Warning! Major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War to follow! Thanos won, did the Big Snap, and half the world turned into triangle dust, launching a million dumb memes in the process. But how will the Avengers win in Infinity War Part 2, AKA Avengers 4, The Last One? And when the heck is Black Panther coming back to rake in that box office moolah?
The Soul Stone Grants Super Empathy
The most full-fledged story that’s been going around is that the Soul Stone grants super empathy. It was originally put forward in a Reddit thread, which was reported on at length.
Thanos’ behavior changes dramatically after he gets the Soul Stone: no longer does he take pleasure in swiftly destroying his foes, but instead seems to hold back, fighting against the heroes without his full strength. After all, in many of the later parts of the film, Thanos could have stomped heroes like Captain America into the dirt, but he didn’t. If the Soul Stone grants Thanos a connection to the souls of those around him, it’s possible that he now feels the pain he inflicts more deeply. The momentum of his fanaticism carries him forward to the moment of the Big Snap, but he is now forced to carry the burden of the pain he’s caused.
This has support back in the Thor movies. Odin also had a massive change of heart, moving from warlord seeking to subjugate the Nine Realms to Allfather and Protector. Could it be that Odin, in his quest for the Infinity Stones, either couldn’t make the sacrifice for the Soul Stone, or couldn’t bear to hold the stone after he had made his sacrifice? Either might drive him away from violence and encourage him to hide the Infinity Stones he possessed. It also explains the presence of the extra gauntlet and Hera’s apparent familiarity with the stones.
Could Thanos end up rewinding the Big Snap on his own, as a result? Or could he remove the Infinity Gauntlet, allowing him a respite from the pain of the universe? That might allow the heroes to nab it, but that wouldn’t make for a satisfying end.
Timey-Wimey Travely Stuff
There’s two different branches of the Time Travel theory, and they both revolve around Dr. Strange. Let’s take the fight towards the end of the first Infinity War film, in which the Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man, Iron Boy (Spider-man, that is) and Dr. Strange team up to try to take on Thanos. Before that fight, Strange mediates and discovers that, out of 14 billion possible futures, only one will result in victory.
So, it’s possible that, during that entire fight, the team was defeated many times, but Strange kept rewinding time to try again. Sort of using the Time Stone like a quick save point, where he could reset at will and try again if he lost the boss fight. Now, that kind of feels like a cop out, and I think that Marvel would be risking a Last Jedi type of audience reaction if they went that route.
The other time travel possibility involves rewinding time to before the Great Snap so that the Avengers can take some kind of action that will prevent Thanos from winning. There’s actually some real-world support for the idea of time travel. There have been casting calls for 2-year-old twins, would could represent Scarlet Witch and her twin Quicksilver. Long-haired Thor has been seen on set, as has a not-dead Loki. Whether this is simply a flash-back or legitimate timey-wimey stuff is completely unclear, but it’s got some juice.
Dr. Strange Has a Master Plan
It’s also possible that Strange has a plan that actually doesn’t involve time travel per se, but involves the Time Stone. Theories here abound, all with little evidence. Did Strange give Thanos a Time Stone that was somehow flawed or booby-trapped? Was Thanos’ possession of the Time Stone required for the one victory that Strange foresaw? If Thanos must possess the Time Stone for the Avengers to (eventually) triumph, Strange and crew would have to get the stone to Thanos without the Sad Grape Monster realizing anything was amiss.
It’s an odd coincidence that the Avengers left alive are those that we know are leaving the series. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Evans are all expected to make Avengers 4 their last MCU film. And considering that most of the heroes killed in Infinity War were the newest, most profitable characters, they’re certain to return somehow. Did anyone really think that Black Panther, the most successful debut superhero film of all time, would have only one film?
It would be a monster of a character arc, for example, to see Iron Man give himself up selflessly to save the world. Throughout all the films he’s wrestled with his selfish nature, and it would be a good capstone moment for Iron Man to surrender himself to save the world and his surrogate son Spider-Man. Or maybe we see Captain America sacrificing himself again, calling back to the incident that buried him in ice back in World War II.
The Quantum World
it seems likely that the quantum world has to figure into this matter somewhat. It’s one of the “rules don’t apply” segments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s completely possible that some sort of weird shenanigans, like going into the Quantum World to rescue the souls of those destroyed in the Big Snap, could take place. Maybe Superman will show up and fly backwards to make the Quantum World go back in time and drag everything else with it. Really, anything is on the table. Considering that Ant-Man and the Wasp is the next film, it seems possible the Quantum World will play some kind of part. Even if its just an unsuccessful side mission, a la Canto Bight.
Nah just kidding.
Sorry, Jeremy Renner.
We might also see a version of the crew’s plan from earlier work this time: can the remaining Avengers somehow team up to steal the gauntlet? Sure, but that seems real predictable. Like punching a Stone-bearing god will unravel his work.
We also got a teaser for Captain Marvel in the post-credits sequence for Infinity War. So she must figure into the second part of Infinity War is some way. But we have so little evidence for how she fits into the world right now that it’s hard to say how she might effect the standing.