WARNING: HEAVY SPOILERS BELOW!
By now, you’ve probably watched Avengers: Endgame, the epic conclusion to the “11-years-in-the-making” Infinity Saga. While critic and fan reception have been immensely positive for the film, there’s a very important plot element that has been one of the main topics currently being discussed on the Internet. Here at The Cinema Spot, we’ll try to break it down as easily as possible for those who’ve yet to fully understand it.
For recap, the main plot of Endgame revolves around the remaining Avengers using the last Pym Particles created to get into the Quantum Realm and travel to specific points in history that have the Infinity Stones, extract them to the future, bring back everyone that vanished in “The Decimation,” and return the Stones back to when they belong.
How Time In The Quantum Realm Works
After his surprise return, Scott Lang states that time in the Quantum Realm (QR) works differently than in the real world. Even though he was gone for five years after The Decimation, he felt it like it was five hours inside the QR. After they retrieve the Stones and they return to their present time, it was in the span of minutes or even seconds.
Additionally, the QR presents Time as highways with multiple exit lanes that lead to specific points in history. This gives Tony Stark the idea to create a wristwatch that maps the exit lanes of any selected point in history that can be pinpointed in the QR and land on it.
Not Your Average Time Traveling Film
Now time traveling is already a tricky subject in the movie as there’s an existing notion that everything you do in the past alters the future; both Ant-Man and War Machine mention previous films that set this example, like Back to The Future and Time Cop. However, Bruce Banner rebuttals their argument by laying down the foundation of how time travel works in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, stating that “if you travel to the past, that becomes your future. And your former present becomes the past, and can’t be changed by your future.”
If it sounds convoluted, look at it this way: traveling to the past DOESN’T alter the future because it’s already written. Everything that has happened before you initiate the jump through the Quantum Realm will remain, and the action of traveling to the past is considered the present. Time in the MCU is presented as a linear construct, and not “a river” that flows depending on what the characters do like most sci-fi films tend to believe in.
The Infinity Stones Are More Important Than You Think
Doctor Strange presented the viewers with the basic concept of “Multiple Universes” and realities that are expanded in Endgame. When traveling to New York 2012 to retrieve the Time Stone, Bruce encounters The Ancient One and explains that he needs the Stone in order to fix everything in their timeline. She denies his request and explains to Bruce that the Infinity Stones create what is known as “flow of time.” The way it works is by taking at least one Stone from the “Original Timeline” (OT) in order to help restore the population from their present opens an “Alternate Reality” (AR) that contains the aftermath from removing that Stone.
For example: removing the Time Stone from New York 2012 means that an AR is created, possibly one where Doctor Strange is powerless from his encounter with Dormammu. Doctor Strange from the OT might’ve won his battle, but the one in the AR didn’t because the Time Stone wasn’t present.
However, Bruce explains to The Ancient One that, while her point is correct, returning the Stones back to their original place in the OT means that the AR disappears; it’s as if it never happened in the first place. He promised that, as soon as they’re done with the Time Stone, he’ll give it back.
Multiverses & Alternate Realities
Because of the extractions of the Stones in the past (even some failed attempts), there’s reason to believe that various “Alternate Realities” were created from them. In order for them to make sense, let’s divide the events into two timelines:
I. Original Timeline: All of the 21 MCU films, including the events of Endgame.
II. “Time Heist” Timelines: In these points in history, the Avengers created at least three realities from the moment each team removed their assigned Stones.
- New York 2012 (Team Cap/Iron Man/Ant-Man/Hulk): When they failed to capture the Tesseract, Loki escaped with it. The theory is that the stand-alone Loki series for Disney+ will take place in this AR.
- Asgard 2013 (Team Thor/Rocket): This team took both Reality Stone and Mjolnir back to the present, leaving the plot of Thor: The Dark World kinda useless when you think about it.
- Morag and Vormir 2014 (Team War Machine/Nebula and Black Widow/Hawkeye): While trying to extract the Power Stone, Nebula never made the jump back to her present due to her and her past self’s memories crossing each other. This provokes Thanos to find out that he won in the future. Thanks to this, a now-cocky Mad Titan takes OT Nebula’s Pym Particles and shrinks his ship in order to jump into the OT to stop the Avengers from fixing what his “future”self did. In this new reality, Gamora was never sacrificed by Thanos in order to retrieve the Soul Stone, because he traveled to the OT and never retrieved the Stone in the first place. Technically, this reality had Black Widow being sacrificed so that Hawkeye could take it.
Captain America & The Point of No Return
There’s one reality that hasn’t been mentioned on the list, and the reason for that is because there’s no official confirmation as to how an old Steve Rogers returned to the OT to give Sam Wilson his shield and pass the mantle of Captain America. Our theory is that Steve returned all of the Infinity Stones back to their respective time points, returned to the 1940s to have his dance with Peggy, married her and lived the happy life he always wanted, and after her death he used the Pym Particles to return back to the OT minutes before his younger self jumped through the QR. It would be too weird for it to be the OT because you’d still have Peggy’s niece Sharon, and the thought of her kissing her “uncle” would be too awkward.
It’s also worth noting that there’s two Captain Americas in the new AR with Steve growing old, so most of the changes might be Peggy just marrying another man and Sharon not existing in that reality.
Wait A Minute! If Peter Parker Returned Five Years Later, Does That Mean He Has To Finish High School?
Yeah! He’s still a kid, and Spider-Man: Far From Home is just around the corner. Conveniently, his high school friends got snapped and returned just in time for his European Summer Trip. As to what happened to those classmate that didn’t get snapped and lived the five years after “The Decimation,” we’ll have to wait for answers in July.
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