Marvel Studios did a pretty impressive job de-aging Michael Douglas in Ant-Man, Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War, and Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - and they may have to crank the digital technology up to 11 for 2019’s Captain Marvel. As more implications of the film being set in the early 1990s MCU (see our take on what that means in conjunction with the Skrulls being the main villain) occur to the Marvel faithful, it dawned on us a two-eyed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) may not be the only contemporary character FX wizards have to take 25 years off of (grammatical clumsiness aside).
Brie Laron’s Carol Danvers is described by Marvel Studios as an Air Force pilot whose DNA is fused with that of an alien during an accident. We’re focusing on the Air Force pilot part today along with the fact that we now know she’s an early 1990s Air Force pilot.
Interestingly, in the real world, while women began to be admitted to the Air Force training program and allowed to fly non-combat missions in the early 70s, it wasn’t until the early 90s - 1993, in fact - that the United States Air Force began permitting women to serve as combat pilots.
If Marvel Studios is smart (and let’s face it, they are), they’ll likely take advantage of that real historical milestone to make Carol one of the first, if not the first, female Air Force combat pilots, adding a fun extra layer of true life groundbreaking for what will already be a groundbreaking role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So assuming she’s a hot shot, glass ceiling-breaking Air Force pilot circa 1993, it seems like a natural assumption she’d be a contemporary of - and/or at least almost certainly known to - James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes.
Rhodey was colonel in the Air Force when we meet him in 2008’s Iron Man. Actor Don Cheadle, who took up the role in 2010 for Iron Man 2, was born in 1964. According to a former Air Force pilot Newsarama consulted (yes, we consulted a former Air Force pilot), colonels in that branch of the military are usually around 47-50. Rhodey would have been 43 by Cheadle’s age in 2008, so Marvel is fudging a tiny bit but well within the suspension of disbelief margin of error.
Obviously, Rhodey was a prodigy/fast-riser, right?
Our Air Force pilot friend also pegs most top combat pilots in the 30-35 year-old range, but added there can be pilots in their late 20s.
And in real life, the first female Air Force combat pilot, Jeannie Leavitt, was 26 when she began in 1993 - later earning the 'Captain' rank in 1995.
So in smash-up real-movie time, Cheadle/Rhodey would have been 29 in 1993 - the same age Larson will be when the 2019 film premieres. How that’s for checking our math?
Marvel Studios loves to interlink their films where they can, with history doubling up on itself in interesting ways (see: Carter, Peggy and Bucky doing the Starks dirty).
And Marvel Comics has even flirted with a Carol-Rhodey romantic relationship in the past.
So could this mean a digitally-crafted young Rhodey will make an appearance of any significance in Captain Marvel?
If we had a bet we’d say yes. If we had a choice we’d say bring him on.
You can never have enough Don Cheadle, no matter what his digital age.