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The cosmic Captain Marvel is currently taking over the International Women’s Day box office. In doing so, it’s also confirmed an astonishing fan theory and possibly introduced a future (powerful) Avenger who may have far-reaching effects. However, the film didn’t forget about the man behind the MCU’s characters, and it began with a great tribute — a Marvel Studios opener that was centric to legend Stan Lee. This led to applause in theaters, but Lee also filmed an actual cameo (as was his custom) before his death.
This arrived with an Easter egg that could have bold implications, but it was also a touching moment, given that directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck updated the scene following Lee’s death to make it less humorous and more weighty. Lee appears on a subway train in which Carol Danvers is attempting to find a shapeshifting Skrull within the car. The finished scene version shows her gaze lingering upon Lee before she breaks her stoic character, and Boden told Mashable that this was done to reflect the “gravitas” of the moment:
“[W]e had a little bit of a smile from Captain Marvel in response to it, and she kind of breaks character for a moment. I think it reflects a little bit of what the audience is feeling, and we allowed that to happen.”
Indeed, Danvers doesn’t smile much in the movie, and Brie Larson fired back at trolls who told her to fix that “problem,” but Danvers (who still believed herself to be Vers at that point) busted out a knowing and respectful grin for Lee. And did you catch a glimpse of what Lee was reading? That was a Mallrats script, which must have only added to the enthusiasm that director Kevin Smith feels for Captain Marvel. That easter egg is a layered one. Given that Captain Marvel takes place in the 1990s, Lee is not simply making a cameo as a mere subway passenger — he’s actually playing himself while rehearsing his Mallrats lines for a scene where he imparts dating wisdom upon Jason Lee’s Brodie character. Nerdist has gone hog-wild while considering what this means:
If Stan Lee exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where he created the comic book characters Bruce Banner and Peter Parker, then they went from being his fictional ideas to fully formed, fully realized people in that same world. That means in the MCU, Stan Lee, famed comic book writer, was either a prophet or a literal god.
Mallrats, of course, takes pains to name-check Lee as the creator of The Hulk and Spider-Man, so this is getting awfully circular, but yes, let’s it’s wild to consider that Stan Lee could now be a literal god in the MCU. Here’s that wonderful Mallrats scene if you’d like to watch again.