Has Thanos Traveled Back in Time?
It's important to remember that Thanos doesn't just possess the Space Stone; he also wields the power of the Time Stone. As a result, he can travel anywhere in the universe - and, significantly, anywhen. If his entire quest was motivated from trying to save Titan, with its destruction the making of the man, then it would only make sense for him to return to a time before it was a gravity-messy hellscape.
That could mean the Titan he finds himself on at the end isn't restored, rather it's the planet from before disaster struck. Presumably, Thanos has settled down in a remote corner of his world, one populated only by farmers, explaining why the land is clearly cultivated but he doesn't impact the timestream. Every day, when Thanos stared out at the sunrise, he'd experience a strangely bittersweet emotion; he'd know that all this beauty would ultimately pass away, but on the other hand he'd always be able to remind himself that he had - according to his own insane logic - "saved" the rest of the universe.
Titan would essentially be sacrificed in order to ensure life survived. Given he did a similar, more personal action with Gamora and accepts his victory cost "everything", it's a believable form of solitude.
This Theory May Enable the Avengers' Victory
If this theory is correct, it may well give the Avengers an opportunity to defeat the Mad Titan. It's generally believed the Avengers will use time-travel in an attempt to undo or avert the "snap". Were he in the present day, Thanos would surely discover what Earth's Mightiest Heroes were trying to do. By living in the distant past, though, he's removed himself from the rest of the universe; he'd only learn of the Avengers' plan when he began to notice subtle ripples of change in time. By then, it may well be too late to stop the heroes.
Depending on the MCU's model of temporal mechanics, this theory may actually also help explain Doctor Strange's endgame plan. This implies Thanos was always destined to win; that he was always fated to return to his world's heyday, to settle in this distant corner of Titan and watch the sun rise. The victory could only come after that - and the massive sacrifice that came with it.
Is This Thanos Theory True?
Thanos traveling back in time at the end of Avengers: Infinity War is an attractive theory, not least because it explains the strange contrast between these two versions of Titan. But it's important to note that there are alternative explanations. The most obvious is that Thanos could have simply used the Reality Stone to recreate the Titan of his childhood. That would neatly explain why the land is clearly cultivated, and yet we don't see any sign of other inhabitants.
It all rests on the nature of the story Marvel want to tell. It's already clear Avengers 4 will principally be a time-travel story, but the more elements of time-travel you bring into a single narrative, the more you risk complicating your tale to the point it loses all semblance of logic and consistency. Marvel could take this approach, but they may not be wise to do so, because they'd just be adding another layer of complexity to a story that already promises to be full of ideas and characters.
Whatever the truth may be, of one thing we can be certain; Josh Brolin's Thanos will return, meaning the Mad Titan will somehow have to learn that the Avengers are attempting to put the world to rights. That's the only reason Thanos would leave his retirement; if he believed all he had accomplished was actually threatened.
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019