marvel nebula

How Nebula Was Silently Turned Into The Key Character Of “Avengers: Endgame”

Blue skin, eyes filled with blazing hatred and a tragic backstory. Nebula, the nefarious daughter of Thanos, was the ace in the sleeve of the creators of “Avengers: Endgame”. Why was she given such a pivotal role? What’s the true importance of Nebula as an Avenger?

As I wrote in my review of “Avengers: Endgame”, the final installment in the Marvel saga didn’t blow me off my feet. While the film works as an entertaining blockbuster, it lacked a certain degree of artistry to call it more than the simple sum of all its predecessors. You could hear a faint heartbeat of something more ambitious, but Marvel delivered the bread and circuses as the crowd expected, at the same mitigating the risk of having a puncture right before the decade-long race ends.

Smart business-wise, a little bit underwhelming fun-wise.


Among other things, part of what’s wrong in this finale is the selfishness of its glorious heroes.

Their worthiness becomes doubtful in a film where they speak only about themselves, making the viewers watch a tea party, where you can only smell the scent, but never actually taste the drink.

But in all that mess, there was a lovely surprise. A character, whose arc felt believable and gave grounds to an awesome female character (the plan was probably the same in the case of Captain Marvel).

nebula karen Gillan vs nebula in comic books cultural hater

A tale of hatred and redemption

Nebula debuted in 1985 in The Avengers #257, as a space pirate and galactic marauder who – among other things – fought against the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as tried to lure Captain Marvel to join her off-the-hook band.

Without the slightest doubt, Nebula belonged to the bad guys.

The big-screen debut took place in 2014. In the bonkers “Guardians of the Galaxy” (which made fun out of all the other poignant superhero movies before “Deadpool” made this thing cool) Nebula was painted as a deadly assassin with incredible agility and fighting skills. With a heavily changed appearance in comparison to the comic book from the 90s, Nebula reminded me of a “Star Wars” character, more than the blue Wonder Woman (take a look at the picture above to see what I mean). And Karen Gillan nailed this role.

According to both comic book and James Gunn’s movie, Nebula was also unhealthily keen on getting rid of her father’s favorite, Gamora.

“My father would have Gamora and me battle one another in training. Every time, my sister prevailed. My father would replace a piece of me with machinery, claiming he wanted me to be her equal. But she won. Again, and again, and again, never once refraining.”

Ever since she remembered, being the lesser sibling in every aspect was her everyday bread. Nebula rose to believe that without Gamora by his side, Thanos would pick her as the successor to daddy’s favorite.

Since you’ve scrolled here, you saw that red bar that says spoilers below. In the next part, there’s going to be plenty of them. This means that no whining about them will be accepted.

Nebula in comic book by Marvel

What’s Nebula’s role in “Avengers: Endgame”?

Considering the fact that Nebula was a supporting character in “Guardians…”, I could hardly see her become the key of the plot in “Avengers: Endgame”. However, Nebula’s arc became free to expand after Thanos wiped out half of the Avengers, meaning more spaces had to be given to supporting characters.

In “Avengers: Endgame”, the remaining part of the superhero squad gets to play a bit of “Back to the Future”. They are divided into three teams that jump to the past, with an intention to stop Thanos from collecting the infinity stones.

As a result of this time travel, Nebula’s jump becomes critical to the second act of the movie.

Things, obviously go south the moment the Avengers split up. Iron Man and Ant Man find themselves tricked by Loki, while Nebula, due to the fact that her body is highly mechanical, becomes connected with herself from the past. As a consequence, Thanos sees his own destiny projected via his daughter’s eye, giving him time to mess with the plot of the Avengers. In the meantime, the past-self Nebula switches positions and joins the rest of the Avengers, invigilating them to gain her father’s appreciation.

Nebula’s role is pivotal in a sense that she not only jeopardizes the entire scheme of the Avengers, but gives Thanos the reason to strive for a complete annihilation of the universe.

As Thanos reveals later in the film, from now on he understands that it’s not enough to erase half of population, but better built from scratch the entire world. This notion is evoked by the relentless squad of Avengers who won’t stop until the rest of the group is back.

It’s also the crucial meaning of messing with timelines that the Avengers didn’t foresee.

nebula marvel character - role in avengers endgame
Karen Gillan as Nebula in Marvel movies.

Why is her arc so emotional and important?

Nebula’s key role points out to the depths of MCEU and how the studio neatly planned its films, with years ahead. Instead of shuffling the obvious cards (like keeping the entire film about Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and all the pivotal characters), Marvel reached for someone that nobody could predict to be more than “appear in a bunch of scenes” kind of character.

Nebula’s most hardened and hatred-fueled character, far from a white knight on a white horse as almost every other superhero out there.

To be frank, she isn’t even a superhero (or at least not until the credits roll). In the end, she was Thanos’ wild dog, running around by his side even though he progressively turned her into a walking, nigthmarish experiment.

Moreover, Nebula represents Thanos’ darkest side – while the infamous fingersnap was scary, it’s what he did to his own family that’s most disturbing. She hates him, but also desperately needs his attention if not some sort of wicked kind of love.

nebula in cultural hater

It’s also poignant in the way that Nebula links “Guardians of the Galaxy” with “Avengers”.

This whole family rivalry between Gamora and Nebula fuels the story with much needed emotions and drama.

While most of the Avengers wallow in despair, go to support groups or get ridiculously drunk and out-of-shape, Nebula remains reckless in her mission of fighting her own demon(s).

Finally, there is also her personal bond with Thanos that needed to transform and mature. She had to break out of his shackles, see herself being accepted by others. It’s a story that many can find close to heart – a growing anger, constant comparisons and parent issues are pretty goddamn understandable, aren’t they?

And while I tend to get harsh when it comes to Marvel’s often shallow character development and visual gimmicks traded for good storytelling, I thought that Nebula’s arc deserved applaud. She was given an understandable motif to both hate and feel for Thanos.

At one point, Nebula’s mirage seemed as an almost biblical reference – an unfulfilled Cain that didn’t kill Abel, mixed with Hyob, who suffers from his own father’s hand to test his faith. This faith was the false belief that Thanos had any feelings whatsoever.

Would a standalone feature about Nebula work?

It’s often a thought when one likes to character a lot.

Is there enough story and charisma included to make it engaging in a full feature?

In terms of Nebula, I’m afraid it’s a no. Not for the sake of her being too weak of a character, but, rather than that, Nebula’s existence is too tightly related to other character in the MCEU. Her arc makes an impact in the composition with Thanos, Gamora and the rest of “Guardians…”. But as a standalone character (given the cinematic treatment she was given so far), it seems like a pretty long shot.

Nonetheless, cinema has already witnessed rise of a clearly supporting character. And if Boba Fett is about to be given a solo feature after his tiny sidestory in “Star Wars”, there could be a way to do the same for Nebula.

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