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Avengers 4: How Thanos Fits Into The Time Travel Theory

Thanos and Time Travel in Avengers 4

It's generally believed that next year's Avengers 4 will be some sort of time travel adventure, with Earth's surviving heroes traveling back to the MCU's past. But how does big villain Thanos fit into all of that?

Avengers 4 will follow on directly from last year's Avengers: Infinity War; in fact, Infinity War's cliffhanger was almost the sequel's opening scene. That means the movie will explore the impact the "snap" that killed half the universe has had on the world, an event that will understandably have given the surviving heroes a "harder edge." We're likely to see a lot of tragedy and pain, particularly from Hawkeye; set photos have teased that he'll adopt the identity of Ronin, one he took in the comics after the deaths of his family. Ultimately, though, leaked art has confirmed that the Avengers will unite with Captain Marvel and Ant-Man in a cosmic adventure that will bring an end to the MCU's Phase 3.

Related: Avengers 4: All The Rumors, Leaks & Spoilers

That leaked also featured Thanos, and despite him being the cause for billions of deaths, there's not been too much thought put on how the Mad Titan fits into Avengers 4. Of course, that may be because Avengers 4 is a very mysterious, and very complicated film.

Time Travel Has To Be About Undoing The Snap

There's abundant evidence that Avengers 4 will see Earth's surviving heroes step back in time, revisiting a number of key movies. Set photos have shown several heroes in older costumes, while Paul Rudd was spotted on the set of a scene evoking the Battle of New York. Of course, we don't yet know what approach the MCU will take to time-travel; can the past even be changed? Will the heroes instead unwittingly create myriad alternate timelines? Or is it instead the case that the future is fixed, and that the heroes' best efforts are doomed to failure? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 explored some ideas of temporal mechanics within the context of the MCU, but the movies won't be bound by the TV shows.

It's generally believed that the key to time travel in the MCU is found in the Quantum Realm. This mysterious plane of reality was introduced in 2015's Ant-Man, and represents Marvel's toying with theories of quantum mechanics. Scientists theorize that, should you shrink beyond subatomic size, the normal laws of time and space would cease to apply. In theory, then, access to the Quantum Realm would allow heroes to revisit the past, and thus reshape the present. Significantly, Ant-Man & the Wasp's mid-credits scene included a tantalizing reference to "time vortexes" that exist inside the Quantum Realm, providing an accessible way to travel through time.

But why are the Avengers traveling through time in the first place? So far, set photos and costumes have suggested they'll revisit a selection of previous films, including The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. Those are films that featured Infinity Stones, so it looks as though the heroes are either attempting to acquire them in order to undo the "snap," or else remove them from the timeline so Thanos never gets his hands on them. But, of course, it's possible the Avengers will launch side-quests as well; one of those could easily be an attempt to kill Thanos, defeating him before he ever gets the chance to acquire an Infinity Stone.

Related: There's No Way Avengers 4's Time Travel Will Make Sense

Thanos Is Still The Villain Of Avengers 4

Avengers 4 may no longer be a "Part 2," but it clearly follows on from the events of Avengers: Infinity War - and, as such, it's the continuation of Thanos's story. Indeed, Marvel promised this to viewers at the end of the credits with a "Thanos will return" text card. That's supported by details from the production of Avengers 4. Although there are no set photos teasing Thanos's actions - the character is CGI, after all - we do know that Josh Brolin was on set from July 2017 through to November. That's longer than he spent filming the part of Cable for Deadpool 2, giving a sense of Thanos's importance to Avengers 4. When production wrapped, the Russo brothers shared an image of an Avengers 4 wrap cake on social media, one featuring Thanos at its center.

All this means that, ultimately, Thanos will remain as big a threat in Avengers 4 as he was in Avengers: Infinity War. It's true that his role will probably be different; he was essentially the star of Avengers: Infinity War, right down to his own twisted version of Campbell's Hero's Journey. In contrast, Avengers 4 is expected to focus more on the classic Avengers, all of whom survived the "snap," meaning Thanos will be a more traditional form of antagonist. But that still doesn't come close to explaining how he could factor into a time-travel adventure.

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Key Release Dates
  • 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 05, 2019
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