In the five months since Avengers: Infinity War hit cinemas I’ve seen numerous fan theories about what had just happened in the MCU and about what we might see next in the Avengers 4 sequel. Some are heartbreaking wishful thinking stories, while others make more sense, and are extremely elaborate and well explained. But the following one, which has time travel at its core, must take the cake, as it’s looking at the new movie from a solid perspective, the characters arcs.
Here’s how Reddit user Ramennov starts this “Tale of Two Timelines” fan theory:
When coming up with fan theories for movies, especially well-written movies in a serial, it is important to consider character arcs and ensure that our theories are consistent with them. This is especially true for the MCU and theories for Avengers 4, since they will need to conclude the arcs of several key characters that have been developed for over a decade.
The theory suggests that Iron Man and Nebula will each embark on their own different journey. Tony Stark will travel back in time to ensure the Thanos Snap never happens, while Nebula will go hunting her father, having the same goal in mind.
Doctor Strange is key to Stark’s new arc, as the theory says he willingly gave Thanos a copy of the Time Stone, with the actual stone being sent forward in time on Titan so that Stark would get it.
[The] next best option was to allow Thanos to succeed for two reasons: that he would leave Titan believing he had won and stop pursuing the Avengers, and that the Snap would cause Tony Stark to fully realize the consequences of his ego and guilt. Tony will descend into despair until the Time Stone reappears and Tony, having some familiarity with the Stones and a newfound hope, will use it to go back in time.
Throughout the MCU, Tony is cursed with the well-intentioned need to protect the world but being utterly incapable of it due to his ego and guilt. His actions dissolve the Avengers and rendered them unable to defend against Thanos. Tony’s worst fear having occurred (the Snap) finally gives him the clear-headedness and sense of purpose he needs to do the right thing and change key moments in the MCU’s history using the Time Stone.
Ant-Man, who’s stuck in the Quantum Realm will probably use time vortexes to comprehend what’s happening and help Stark along the way.
Nebula, meanwhile, will search that elusive revenge she’s been seeking.
At the end of Infinity War, Nebula remains behind on Titan after the Snap. It’s no coincidence that her arc is incomplete, and that being one of the few remaining characters in the movie has elevated her importance so that she may complete it. Nebula’s arc is connected to Gamora and Thanos. Nebula’s relationship with Gamora has evolved from antagonistic to compassionate, with Nebula being concerned for Gamora’s safety. Indeed, she mourns Gamora after Thanos says he killed her. This builds on Nebula’s unresolved animus for Thanos that she’s been harboring throughout the MCU. I speculate Nebula will almost certainly seek revenge on Thanos, and that she will leave Titan to seek him out shortly before the Time Stone reappears.
Nebula’s quest may even force Thanos to seek help from the Avengers, the theory says, as Nebula will become an unwitting villain as she ends up wielding her father’s Gauntlet.
Both Stark and Nebula would actually try to fix the same problem, but only one of them can succeed. And, if the Avengers are to win this fight, only Tony’s solution is viable:
Both Nebula and Tony will try to prevent the Snap from happening, but only one may succeed. It has to be Tony. Nebula rewinding time to before the Snap leads to two results: an infinite loop in which the Avengers are still dissolved and ineffective against Thanos, and Tony prevented from going back in time. Tony will end up uniting the Avengers and in his timeline, Thanos will be defeated on Earth when he comes for the Mind Stone. The Snap will not only be undone, but will be prevented from happening in the first place. The older heroes (at least some) will die bringing back the newer heroes, giving the audience a passing-of-the-torch moment. After their success, Doctor Strange will use the Reality and Space Stones to transport the Time Stone back to Titan, ensuring their current timeline will happen (Strange is willing to give the Time Stone away in this infinite loop because doing so also protects it). Tony’s success also prevents Nebula from seizing the Gauntlet and dissolves her “present” timeline. Note that Tony’s actions only succeed in building up enough of a defense on Earth and will not affect events beyond Earth. This means that any characters who died prior to the fight on Titan will remain dead, because Thanos had to arrive on Titan to retrieve the Time Stone.
The fan theory also suggests other interesting details, such as Clint’s entire family being Snapped, or Hulk and Bruce Banner finally solving their brewing conflict. Ultimately, someone will die, with the Reddit user also pointing at Captain America and Tony as the likely characters to perish while saving everyone else.