'Captain Marvel' to 'Avengers: Endgame': Why Doesn't Carol Danvers Age?
When Thanos snaps his fingers with the full might of the Infinity Gauntlet at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, annihilating half of all living creatures in existence, around 23 years have passed since Carol Danvers had her first adventure during Captain Marvel. In the MCU, Danvers was born around 1960, so how is it that the 29-year-old Brie Larson portrays the character in both timelines?
Part of the explanation probably has a lot to do with her being the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, Captain America and Winter Soldier are both a century old when Infinity War happens and they still look great, so it’s not outlandish to think that Carol’s immense powers preserve her youth.
However, there’s also a very sciency (and spoilery) explanation as to why Danvers doesn’t age between Captain Marvel and Endgame, and it has a lot to do with the real-life physics behind Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity.
Spoilers follow for Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.
Unlike Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, Carol Danvers never undergoes cryogenic freezing to stall her aging. (For what it’s worth, both super soldiers probably age at a slower rate than normal human beings anyway.) For Carol, who was imbued with the energy of the Space Stone following an explosion in 1989, her astronomical power levels grant her strength unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
She could easily beat Hulk in an arm-wrestling match, and will probably be the one to soundly defeat Thanos in Endgame. But when Captain Marvel ends, she flies away at the speed of light to guide a ship full of Skrull refugees to a new home somewhere several galaxies away. Hopefully, somewhere the Kree military empire can’t reach them.
Danvers herself seemingly flies alongside the ship just as fast. Along with super-strength, durability close to invulnerability, and the ability to shoot powerful photon blasts from her arms, Carol Danvers can also fly in the vacuum of space at the speed of light.
Traveling this fast hasn’t ever been depicted in the MCU before. Most spacefaring vessels we see in films like Guardians of the Galaxy utilize a series of wormholes to move around the Andromeda galaxy. You go through one hole in spacetime and pop out at a specific destination on the other end, making multiple jumps to get very far away in a shorter amount of time.
Traveling at the speed of light opens up new possibilities for MCU movies to visit some of the billions of galaxies out there — so far we’ve only seen two.
In real-life, traveling close to or at the speed of light causes an effect known as time dilation, in accordance with Einstein’s theory of special relativity.
Einstein theorized over a century ago that spacetime — a mathematical model that joins space and time in a continuum — is curved by the presence of gravity, matter, energy, and momentum. Time itself is relative to the observer, and it’s affected by these factors.
For someone on Earth, time might progress normally, but for an ultra-powerful being rocketing through the universe at the speed of light, time slows down immensely. For Danvers, she might have been traveling for months or even less, but back on Earth years would’ve passed … 23 of them to be precise.
To help understand the effect, recall Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar when Matthew McConaughey goes off in search of a new inhabitable planet to colonize. The same time dilation happens when he explores a planet that’s too close to a black hole. The gravitational force slows time down to the extent that one hour there equates to seven years back on Earth. By the time he makes it back to Earth, his daughter is an old woman on her deathbed.
We don’t know how far Danvers traveled with the Skrulls or how fast they really traveled, but she did remark that the two-way pager she modified for Nick Fury had a range of a few galaxies, so it was probably really far.
How much time has really passed for Carol Danvers during those 23 Earth years? Hopefully we find out in Avengers: Endgame.
Captain Marvel hits theaters on March 8, with Avengers: Endgame arriving on April 26.