‘Avengers: Endgame’: The Russo Brothers Tackle a Popular Time Travel Fan Theory

Avengers: Endgame dealt heavily with time travel, as many had suspected following the traumatic events of Avengers: Infinity War. Like most time travel stories, it spent a good deal of time hashing out its internal rules, and most now seem to agree that it did an admirable job amidst all the other chaos.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Avengers: Endgame answered everything to the satisfaction of all. Many fans are still theorizing as to how certain plot turns might have been executed within the fiction of the film or about what they might really have meant.

Fans wonder what really happened to Steve Rogers in ‘Avengers: Endgame’

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Throughout Avengers: Endgame, it’s established that removing an Infinity Stone from the time-space continuum causes the timeline to diverge from the main one. Too many branching timelines cause general chaos and instability, hence why Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) goes off to return the stones at the end of the movie.

Steve’s return as an old man near the end of Avengers: Endgame has led to a lot of speculation in the last few years following the film’s release, with many wondering if he would have ended up in a branching timeline while returning the stones. In 2019, screenwriters Christophe Markus and Stephen McFeely shared their take with Fandango.

“We are not experts on time travel, but the Ancient One specifically states that when you take an Infinity Stone out of a timeline it creates a new timeline,” Markus said. “So Steve going back and just being there would not create a new timeline. So I reject the ‘Steve is in an alternate reality’ theory. I do believe that there is simply a period in world history from about ’48 to now where there are two Steve Rogers.”

The Russo Brothers have their own thoughts on Steve’s fate

Joe Russo and Anthony Russo speak at the Writing "Avengers: Endgame" Panel during 2019 Comic-Con International.
Joe Russo and Anthony Russo speak at the Writing “Avengers: Endgame” Panel during 2019 Comic-Con International. | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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Now, directors Anthony and Joe Russo have given their own, contradictory take on the matter. The duo has recently been making the press rounds for their new film, Cherry, and made an appearance on the “Lights Camera Barstool” podcast, where the conversation inevitably turned to Avengers: Endgame.

“Based on everything that happened, he would have been in a branch reality and then had to have shifted over to this, so jumped from one to the other and handed the shield off,” Joe Russo said. “One thing that’s clear that Anthony and I have discussed, I don’t know that we’ve discussed this publicly at all, Cap would have had to have traveled back to the main timeline. That’s something that, yes, he would have been in a branch reality, but he would have to travel back to the main timeline to give that shield to Sam Wilson.”

Can’t we all just see eye-to-eye here? Well, in all likelihood, the exact mechanics of Steve’s time-hopping trip and return as an old man weren’t a major concern during the making of Avengers: Endgame. Rightly so, perhaps, as the emotional poignance of the character’s happy ending and passing of the shield are far more important than strict plot points.