So far Marvel has released two movies primarily set in the past: Captain America: The First Avenger, which told Steve Rogers' origin story in World War II, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which took place in 2014, a few months after Guardians of the Galaxy. In 2019, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will turn its gaze back in time once more for Captain Marvel, as it was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con that the movie will be set in the 1990s. Not only that, it will also feature a younger Nick Fury who still has two working eyes. Many are looking forward to seeing Carol Danvers' cinematic debut and her fight against the Skrulls, but setting her movie in the 1990s has an added benefit: it can provide the background for why Nick Fury believed it was necessary to implement the Avengers Initiative over a decade later.
Let's look at what we've learned about Nick Fury's past from the movies so far. He knew Howard Stark, he successfully pulled off a rescue mission in Bogota. he was appointed S.H.I.E.L.D. director by Alexander Pierce and he lost his eye due to misplaced trust in someone. That's not a lot of information, and while we certainly don't need to know everything about Fury's life, Captain Marvel is an excellent platform to shed light on his experiences with enhanced individuals and extraterrestrial life. After all, he barely blinked an eye at seeing Asgardian gods and aliens flying out of portals in The Avengers. He had a taste of this weirdness two decades earlier as preparation.
On the superhero front, think about what Nick Fury said to Tony Stark in the Iron Man post-credits scene:
You think you're the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet.
Who was Nick Fury specifically talking about? Captain America qualifies, but he'd been considered dead for over 50 years by that point. Hulk is most certainly an enhanced, but he's hardly considered heroic by those aware of his existence at that time. As far as we know, Fury didn't know about the sorcerers of Kamar-Taj, so it appears that Captain Marvel will be Fury's first time seeing a superhero in action. More importantly, he'll presumably be one of the few people who witnesses the Skrull attack on Earth, since the Battle of New York was when all of humanity learned that aliens existed. Fury's involvement is the key towards him realizing that our world needs a group of remarkable people to protect us.
We don't know the specific details about Captain Marvel's plot yet, but if Nick Fury does play a hand in helping Carol battle the Skrulls (which might result in him losing his eye if we consider his trust comment from The Winter Soldier with the fact that Skrulls can shape shift), then his experience in this '90s alien brawl fest will plant the seeds for what will eventually become the Avengers Initiative. Nick Fury is one of history's best spies, but there's only so much he can to with subterfuge and firearms if Earth is threatened by unusual forces. After seeing Carol use her amazing abilities to defeat the Skrulls and any other enemies that might pop up in the movie, Fury will start looking for individuals who fit this criteria, though it will be many years before he successfully implements this "Phase 1" project.
Make no mistake, Carol Danvers will be the star of Captain Marvel, and we wouldn't have it any other way. She's one of the more interesting heroes from Marvel Comics, and it's important to spotlight her not just because she's the first female protagonist to lead her own movie in the MCU, but also because she's one of the more powerful superheroes from Earth. And the 1990s itself will be an interesting setting for the movie. It may seem like just yesterday for some of you that grunge and slap bracelets were all the rage, but enough time has passed for this to feel like a proper period piece. But since Nick Fury will be a key supporting character in Captain Marvel, this is a great opportunity to learn how Fury went from being a badass spy to a badass superhero recruiter.
If all goes like we imagine, he'll be inspired by Carol's heroism and start working towards gathering together a team of people similar to her so they can fend off global threats that normal humans can't handle, like the Skrulls. The team that will one day vanquish a Chitarui invasion, an army of megalomaniacal robots and hopefully a purple-skinned warlord who wants to change reality with the Infinity Stones.
Captain Marvel hits theaters on March 8, 2019, but before that, we'll see the present day Nick Fury return when Avengers: Infinity War is released in May 4, 2018.