Spoilers follow for Avengers: Infinity War.
And just like that — snap! — as Avengers: Infinity War comes to an end, half the population of the universe is dead. Or turned to ash or dust or whatever you want to call it. And that includes half of the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Man, they even took out Spidey…
Which of course means that fans will be speculating for the next year about what it all means, and how the Avengers and their friends can possibly undo the damage that Thanos has wrought. Of course, we have a few theories of our own on where Avengers 4 could lead, so read on for them all…
Throughout Infinity War, Doctor Strange insists that if it comes down to it, he’ll let Iron Man and Spider-Man — and anyone else, for that matter — die in order to protect the Time Stone. And yet, in the end, Strange gives Thanos the thing as a trade for Tony Stark’s life. So what gives? Well, don’t forget that Strange used the Stone to see some 14 million possible futures, all of which Thanos won in… except for one. You gotta figure that the good doctor is using that knowledge to manipulate the events of the present to get to that endpoint. Presumably, that means that Thanos had to win, half the universe had to die — including Strange himself — and Tony had to live in order to get to a point where the good guys can ultimately prevail. That, presumably, is also known as Avengers 4.
Read more about Doctor Strange’s plan here.
Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, was teased during the Infinity War end credits scene, as we all know, with Nick Fury sending an emergency signal to her right before he disintegrated with one final Sam Jackson-spewed “mutherf—–.” The character will make her proper MCU debut in March 2019, just two months before Avengers 4 is released, so the corporate synergy is amazing! But also, the cosmic character — who we have to assume has been on assignment in deep space since the 1990s when her film is set — is the perfect new teammate for the Avengers in this scenario. For starters, Tony Stark and Nebula must need a ride off of Titan! And who knows? Maybe she’ll even wind up wielding the Infinity Gauntlet herself to beat Thanos in the end, sort of taking the place of the cosmic character Adam Warlock from the comics version of the story. (He’s expected to come to the MCU in 2020’s Guardians of the Galaxy 3, but we don’t think he’ll figure much if at all in Avengers 4.)
Learn more about Captain Marvel and the Infinity War end credits scene here.
In its final moments, Infinity War feels very reminiscent of HBO’s The Leftovers, particularly in the Nick Fury/Maria Hill stinger scene. The Leftovers depicted a world where two percent of the population simply vanished all at once, and here we have a whopping 50 percent gone! But one theory about The Leftovers (both in the show’s continuity and in the real world) was that the people who disappeared didn’t die but were just shunted over to an alternate reality. It’s possible that that’s what’s happened in Infinity War, with all the folks who are seemingly gone now trapped within the Soul Stone (in the comics, the realm known as Soul World exists within the Stone). Don’t forget that even though Thanos gets the Stone in Infinity War, we don’t seem to see him use its powers… or at least, we don’t think we did. But what if the apparent murder of half the universe was actually just them being transported to the Soul World? Sounds like a mission into the Soul World would be required… or a quest to break free of it at the very least. And since the Avengers who did disappear were mostly the newer heroes of the MCU — Doc Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Bucky, etc. — this could be where the “new” Avengers have their first real test as a team.
Learn more about the Soul Stone and Soul World here.
Since Thanos turned out to be one of the better of the Marvel movie villains, and since there is a precedent for MCU baddies to turn sorta good here or there (we’re looking at you Loki!), what if the big purple guy winds up undoing all the damage himself purely out of his love for Gamora? You will recall that just as Thanos snapped his fingers in the big moment, he had a vision of lil’ Gamora asking him what the price was for his actions. His response? “Everything.” But in this theory, we see Baby Gamora sort of taking on the role that Mistress Death had in the comics version of the story. There, Thanos sought to win the affections of Death — we’re talking the personification of actual death here, people — by wiping out half of everyone. But even after he does so, Death still rejects him. Perhaps we will see that in Avengers 4, Baby Gamora rejects Thanos’ actions and, as we know, his love for his adopted daughter was great. Maybe… just maybe that love will be enough to make him ultimately reverse the damage he’s done.
Even before Infinity War was released, fans have been guessing that time travel was going to figure into things one way or another. Of course, there is something called a freaking Time Stone in the mix here! But beyond that, there’s also the Quantum Realm, first hinted at in Ant-Man (that’s where the first Wasp was lost) and glimpsed in Doctor Strange’s solo movie, which is essentially an alternate dimension where space and time are meaningless. So be it by Time Stone, Quantum Realm, or heck, even TARDIS, the Avengers could theoretically fix this whole mess with a bit of time travel.
What theories do you guys have about how Avengers 4 will play out? Let’s discuss in the comments!
For more on Avengers: Infinity War, check out our ending explained feature, explainer on the film’s post-credits scene, theories on whether the movie’s deaths are permanent, and all the easter eggs and references we spotted. Plus find out how its Rotten Tomatoes score compares to other MCU movies, learn what Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige had to say about how the next Spider-Man movie will be a return to “normal life” following Avengers 4, and find out why Bruce Banner can’t change into The Hulk in Infinity War.
And if you need cheering up, watch Spider-Man’s Tom Holland and Doctor Strange’s Benedict Cumberbatch interview each other, learn about all the MCU rumors that turned out to be false, and discover whether future Marvel movies will movie away from adapting existing comics’ stories.
Talk to Executive Editor Scott Collura on Twitter at @ScottCollura, where he’s tweeting every shot from The Empire Strikes Back for some reason. Or listen to his Star Trek podcast, Transporter Room 3. Or do both!