016 and Infinity War's release last year. But with the teaser following Thanos's Snap, it became clear that Carol Danvers will play a part in the finale of the MCU's first three phases in Avengers: Endgame.
That leads us to the question: Do you need to see Captain Marvel's standalone movie if you want to understand the hero's role in Endgame? We say probably not, because whatever her role in the upcoming movie is, Marvel will likely take some time to re-introduce her to audiences in Endgame itself. There's a perfect opportunity built into the plot, as the rest of the remaining Avengers and other heroes--Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Ant Man, Rocket, Nebula, and War Machine--currently have no idea who she is, and they'll have to meet her at some point. We do get to see a brief meeting between Thor and Captain Marvel in the new Endgame trailer. (We have a recap if you want to know what happens in Captain Marvel's end credits scenes; one does tie directly to Endgame.)
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Even if Endgame brushes quickly past this introduction--the movie will no doubt have a lot to jam in when it comes to undoing Thanos's victory--there will be countless ways to catch up on Captain Marvel's story before Endgame comes out. If you just can't bring yourself to head to the theater in the coming weeks and see it for yourself, you can still check out our explainers for everything the movie establishes, from how Captain Marvel got her powers to what it reveals about Nick Fury's origins and the beginnings of the Avengers Initiative. It's also got plenty of Easter eggs.
All that said: Even if Captain Marvel feels like a somewhat unnecessary narrative cul-de-sac this close to Avengers: Endgame's release on April 26 (which I argue in my review), it's still an extremely solid entry in the MCU in its own right. It certainly doesn't reach the previous heights of movies like Civil War, Winter Soldier, Black Panther, and Infinity War--or even worthy side stories like the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie--but Carol's origin story is a fun adventure with a strong hero front and center, the great blend of action, drama, and comedy we've come to expect from the MCU, and a fun mystery at its core.
If you have the ability to go see Captain Marvel, absolutely do. We can't be completely sure at this point whether or not Carol's origin story will be integral to understanding everything that's about to go down in Avengers: Endgame. But if you're wondering whether Captain Marvel is absolutely essential viewing in the build-up to the Avengers' final fight, my money is on "no."