Avengers 4, or whatever it ends up being called, is still six months away (it comes out on 26 April 2019), but there won’t be a day between now and then that doesn’t involve some new all-too-plausible fan theory that might, just might, be the key to the whole thing.
Guess that’s what happens when something like Avengers: Infinity War, the biggest box-office smash of the year and biggest superhero film of all time, ends on a heartbreaking cliffhanger - nobody left the cinema thinking, “Ah, I’ll just wait patiently for the next film and find out what happens then.” Everyone’s internal monologue has turned into a version of that It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphiameme of Charlie frantically joining things up.
One Redditor has come up with a detailed but extremely compelling theory about Nick Fury. If you remember, his final move in Infinity War before dissolving was to send a message on a mysterious pager-esque device that looked suspiciously Captain Marvel-like.
Well, his actual final move was to begin saying “Motherf*cker”, because he’s Samuel L. Jackson and he says that better than anyone else on Earth, but his final move plotwise was the pager thing.
“I believe Nick Fury in the ‘90s in the Captain Marvel movie will be shown or made aware of the future and future events, potentially even by Doctor Strange coming back in time from Infinity War. He will be shown specific things that he and other characters have to do throughout the entire MCU to ultimately set up future events for how they need to be in order for the Avengers to win in Avengers 4, per Doctor Strange’s end game plan from the possible 1 out of 14 million outcomes. Meaning everything that has happened in the MCU so far had to happen the way it did, but more importantly was set up in certain cases to happen the way it did partly by Fury himself.”
What he or she is suggesting is a kind of predestination thing, that throughout everything we’ve seen in the MCU thus far, Nick Fury knew exactly what was coming next, because in a way it had already happened.
Jackson always gives off the impression that he knows something we don’t, which fits with the theory as it continues…
“If you go back and watch most of the scenes and post credit scenes with Nick Fury in the MCU movies, it’s like he always knows something that the other characters don’t, and knows how to tell them just what they need to hear or contributes something that makes a big difference with no explanation of how or why he knew to do it. (…) If Fury was shown the events of the future back in 1990 during the Captain Marvel movie and was shown things he needed to do for the future, that would also explain why he started out as a lower level guy in S.H.I.E.L.D who was ready to hang it up (according to the Captain Marvel trailer) but ends up becoming the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. by the events of the first Iron Man movie in 2008.”
Here’s the Captain Marvel trailer, which backs that up:
Something reasonably drastic has to happen timeline-wise, obviously, or else Avengers 4 will have about six people in it and the entire saga will come to an overwhelmingly sorry end. Like, if nothing happens to correct Thanos’ actions, Avengers 4 will be two and a half hours of Captain America and Iron Man going, “Bloody hell, what a sad turn of events.” Rather than a fun night out at the cinema, it’ll be a thoroughly depressing experience for audiences all over the world.
So something has to change! Writer-directors Anthony and Joe Russo must have something pretty drastic up their sleeves. sfmarch07 speculates:
“During Captain Marvel, Nick Fury learns about aliens and cosmic threats for the first time, which is his true motivation for assembling the Avengers in the first place. (…) I think in Avengers 4, through some time travel, you’ll be shown how all the events in the MCU up to this point have been set up and happened the way they did for a reason, especially the events of Captain America: Civil War (which was also written by the Russo brothers).”
There’s a second part to the theory, one that brings to mind, among other things, several Batman Elseworlds tales and the Red Dwarf episode Tikka To Ride:
“In order to retrieve the Soul Stone, Tony [Stark] is going to have to sacrifice something, the same way Thanos had to sacrifice Gamora. But instead of sacrificing Pepper Potts, what if Tony instead has to go back in time to 1991 and infiltrate Hydra or seek out the Winter Soldier, and order the hit on his parents himself, sacrificing the thing he loves most? (…) It would be the hardest decision that any character has had to make in the entire MCU, and a decision that only Tony Stark himself could make. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Captain Marvel takes place in 1990 and Tony’s parents are killed in 1991.”
It’s certainly a powerful idea, with Stark essentially becoming the instigator of his own origin story.
“This would create a time loop sort of or a causal loop or bootstrap paradox in the MCU timeline. Without necessarily needing to change anything in the past or re-writing the timeline, it sets up more of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” type scenario, because I don’t think Marvel Studios would spend 22 movies setting up all of these intricate stories to just then go back and erase them or re-write the timeline in Avengers 4.”
A bootstrap paradox, also known as the grandfather paradox, is a time-travel scenario like this one, or the story in the Black Sabbath song Iron Man, or the Robert Heinlein story it owes its name to, By His Bootstraps. It’s a time-travel loop where the original timeline couldn’t take place without the time-travelling interference that led to it - in the Heinlein story, for instance, a man receives a time machine from a time-traveller, and the origin of the time-travel technology is never explained.
So the MCU timeline would be revealed to have always involved time travel, and be the only way it can be to ultimately beat Thanos. Like in Back To The Future, by the end of Avengers 4 the bad timeline of the end of Infinity War will no longer exist. Nick Fury will be like the Doc Brown of the end of BTTF, having lived with dangerously powerful knowledge for years, unable to reveal it.
The versions of the characters we saw die in Infinity War will never have existed, replaced by near-identical versions in an improved timeline. Also backing up the theory? Mad Men’s Tony Slattery, who portrayed Howard Stark in Iron Man 2, Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War, is returning for Avengers 4.
It’s pretty much two theories in one, or at least one and a half: the part about time travel and a young Nick Fury, and the part about Tony Stark having to cement his own destiny in the grimmest way possible. And it all seems extremely plausible, could return whatever characters to life that the plot demanded (while killing off, slash, leaving dead those cast members who don’t want to renew their contracts, are ageing out or want too much money) and sounds like it would guarantee not a dry eye in the house. Roll on April!
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(Pics: Marvel Studios)