Easter comes a bit early for space fans of "Captain Marvel," the latest movie in the Marvel universe, which follows the origin stories of Marvel herself (Brie Larson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) back in the 1990s. The film is full of space-related Easter eggs for people who look closely. Here's what Space.com saw in a recent screening..
Note: This article contains mild spoilers for "Captain Marvel."
'Space Invaders' arcade game
The characters in "Captain Marvel" unexpectedly come across the arcade version of "Space Invaders," while discussing an incredible high score by a kid who had the chance to play it frequently. Many of the first popular computer games were played in arcades (stores with banks of gaming machines), including "Space Invaders" — a Japanese arcade game first released in 1978. "Space Invaders" allowed players to defeat aliens by using a laser to zap them. The game was later released in home-console form in 1980, for use with the Atari VCS console and remains highly cited in pop culture today.
The Right Stuff
Early in "Captain Marvel," a character wanders into a videocassette store and peruses the movies available in the aisles. In the 1990s, people had to pop over to their corner store to rent movies. Viewers of "Captain Marvel" can see a whole bunch of familiar titles on the shelves, but the screenwriters make a point of having the character pick up "The Right Stuff" and peer at the cover.
What was "The Right Stuff"? This 1983 movie was based on a Tom Wolfe novel of the same name. The story follows the fighter pilots and test pilots of the 1950s and 1960s who, in some cases, went on to become the first astronauts in NASA's Project Mercury. The movie was popular in theaters and remains highly cited today, although the way it portrayed historical events is controversial. In 2016, NASA historian Bill Barry said the historical interpretations in the film were "cringe worthy." However, Chuck Yeager — the 96-year-old aviator who was the first to break the sound barrier — recently said on Twitter that the movie "portrays them [the Mercury astronauts] pretty well."
Shortly after "The Right Stuff" is shown in "Captain Marvel," a character drives out to Rosamond, Calif., and makes a pit stop at a location known as Pancho's Bar. This is clearly another reference to "The Right Stuff," for two reasons. The first is that there are pictures of fighter jets and their pilots all over the walls. The second is, for viewers who are familiar with the book "Pancho's Bar," the name is a reference to The Happy Bottom Riding Club, a popular drinking location for pilots at nearby Edwards Air Force Base (then known as Muroc Army Air Field).
The club was run by Pancho Barnes, a female pilot who not only flew stunts and appeared in movies, flying airplanes, but who also broke Amelia Earhart's air-speed record in 1930, according to "Encyclopedia Britannica." As seen in the movie, Pancho's Bar had pictures of airplanes and pilots on the walls. The real-life bar burned down in the 1950s and was never rebuilt.
In "Captain Marvel," we get a lot of discussion about a plane project known as Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. The project, which is not based on a real-world initiative, included a fictional collaboration between NASA and the United States Air Force to use a newly discovered technology to make planes fly nearly as fast as the speed of light. We can't say too much about the project without getting into major spoilers here, but we'll emphasize that P.E.G.A.S.U.S. is very important in the Marvel universe and to the plot of "Captain Marvel."
Miscellaneous space goodies
Besides Easter eggs, there's plenty of eye candy for space fans in "Captain Marvel." You'll see a variety of spaceships, a special bodysuit that can be used in the cosmos, and views of several planets floating in space. By the way, Earth has a few different designations among alien species in the film; they call our planet "C-53," "Terra" or "Midgard," depending on who you're talking to.