Ever since that devastating moment in the breathtaking final 20 minutes of 2018’s biggest global movie experience, Avengers: Infinity War, the internet has been ablaze with theories upon theories about how the story will pan out. Fans want to know what the future holds for a superhero team decimated in Thanos’s Snap that’s also surrounded by talk of a switch-up for the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Precisely what is going to happen along the single timeline – the ‘Endgame’ set in motion in Infinity War — foreseen by Doctor Strange out of the 14,000,605 possibilities he visited will soon be revealed. And all our burning questions will be answered.
But for now, ahead of Avengers: Endgame playing out this April, here are some of the more popular fan theories doing the rounds, with a betting expert weighing in to supply odds on how likely each theory is to come true, and a representative from Fandom’s avid Marvel community, Kevin Carney aka Greater Good — as well as MCU stars –adding their thoughts. Place your bets now.
Tony Stark Will Claim the Soul Stone – And Kill His Folks
One fan on Reddit, sfmarch07, posted thoughts on what’s to come – or, if you like, what’s already happened. Like many theories, this take is linked to or dependent on several other theories. Indeed, Sfmarch07’s theory is built on (highly likely) speculation that time travel will be critical to Endgame, and the superheroes’ victory, as well as the idea that they’ll have to collect the Infinity Stones to use against Thanos. Another theory involving Nick Fury could well play into this, as sfmarch07 points out — but we’ll get into that later. Arguably the most intriguing part of this Redditor’s thesis is the notion that Tony Stark will be the one tasked with retrieving the Soul Stone. And in the process, Iron Man himself will be responsible for the death of his parents.
“I’ve read those theories, they are very cool theories. I don’t know if they’re true or not. That’s one of the things I love about Marvel. The history and the comics, the movies that have already been made, there’s so much fabric there that people can make these theories. And a lot of times, really spectacularly support them, even when they’re bulls–t. But also sometimes they’re really ahead of the curve, so you never know.” — Clark Gregg, who plays the MCU’s Phil Coulson
Yes, yes. We know that Howard and Maria Stark died back in 1991 in an incident on the road involving the Winter Soldier — the shocking details of which were revealed in Captain America: Civil War. But what if, asks sfmarch07, Tony is forced to go back in time and order the hit on his parents as a sacrifice for obtaining the Soul Stone?
We saw in Infinity War that Thanos sacrificed his ‘daughter’ Gamora in order to claim it — and Tony is the only Avenger really able to make such a genuine — and, let’s face it, impactful — sacrifice of somebody he loves. With rumours of Pepper being pregnant, and of 13 Reasons Why star Katherine Langford appearing in a flashforward as their daughter, there’s no way Tony would sacrifice his one true love — particularly after having experienced what that feels like when he thought she was dead. Meaning that the execution of his parents is the solution. After all, he’s already endured a lifetime of grief over their loss, and invented BARF technology as a means of therapy to help him get over residual issues stemming from their death.
John Slattery, who plays Howard Stark in the franchise, is said to be returning in the role for Endgame. Clear evidence that Howard Stark will be significant in how events pan out.
If this comes to pass, it could also help to heal any remaining wounds between Cap and Tony, whose relationship was severely damaged in Civil War when Tony found out about the part the Winter Soldier played in his parents’ death, and Cap’s knowledge of it. If Tony knows that their death was at his own hands, it puts an entirely different spin on things.
Likelihood: While time travel may well play a big part in Avengers: Endgame, this theory seems the most unlikely of all — and with Cap’s adage ‘We don’t trade lives’, that he insists the Avengers abide by, Stark would be going against that by doing this.
And if both Cap and Tony should die before Endgame reaches its conclusion — both Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans are rumoured to depart the MCU following the 22nd instalment — it’ll be a neat way of reconciling the pair, and bringing Tony’s story full circle. It would also provide some justification for killing Tony Stark off.
On top of that, we could well see Tony pass the Iron baton over to his daughter in the film, or Harley Keener, the boy Tony befriended in Iron Man 3. Ty Simpkins who played young Harley is said to be reprising his role in Avengers: Endgame, and there is some talk of him potentially becoming Iron Lad from the comic books.
Community Verdict: Community member Greater Good has little faith in this theory: “As Tony is a human, it would be very unlikely for him to wield an Infinity Stone. It would be far more interesting to see him reunite with Cap by coming to terms with the fact that saving the lives of trillions of people takes precedence over the grief that his parents’ deaths have caused him. I have serious doubts about the theory of Katherine Langford playing Tony and Pepper’s daughter, as showing her at that age would require a very significant jump forward in time, which could very easily kill any stakes should Marvel decide to bring in another potentially world- or universe-ending threat once Thanos is out of the picture.”
Betting Odds: 20/1
Doctor Strange Has Cast a Time Loop Spell on the Time Stone
With many Avengers 4 theories, Doctor Strange is seen as integral to defeating Thanos. Evidence of critical tinkering on the part of the sorceror was clearly signposted in Infinity War — what with him coining the term ‘Endgame’ and telling Tony Stark it’s the only way, and all. Indeed, a theory from Redditor LA-Confidential suggests that Strange was up to some tricks even before he gave the Time Stone up.
Summoning the Stone, as he does, from the stars above Titan (or a different time altogether even?), the good Doctor hands over the gem with his right hand. But what of his left? LA-Confidential’s theory suggests that it’s his left hand that’s crucial to understanding what’s gone on. Namely, that the wizard has cast an infinite time loop spell on the Stone.
If you watched closely when Thanos added the Time Stone to the Infinity Gauntlet, you’ll have noticed a green energy ring appear. None of the other Stones we saw added reacted like this. If you recall the last time Strange cast a time loop spell, the same green band of light appeared around his left wrist. That was when he took on Dormammu in his solo movie — and won.
Doing the same to Thanos at this point would allow the Avengers time while the big Purple One is “trapped” within it.
You might also remember that Strange tells Ebony Maw in Infinity War that removing a dead guy’s spell is rather troublesome. The reason for this? To signal to us that even though Strange is, to all intents and purposes, dead by the end of the film — having been wiped out by the Snap — the loop will remain intact long enough for our heroes to enact the plan and fight back. Of course, Thanos is smart — and powerful — and will no doubt work it out once the loop takes effect (when the newly restored Titan becomes rubble again, perhaps). But it should be enough to hold him off for a while at least.
Likelihood: Possible, but Thanos is smarter than this and he would have surely picked up on any trickery from Doctor Strange. Unless the Mind Stone also comes into play here. If Shuri has managed to replicate the Mind Stone during her operation on Vision during the battle in Wakanda, could this be used to manipulate Thanos here?
Community Verdict: Greater Good thinks this fan theory is the most likely: “Doctor Strange willingly gives Thanos the Time Stone during the Battle of Titan on the condition that he spare Tony Stark’s life. Doing this must have been essential in the outcome Strange saw in which they defeated Thanos, as he had told Stark earlier in the film that he had no problem letting him and Spider-Man die if it meant he could protect the Stone [and we think Doctor Strange is a man of integrity]. Thanos warned Strange not to pull any tricks on him, but it is possible that the sorcerer managed to do so without the Mad Titan’s awareness. The fact about the green ring is a very interesting observation, since Thanos, similar to Dormammu, is one of the most powerful beings in the universe and it would require very specific tactics in order to get the better of him.”
Betting odds: 4/1
The Orange Energy Orbs in the Quantum Realm Are the Souls of the Dead
Let’s be honest: of all the films that Marvel has enthralled us with in the last decade, Thor: The Dark World qualifies as an also-ran. Even Chris Hemsworth said it was “meh”. However, out of the ashes of disappointment comes a new theory that was hiding in plain sight. In the first half of the film, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who has been infected by the Aether (Reality Stone) is examined by an Asgardian doctor using an Asgardian medical instrument known as a soul forge. He suggests that its function is the same as a quantum field generator, with energies moving from one place to another.
Was this a foreshadowing of the mid-credits sequence in Ant-Man & The Wasp? If you remember, Scott Lang goes subatomic in the scene and enters the Quantum Realm to gather Quantum Healing Particles in order to help cure Ghost of her out-of-control phasing. In a shocking twist, he ends up getting trapped down there after Hank, Janet and Hope disappear in the Snap. But just before Scott’s communications go down, a wave of yellow/orange energy sources passes behind him – could these be the souls of the fallen heroes that have also perished in the Snap? And could Scott Lang have collected their souls while trapping Healing Particles?
Likelihood: There’s not a lot of evidence to suggest this is the case, although the Quantum Realm is almost certainly critical to any victory for our heroes. Marvel boss Kevin Feige himself has stressed its importance to the future of the MCU. Just how and why it will be used, however, is still a mystery.
There’s additional speculation that the world that Thanos entered immediately after the Snap, where he meets a young Gamora before returning to his Wakanda-bound body and then promptly disappearing, is the Soul Stone ‘world’. The same realm that our heroes potentially disappeared to — it’s a connection that could add credence to the theory. But where Thanos somehow ‘cheated’ his way back perhaps via his possession of the Infinity Stones, the others are stuck there. For the time being anyway…
Community Verdict: Greater Good says, “I think the similarities of these background details are purely coincidental and are not connected to each other. It’s an interesting observation, but I think it is clearly coincidental.”
Betting Odds: 5/1
Ant-Man Is the Key To the Avengers Success
With the loss of Doctor Strange in the Snap, the remaining Avengers’ — and humanity’s, nay, the universe’s — last hope may rest on the microscopic shoulders of Scott Lang. We just need him out of that damn Quantum Realm. Judging by the Endgame trailer, it looks like he may have found a way.
In the footage — which comes at the back end of the trailer, thereby elevating it in both impact and importance — we see Lang out of the Quantum Realm and with his van, which we last saw at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp pimped to incorporate a Quantum Tunnel in the back. He seems to have managed to find a way to Avengers HQ, where he can be seen in a video feed at the front door. All signs appear to have led the surviving Avengers to assume that Lang perished in the Snap, the same as Hope, Hank and Janet. So, his appearance seems to take Black Widow and Captain America by surprise.
How did he get out of the Realm and back to Earth? Is this a trick of time, with Scott getting sucked into a time vortex, just as Janet warned him not to? Did he figure out how to master time travel while he was in there? Did someone help him get out? Various theories suggest either Strange helped him via time travel, Captain Marvel’s arrival and her potential knowledge of the Quantum Realm extracted him, or that his friend Luis played a part.
The significance of Lang’s presence in the trailer shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, Kevin Feige has already said that he and Janet are integral to the future of the MCU post-Endgame. One theory from New Rockstars suggests that Lang gets stuck in a time vortex only to appear roughly six months before Thanos heads to Earth. Because he has appeared at a time when his other self is under house arrest in Ant-Man and The Wasp, he would need to stay under the radar. Where better than at Avengers HQ in New York? And during this time, could he have run into Doctor Strange? Who might well remember this meeting and any revelatory conversations they had — say, about time travel — come Infinity War, knowing to bring Scott and his unique capabilities into play during the Endgame.
Indeed, Lang could well be the film’s ‘pawn’. With ‘Endgame’ a chess reference, it would make sense that they’d promote a pawn as a strategy to win, as is often done in chess — with the pawn being Lang, a relatively minor player in the MCU up to this point, as suggested by Redditor thomascgalvin.
Incidentally, New Rockstars also suggests that maybe Lang is in the Quinjet that takes off at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming that has never been referred to since, which could also play into all this. Now that would be a cool turn of events.
Likelihood: An absolute, iron-clad, erm, possibility. While the details might be different, time travel and the Quantum Realm will play a big part in Endgame, and we’re sure that Ant-Man is odds-on to be the key to the Avengers’ success.
Community Verdict: Greater Good believes Ant-Man will be pivotal, but perhaps not quite in the way laid out in this theory: “Ant-Man has clearly been set up to play a very important role in the final conflict against Thanos. However, I don’t buy that he travelled back in time. Janet van Dyne spent decades in the Quantum Realm and does not appear to have any knowledge of time travel, so it is unlikely that Lang would be able to master it after spending a much shorter amount of time there. The part about the Quinjet at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming makes no sense, as Tony Stark played an instrumental role in getting Scott captured and placed in the Raft, and Stark is the last person he should be going near at that point.”
Betting Odds: 13/8 Joint Favourite
Captain America Dies Wielding the Infinity Gauntlet
You are definitely going to need to bring your tissues for Avengers: Endgame. It’s gearing up to be quite the emotional experience, looking set to surpass even the heartstring-tugging moments of Infinity War. The Endgame trailer, with Tony Stark’s bleak yet touching message to Pepper, is evidence enough of that. Sacrifice, in some way, shape or form, looks certain and we could see some of those characters we’ve loved for more than ten years leaving us.
A prevailing line of theories leads to someone having to wield a second Infinity Gauntlet to defeat Thanos. But who is powerful enough to do it? This theory (from Crossfiyah) suggests that Steve Rogers will step up. Even if it means he dies.
In Infinity War, Thanos is permanently scarred from causing the Snap and the Gauntlet is badly damaged. But, because Thanos is extremely powerful, and at this point also omnipotent, he isn’t killed while using the Gauntlet. However, if someone less powerful used it we can safely assume it would probably kill them, judging by what we’ve seen when someone touches a single Infinity Stone.
The theory here goes that after fighting Thanos and either appropriating his Gauntlet or utilising their own forged one (made with nanotech Vibranium, anyone?), Cap will use it to defeat him. And as he isn’t as powerful, Steve Rogers will give his life for the greater good. Just as you might expect.
Likelihood: With Chris Evans’ contract up with Marvel after this film, it would be remiss not to think he would depart in some way in the film. His death, however sad, could be inevitable. But with Captain Marvel introduced, and labelled by Kevin Feige as the most powerful of all the heroes the MCU has ever seen, for a reason, it would follow that she would be the one to wield the Gauntlet if someone is called upon to do so. And with Cap’s belief that they don’t trade lives, would that prevent him from doing so? Probably not as he’s risked his life for others before…
Community Verdict: Greater Good says, “Over the course of Captain America’s journey in the MCU, much focus has been devoted to how out of place he feels in the modern world, which is far more complex than the one he grew up in. With Bucky’s death, Steve has now lost everyone and everything that was tied to his past. In the trailer for Avengers: Endgame we see him looking at the locket photo of his beloved Peggy Carter, a reminder of all of the loss he has experienced. With all the reports of Chris Evans stepping down from the role after this movie, it seems very likely that this will be Steve Rogers’ farewell and that he will sacrifice himself to restore the lives of those killed in Thanos’ snap.
“I don’t believe we will see him wield an Infinity Gauntlet, however, as such a weapon could only be created with the help of Eitri on Nidavellir, not with human resources. [And Eitri’s hands were, of course, taken by Thanos after the Dwarf was forced to make the Infinity Gauntlet in order to prevent him forging further weapons]. Furthermore, Star-Lord was only able to wield an Infinity Stone because his father Ego was a Celestial; Steve is 100% human.”
Betting Odds: 13/8 Joint Favourite, with Bucky Barnes becoming the next Captain America.
Nick Fury Knows The Future (Because Doctor Strange Went Back in Time and Told Him)
This one may sound like a bit of a stretch given that Nick Fury hasn’t been in any films for a little while (aside from his Infinity War post-credits cameo and a pre-Avengers Captain Marvel appearance) but hear us out. Do you have a niggling feeling that Fury knows much more than he’s let on through the years? He’s always seemed to be a little ahead of the game. Well, a theory on Reddit from sfmarch07 assimilates that nagging sixth (Spidey?) sense and suggests that Fury is more clued up than anyone.
The theory goes that Fury has been pulling the strings all along throughout the MCU because HE KNOWS THE FUTURE. Let’s look at the evidence. Remember the moment in Avengers: Age of Ultron when he basically just turns up unannounced, and unexplained, at the barn the Avengers are assembled at, and ultimately pushes Tony and the team to create Vision? And what about the moment in Iron Man 2 when Fury oversees the delivery of Howard Stark’s box to Tony? At the time, both events left you with an odd sense that there’s more going on than is explained — and this theory addresses that.
“It would be great if Fury knew everything because he’s the link to different parts of the world and different eras. That would make sense. I’m sure Sam [Samuel L. Jackson] would love to play that. Knowing all of the things and being able to pull strings in different worlds. I’m going to keep tabs on that.” — Lashanna Lynch, who plays Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel
In all of his post-credits appearances, Fury always seems to have a little more knowledge than he lets on. Could Fury have been told about the upcoming events back in the 1990s when he first meets Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, making his actions through the MCU thus far predetermined? That final post-credits sequence in the recent Captain Marvel involving Goose and the Tesseract could be more significant than it at first appears.
The whisperer in Fury’s ear could be none other than a time-jumping Doctor Strange. Turning back the clock to tell Fury about Thanos and the Endgame. The theory goes on to point out that in Captain Marvel, Fury speaks about leaving SHIELD only to later become its director after learning about the “cosmic threats” that will soon present themselves. What if these aren’t random or even potential cosmic threats he’s talking about, but the very definite action of Thanos snapping his fingers after filling his Infinity Gauntlet with the Infinity Stones? It’s this knowledge imparted by Strange that leads to Fury’s decision to assemble the Avengers in the first place — another peculiarly unexplained action cleared up.
“If that’s true [that Nick Fury knows the future], could somebody have given me a goddamned heads up about Loki? You left some things out, Doctor Strange: ‘He’s gonna seem like he’s in front of you, but guess what?” — Clark Gregg
And according to Reddit user u/woot_wooten, the battle on Titan is pivotal. They posit that it’ll be during Strange’s reverie on Titan in Infinity War that Strange appears before Fury around the time that he first meets Carol Danvers to tell all. It would also account for why Fury has never called on Captain Marvel before now — a curious decision considering the cosmic threats that have affected Earth between him meeting Carol Danvers and MCU present day. It’s the only way the Endgame could play out.
Likelihood: While Fury may get some information of certain future events, to think he has the know-how to in some way manipulate the fates of the Avengers is perhaps a little bit of a stretch. And it would change the way we see almost every movie within the MCU irrevocably, which could well upset a lot of fans.
Community Verdict: Greater Good says, “Nick Fury plays his cards very close to the chest, as Tony Stark pointed out in The Avengers: ‘He’s THE spy. His secrets have secrets.’ However, some big things have slipped under his radar, as he was a member of SHIELD. for decades and was oblivious to HYDRA hiding right under his nose. If Fury had been visited by Doctor Strange or any other time traveller at some point, he would have been far more prepared for Thanos’ attack than he was. After all, he fully supported Project Insight, which would have effectively punished people before they committed crimes on the basis that they could no longer afford to take the risk. He also did not know that the Tesseract was an Infinity Stone, which he most certainly would have if he had been aware of Thanos’s plans ahead of time.”
Betting Odds: 5/1
All will finally be revealed when Avengers: Endgame hits screens on April 25 (UK) and April 26 (US).
Tissue odds supplied by betting expert Alan Porton.