Captain Marvel is an origin story for Nick Fury as well as Carol Danvers, but if (as many fans are anticipating) it shows how Fury lost his eye, it will create a plot hole for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Captain Marvel's (Brie Larson) debut movie takes place in 1995, and will chart her origins as an augmented human hero, who is caught up in the Kree-Skrull War. Yet Marvel’s newest movie faces more challenges with sticking to canon than other superhero films do.
Most Marvel Cinametic Universe installments tend to take place in the year of their release (which has led to the MCU's somewhat broken timeline). But due to its chosen time frame, Captain Marvel also serves as a retcon of the franchise’s fictional history. As such, the film has to work harder to fit into the MCU's continuity, explaining why none of its events have been referenced in any of Marvel’s other releases, and why Captain Marvel herself has been absent through all of the Avengers' other battles.
In an attempt to seamlessly include Captain Marvel into the fabric of the MCU, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are bringing back several familiar faces, such as Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. Neither will be the experienced agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that we are familiar with. Indeed, Captain Marvel will chart the circumstances that shaped both characters into the two determined defenders of Earth that audiences know. But by exploring the pivotal moments in Nick Fury’s past, Captain Marvel could contradict a key detail from The Winter Soldier.
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Captain Marvel Explores Nick Fury's Past In The MCU
Nick Fury’s military career began when he joined the United States Army, before he became a spy for the CIA during the Cold War. Not too long after this, he was recruited by Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) to join the growing ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Coincidentally, Pierce – the main villain of Captain America: The Winter Soldier – was Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. during the events of Captain Marvel, though we don't know if he was also working for HYDRA at this time.
However, Nick Fury is not the cynical, enigmatic super-spy in Captain Marvel that audiences met in other MCU movies. As Jackson previously revealed, Fury is an optimistic yet lowly S.H.I.E.L.D. worker, who will soon become part of the bigger universe that he described to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) back in Iron Man’s famed post credit scene. While this is a compelling way for Captain Marvel to explore Fury’s origins, it does stretch credulity somewhat. If Fury is near the bottom of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s hierarchy in 1995, then it seems unlikely that he could become director within thirteen years, given that most intelligence workers take decades to ascend through similar government agencies in real-life. But logic is not the issue with Fury’s inclusion in Captain Marvel. Rather, it is Fury’s physical appearance – and the way that it changes – that may cause a continuity problem.
To depict a younger version of Nick Fury, Captain Marvel will utilize de-aging technology. Yet in the context of the MCU, this is one of the rare times that Nick Fury is seen with both of his eyes intact. Indeed, Nick Fury's injury has captivated fans of the MCU, since, after all this time, fans don't know much about his past. However, The Winter Soldier contains one of the few clues about Fury's history – and his injury.
After the near-disastrous mission aboard the Lemurian Star, Steve Rogers criticizes Fury for his ever-suspicious attitude. Fury retorts that the last time he trusted someone, he lost an eye. Because Fury has both eyes in Captain Marvel – and only one in the films succeeding it in the MCU timeline – it's widely believed that Nick Fury will lose his left eye during the course of the movie. This is not just idle speculation, because everything known about Fury and his eye-loss complements Captain Marvel’s plot.
UPDATE: Samuel L. Jackson has confirmed that Nick Fury will lose his eye in Captain Marvel.
Captain Marvel will not only mark Carol Danvers' entrance into the MCU, but will also introduce the Skrulls into the shared universe. This villainous alien race has the ability to shape-shift; as such, they can easily mimic the friends and relatives of Marvel’s heroes as they did in the popular Secret Invasion event in the comics. Moreover, Captain Marvel will see the primary Skrull antagonist, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), impersonate Fury’s boss within S.H.I.E.L.D.
As previously mentioned, Captain Marvel will find Fury in a far more trusting position, so the loss of his eye is, therefore, a very suitable moment to depict in Captain Marvel. Indeed, the betrayal Fury once revealed has already been set up by the movie's premise. Not only would it demonstrate the sinister capabilities of the Skrull race, but it would also serve Fury’s story arc, catalyzing his transition into the hardened strategist fans know from The Avengers. Depending on how it's handled, Fury’s blinding would be a dramatic and shocking scene to reproduce in the film. But by doing so, Captain Marvel will clash with one vital detail contained in The Winter Soldier.
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Captain Marvel Will Contradict Nick Fury's Timeline In Winter Soldier
Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is instantly recognizable, mainly because he wears an eye patch over his ruined eye. Coupled with his baldness, scarring, and goatee, Fury has looked the same in nearly all of his MCU appearances, from Iron Man through to Avengers: Infinity War. But prior to Captain Marvel, The Winter Soldier has briefly showcased Fury in a different manner.
As fans will recall, during the course of The Winter Soldier, Fury appears to "die" after he's targeted by the eponymous assassin, a.k.a. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Soon after this, Alexander Pierce questions Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) about Fury’s supposedly traitorous activities. In their conversation, Pierce shows Captain America a photograph of him and Nick Fury, where the latter is taking an oath. Given that this is the type of ceremony that FBI directors engage in when they assume office, it's highly likely that this is when Fury is succeeding Pierce and being sworn in as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Pierce recalls that he met Fury when the latter was S.H.I.E.L.D.’s station deputy of their Bogotá facility. Aside from Pierce saying that the photo was taken five years after this event, The Winter Soldier doesn’t specify when this occurred within the MCU’s timeline. Yet this scene confirms that, at this pivotal part of Nick Fury’s life, both of his eyes were healthy and whole.
On first inspection, the youthful Nick Fury in Captain Marvel seems to complement this depiction. Aside from having more hair in Captain Marvel than in The Winter Soldier’s photograph, the new movie similarly shows Fury with two undamaged eyes. But this is where things break down; Captain America: The Winter Soldier depicts Nick Fury becoming both Deputy Chief of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Bogotá station and Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. with both eyes intact. If Fury’s fateful betrayal occurs in Captain Marvel when he’s only a desk jockey, then the new movie will create a plot hole. After all, how can Fury have both eyes when he's being sworn in as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., when he lost his left eye years earlier in Captain Marvel?
By choosing to portray compelling moments like this, the MCU risks contradicting itself as it expands. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of pitfalls that occur with shared universes. As fictional worlds become increasingly embellished, it becomes more difficult for storytellers to negotiate the interwoven narrative – and visual – threads. The plot holes that can inevitably result may bug the more obsessive fans, but ultimately the story must always come first in filmmaking. Captain Marvel has yet to be released, but it stands to reason that the loss of Fury’s eye could be a harrowing, impactful moment within the context of the movie. If it's done well, we can probably forgive the minor plot hole it creates.