Can Captain Marvel Time Travel? No, but Here's How She'll Save the Avengers Anyway
Warning: This post contains a few spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War AND CAptain Marvel!
By now, as I'm sure you're painfully aware, Avengers: Infinity War wraps up on a heartbreaking note: Thanos fulfills his mission of obtaining all six powerful Infinity Stones and vaporizes half of the universe's population with a literal snap of his fingers. That means some of our beloved Avengers turn to dust before our eyes, including S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). Their deaths go down in the film's sole postcredits scene, one that sneakily sets up 2019's Captain Marvel. Now that Carol Danvers herself has blasted into theaters, we have a bit more insight into how she'll help save our favorite superheroes by the time Avengers: Endgame rolls around.
Once you recovered from the shock of seeing the new hero's red, yellow, and blue symbol flash on Fury's beeper back in Infinity War, you might have had a few questions. First, where does one purchase a beeper in this day and age? And second, since Captain Marvel — aka Danvers — comes into her powers in the '90s, how is she going to zip up to the late 2010s to help take on Thanos and save the universe? Can she time travel or what?
This question is further complicated by Captain Marvel's first postcredits scene (yes, there are two), which sees Carol popping up in the Avengers compound, surprising the hell out of Steve, Nat, Bruce, and Rhodey. Since the events of her standalone movie end in 1995, that's a pretty big time gap to bridge.
To understand how she made such a jump, we need to dig into the ins and outs of Captain Marvel's powers. They're pretty important, as far as the MCU is concerned. In fact, she's so damn important that the Avengers have basically no chance of defeating Thanos without her. The film, which stars Brie Larson as Danvers, tracks her rise from an Air Force pilot into one of the most powerful cosmic beings the world has ever seen (though in a trickier order than you might be anticipating). She develops her abilities when her human DNA is fused with that of a Kree alien, after an explosion of the lightspeed tech her scientist mentor, Mar-Vell (Annette Bening), had been working on for months.
Her newfound abilities include enhanced durability, speed, flight, inhuman strength, and the power to shoot unbelievably powerful energy bursts from her hands. The one thing she doesn't possess is the ability to travel through time whenever she pleases, which makes her confirmed appearance in Endgame a little tricky. Although she can't time travel in the traditional sense (or in the way Doctor Strange can with the Time Stone), there's still a way she'll be able to skip over a few decades to aid the Avengers post-Thanos.
Given Captain Marvel's enhanced durability and other powers, it stands to reason that she could survive a trip through the quantum realm first introduced in Ant-Man. A popular theory about Endgame posited that Ant-Man and the Wasp would discover doorways to alternate universes in the quantum realm in their sequel. Although that didn't happen exactly, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) does end up trapped in the Quantum Realm in the Ant-Man and the Wasp postcredits scene, which hints that he'll become vital to Captain Marvel's mission. The connection has already been hinted about by real-life quantum physicist and Marvel consultant Dr. Spiros Michalakis, who told Inverse in 2017 that the quantum realm will play a major part in both Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel.
"This is exciting for the future. There are different ways that some of these ideas appear on screen in a few years," he said. "Not just for Ant-Man, but also for Captain Marvel and all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe."
Dr. Michalakis further elaborated on this idea in a 2015 blog post:
"If someone could go to a place where the laws of physics as we know them were not yet formed, at a place where the arrow of time was broken and the fabric of space was not yet woven, the powers of such a master of the quantum realm would only be constrained by their ability to come back to the same (or similar) reality from which they departed. All the superheroes of Marvel and DC Comics combined would stand no chance against Ant-Man with a malfunctioning regulator."
So, keeping all this in mind, it sounds like anyone who has the ability to withstand (and somewhat master) the quantum realm could also be powerful enough to take on Thanos. What we don't know just yet is how Nick Fury's beeper message gets through to her – does she receive it in real time (the present, meaning she'd already traveled forward), or is the beeper deceptively high-tech and able to send messages to the past (the '90s, when her film is set)?
There's also the matter of Captain Marvel's possession of Cosmic Awareness in the comics. The power is first seen in Mar-Vell, and it's described as increasing his intellect, granting him limited precognitive powers and the ability to ascertain an opponent's weakness. At one point, he also possessed the ability to teleport and cast illusions." Armed with a power like that, it wouldn't be a total surprise if Carol is able to hop through time at the blink of an eye. The thing that gives us pause is that we don't see any inkling of an ability like that in Captain Marvel, though the movie does end just as she's accessing the full spectrum of her strength.
We can't know for sure what the future holds for Carol and the rest of the Avengers, but in the meantime, there are plenty of theories about Endgame to obsess over.