By Jack Dignan
I still remember the first time I saw 2008’s Iron Man. It was the second weekend of release, and my dad and I saw it in the cinema I now work at, and instantaneously it became my favourite movie of all time. That original Iron Man truly changed everything. There’s no going back. But if you asked me back then where I thought the franchise would go from there, never would I have imagined we’d be getting anything remotely like Avengers: Infinity War.
At that point in time, even the first Avengers movie seemed like an impossible dream, one I’d hope would come into fruition, but a reality I never thought I’d see. Oh, how times have changed. With Avengers: Infinity War selling out all throughout the globe, it begs the question of “where do we go from here?” and with the second half of the story releasing this time next year, I’m here to try and answer that very question. So be warned, there’ll be Infinity War spoilers all throughout this article (check out my spoiler-free review here). And if you wish to go into the next film knowing absolutely nothing, it’s probably best to stop reading this article now.
So… the world as we know is pretty much over. Thanos (Josh Brolin) has collected all six Infinity Stones, snapped his fingers and half the world’s population turned to dust, including a great many of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I don’t think my heart will ever recover. The loss is almost unbearable, and Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) death scene brought tears to my eyes. Now, as emotionally traumatizing as this sequence may have been, it’s easy to shrug it off as “well, most of them have sequels lined up so clearly it’s not going to last forever.” But that isn’t what I’m here to talk about. We know they’re coming back. The question remains… “how?”
If rumours are to be believed, the Untitled Avengers Sequel may be taking somewhat of a time jump. The sequel’s said to take place five years later, which would perfectly explain why set photos see Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man looking a little grey. But if this is true, it raises some serious questions. For instance, what have all the superheroes been up to? Did Cap (Chris Evans) and Iron Man ever meet up? Has Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) received the message Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) sent for her during the post credit scene? And if so, why has she taken so long to arrive? All serious questions, so take that five years later rumour with a grain of salt.
Let’s ignore the time jump for now. It’s a puzzle piece we won’t be able to solve. Instead, let’s focus on the actual plot. Halfway through the film, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) went ahead through time and saw all possible outcomes for their fight against Thanos. Of the 14 million possible futures, only one led to victory, and during his dying moments he reveals to Tony that this is the only way they can win. To save the galaxy, they must first destroy it. But how? Thanos is out, isolated and successful on a farm, and the remaining Avengers are split all across the galaxy. The future is looking bleak. But the past isn’t.
Yes, that’s right. With Avengers 4, I want these characters to travel back in time to stop Thanos before his reign of terror ever begun. Now, that’s a theory many have shared throughout the web, but let’s take it one step further. Let’s look at what time travel would mean for this storyline. First of all, the entire film surely won’t be an Avengers: Forever-inspired time travel fiasco because a) you can’t send fifteen or so superheroes back in time together, they would raise too many eyebrows. And b) how would Thanos come into it? Thanos is, as the post-credit title card insinuates, the big baddie for this final installment, and travelling to before his time would put him more in the background.
To make Thanos a crucial element of the fourth film’s plot, time travel should play but a minor role. If they’re going to go back through time, and set photos show that they’ll at least be travelling back to the events of 2012’s Avengers battle (perhaps to gain help from dead Avengers? Or to collect the Tesseract off Loki?), they’re going to need to fail. If they are to do this, first of all, they’re probably going to need to take the Time Stone off of Thanos, which would mean a battle fairly early on against the Mad Titan. But travelling back in time to a recent future, such as the first Avengers, would still see him in the mix of things.
He’ll still be a threat. And if they fail to steal the time stone and instead get somebody else to invent a time travelling device, Thanos could just as easily take himself back in time to stop them from stopping him. Could we be seeing a Thanos vs. Avengers battle throughout time, with the two forces going head to head during the events of different Marvel movies? That would certainly be quite the spectacle. Or perhaps they only need to go back in time to collect one stone, and that stone would be the Space Stone inside the Tesseract. The modern Avengers would travel back to 2012 to collect it off Loki (Tom Hiddleston), fail, and then be forced to look at other pre-Thanos options.
So where did see the stone before then? All the way back during World War II in Captain America: The First Avengers. Could Cap be travelling through time to the year he lost everything in life? This would explain the reasoning behind Red Skull’s return in Infinity War, as he could reappear in next year’s film either in the past or the present (more on that soon). And if he does travel back to that era of time, would he stay? He could live the life he always dreamed off, staying in hiding and spending his days with Peggy, giving Cap the happy ending he deserves. It’d be a perfect fit for his arc. The man out of time finally returns home, leaving the events of the future unaffected, as this is technically the second version of the character to live during that era.
However again, this faces the problem of a severe lack of Thanos. He has to play into the plot somehow, but Marvel could do a number of things. The mad titan could, as previously stated, battle throughout time. Or perhaps some of the Avengers could stay in the present to defeat him while Tony and Ant-Man travel back in time to prevent him from ever starting his quest. If they are going to confront Thanos again, he’s going to need to see the wrongs of his ways. With the Infinity Gauntlet seemingly moulded in his arm permanently now, and all six stones lodged inside, his power is limitless. But as we saw in the film’s closing moments, Thanos is starting to regret the decision he made.
To collect the Soul Stone, he had to sacrifice the life of his favourite daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Once completed, he didn’t see his mission as being worth it. The loss was too great, and loneliness seemed to overcome him. Now, I’m not saying we’re going to pull a Last Jedi and see Thanos fighting alongside the heroes in a quest for what’s right, but at the end of the day, Thanos and the Avengers both want what’s best for this universe, and Thanos is starting to see the wrongs of his ways, which means we could see him have a change of heart. If anyone can undo that’s done, it’s the man who wields the Infinity Gauntlet. Perhaps he will approach Red Skull again in an attempt to undo what’s done and bring his daughter back in exchange for the stone.
How this all plays out is impossible to predict. Anything goes with this final installment and I’m as anxious as I am excited. With most of the actor’s contracts coming to a close, it begs the question of who will be left to lead the team in the Marvel films to come. In my eyes, the post-Infinity War roster will consist of Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Winter Soldier, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Wasp, Scarlet Witch and occasional appearances by the Guardians of the Galaxy (if they even return for another Avengers movie), including the return of Gamora who I highly doubt will remain dead for too long. This will see a lot of our current heroes either retiring, which I feel Thor could get away with easily, or dying, which I fear is the inevitable fate of Iron Man.
But no matter what goes down in next year’s movie, it’s safe to say the MCU will be completely different from here on out. Plus, there are always opportunities for future characters to join the team, and I feel Nova won’t be too far off, especially now that the Nova Corps have been obliterated and the Avengers are making themselves known throughout space. Marvel has just opened the gateway for a massive future, and I couldn’t be more excited. 2019 is going to be one hell of a year for blockbuster cinema.
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