Marvel fans don’t really know what to expect from Avengers: Infinity War, let alone Avengers 4. The plan is for the latter film to serve as the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the studio has barely revealed any details about it, not even giving it an official title yet.
However, recent photos from the set of the movie suggest that the film is heading in a crazy direction.
Set photos appear to show the Battle of New York from The Avengers
In new set photos published by Just Jared, the first thing that stands out is what Captain America is wearing: his outfit from The Avengers. Steve Rogers’ suit has evolved quite a bit over time, with the one featured in that movie being the most old-fashioned. He stopped wearing that particular design years ago, yet he’s wearing it in these pictures. Captain America also doesn’t have a beard in these photos, whereas he has a beard in the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War.
In general, this scene also appears to be the Battle of New York, the climactic sequence from The Avengers. Previous set photos have indicated that we might be returning to the Battle of New York. In one photo, Robert Downey Jr. was even seen wearing the exact same Black Sabbath t-shirt that he wears in The Avengers. There have also been photos of Tom Hiddleston as Loki looking exactly as he does in the first Avengers and Chris Hemsworth as Thor with long hair and two eyes.
Next: But spotting this character means it can’t be a flashback.
But Ant-Man is there, meaning this can’t be a flashback
From these new set photos combined and some older ones, you might just assume that we’ll be getting a flashback to Battle of New York in Avengers 4. Perhaps there’s some sort of a reveal about something else that took place that day, or there’s another reason the movie needs to return there.
But wait, that can’t be the case. Why? In these new photos, Ant-Man is there. That means the scene in question could not possibly be a flashback because Ant-Man wasn’t at the Battle of New York. He wasn’t even a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe until three years later.
In addition to who is there, it’s worth noting who is not there: Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye, even though they were all at the Battle of New York. Previous photos have shown Hemsworth filming a scene as younger Thor, but for whatever reason, he’s not present in these recent pictures.
Next: What are our favorite characters wearing in this photo?
Tony is wearing a S.H.I.E.L.D. outfit, and several characters are wearing devices on their hands
Another confusing element of this is what Tony Stark is wearing. It’s not his Iron Man suit, but rather a S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform.
This once again suggests it’s not a flashback. At no point in The Avengers did Tony ever wear anything like this. Earlier set photos show Downey Jr. filming in this same S.H.I.E.L.D. outfit in a different location, so he seems to wear it for more than one scene. Also, Captain America doesn’t have his mask on in the set photos, again suggesting this isn’t a real flashback.
Speaking of what people are wearing, Captain America and Tony Stark have weird, watch-like devices strapped to their hands. Ant-Man also has a similar device, although his appears to be built into his suit.
One last thing about the way the characters look: They’re all covered in orange dots, which will presumably be used in order to add in some visual effect later.
Next: Get ready for a wild ride in the storyline.
This all suggests a time travel or alternate reality plot in Avengers 4
This could all suggest that Avengers 4 will feature a time travel plot, with the characters returning to events from the previous movies. That would explain why Ant-Man is at the Battle of New York when he wasn’t originally there. It could also explain the orange dots: Perhaps that’s so that the visual effects artists can add in an effect where the Avengers stand out in some way due to being from a different time.
From what we can glean from other set photos, there’s actually been a lot of evidence that the movie will involve time travel. In addition to all the photos of the Battle of New York, back in November, Evans was filming a scene that, based on the cars there, appeared to take place in the 1940s. Also, Evangeline Lilly recently posted a photo from the Avengers 4 set in which she has her old haircut from Ant-Man, not her new one from Ant-Man and the Wasp.
It’s also possible that the movie will involve a journey through alternate realities rather than time travel. The devices on everyone’s hands can be whatever is allowing them to move through time or through reality. Either way, from these photos, we know that we’re returning to the Battle of New York, and we know it’s not through traditional flashback means.
Next: Could this be the obvious reason they are traveling through time?
Ant-Man could be the reason they’re traveling through time
So just what the heck is the plot of Avengers 4, anyway? Ant-Man could be the key. After Infinity War, Marvel’s next movie is Ant-Man and the Wasp.
It seems important that in the new photos, everyone’s device is physically strapped to their hand except for Ant-Man’s, as his is built into his suit. Perhaps the time-travel or reality-travel technology is developed by Hank Pym. The plot of Avengers 4 could then be about Ant-Man trying to save the Avengers after Thanos has killed most if not all of them. Though Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place before Infinity War, it could explain the time travel technology that will take center stage in Avengers 4.
As more evidence of this, Lilly recently told Vanity Fair that when she heard about the direction the Marvel movies are going in, it reminded her of Lost, a show that played around with time travel and with revisiting past events. “We are hitting that [Lost] Season 4 space where everything’s about to shift, and you’re about to lose the solid ground underneath you,” she said. “And [Ant-Man and the Wasp], of course, will play a part in that.”
Next: How Tony Stark plays into all of this
The scene could be Tony using his B.A.R.F. technology
One much less exciting theory is that the Battle of New York flashback scene is just Tony Stark using his Binarily Augmented Retro-Framing technology. This is what Tony used in Captain America: Civil War in order to relive the final conversation he had with his parents before their deaths.
Maybe, then, there’s a scene in Avengers 4 in which Tony uses this technology to go back to the Battle of New York. One would think this is not something he’d have time for in a movie as busy as Avengers 4. But a few months ago, MCU Exchange posted a photo of a prop on set labeled “Binarily Augmented Retro-Framing.”
Next: We already know this character can play with time.
Doctor Strange could send many of the characters back in time
Another theory is that Doctor Strange is the one responsible for the time travel shenanigans. We already saw Strange mess around with time during the climactic battle in his 2016 movie, so there’s no reason he wouldn’t want to do so again during the battle against Thanos.
Maybe by the end of Avengers: Infinity War, the Avengers are really in a jam, and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to be able to defeat Thanos. So Doctor Strange sends some or all of them back in time. While in the past but with their old memories, Strange hopes that they’ll be able to stop Thanos before he rises up, armed with the knowledge of what will happen in the future.
This, however, does not explain the devices on everyone’s hands. Also, the only way Strange would be able to manipulate time would be if he still has the Time Stone, one of the stones Thanos needs to power the Infinity Gauntlet.
Next: Maybe it’s more about changing reality than time traveling?
Thanos could change reality using the Reality Stone
One other final option is that this is all the result of Thanos messing with reality.
After all, one of the Infinity Stones that Thanos is after is the Reality Stone, which allows the user to manipulate reality to their will and even create alternate realities. Perhaps by the end of Infinity War, Thanos has obtained the majority of the stones, but he doesn’t have them all yet. So he decides to use the Reality Stone in order to mess with reality in some way, creating this new one that we see in the set photos.
It could also be that Thanos actually uses the Time Stone, either to send the Avengers back in time or to alter time itself. There are a lot of ways it could go down, but somehow, someway, Infinity War will end with Thanos messing with time, with this becoming the basis of Avengers 4‘s plot.
Regardless of how it happens, it looks like Avengers 4 is going to be a trip down memory lane, and a tribute to the first decade of the MCU as the movies look ahead to a new era.
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