It has been about five months since Avengers: Infinity War hit theaters, Hulk-smashed box office records, re-shuffled the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)—while still keeping everything the same—and generally delighted audiences. With enough time to digest the ambitious epicness of it all, we can continue to look forward to what’s next.
Before we get to the still untitled Avengers 4 next year, Marvel fans have Captain Marvel to come, which may play an important role in shaping the MCU moving forward. After Avengers 4, all bets are off.
So with so much fumbling around in the dark going on among fans and critics, we thought we’d compile all of the major Avengers: Infinity War and beyond theories in one convenient place.
You can thank us later.
So without further ado, here are the Thanos-sized theories floating around the MCU in order from least likely to most likely.
The Iron Man-Sorcerer Supreme Theory
Credit to ScreenRant for this one, that completely shoves Wong to the side in favor of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man temporarily becoming the next Sorcerer Supreme.
Stark has the vast intellect it takes to master the mystic arts and has now been introduced to the idea of sorcery and alternate realities after meeting Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange and witnessing him view more than 14 million possible simulations of their conflict with Thanos. We still don’t know exactly where Strange’s cape of levitation is, so it’s possible that Stark finds it and begins to dive into the world of magic.
He is, after all, an egomaniacal futurist who attempts to solve problems with grand and elaborate solutions without considering the repurcussions.
Likeliness Quotient: 1 out of 6 Infinity Stones
The Vision Resurrection Theory
According to Nerdist, it’s possible that Paul Bettany’s Vision could be resurrected thanks to Letitia Wright’s Shuri. As we saw in the movie, poor Vision was killed not once but twice (it took at least two deaths to kill off the bad taste of his languid romance with Scarlet Witch).
However, it’s possible that Shuri was able to make a copy of the Mind Stone before all hell broke loose. Or, at the very least, downloaded enough of Vision so that she could reboot him without the Stone later on. Resurrecting Vision could serve as one of many undoings of Thanos’ universal balancing act, bringing him back into the fold for Avengers 4.
Likeliness Quotient: 2 out of 6 Infinity Stones
The World Breaker Hulk Theory
Is The Hulk headed for redemption in Avengers 4?
Popular YouTube and Marvel superfan Webhead, who has become an online favorite thanks to his in-depth theories, recently posted a new round of speculation that involves the continued developed of Bruce Banner’s alter-ego following the events of Infinity War.
After being on the receiving end of a vicious beatdown from the Mad Titan Thanos, Hulk refused to emerge when Mark Ruffalo’s Banner called upon him in the latest blockbuster. Could that be setting up Avengers 4 to include a World Breaker Hulk evolution?
For those that don’t know, World Breaker Hulk was the strongest version of the giant green rage monster that we ever laid eyes on. He had the ability to destroy planets with a single punch, as his name suggests. Introducing him in Avengers 4 would level the playing field against Thanos and make up for his lack of screentime in Infinity War.
As Webhead speculates:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel put this character on screen. They usually produce a version of these characters that isn’t as powerful as [their comic book counterparts], because world breaker Hulk can literally destroy worlds with just a single punch. This is where Hulk is most powerful. He glows all green, and becomes extremely enraged, destroying everything in his path.”
World Breaker Hulk was considered the undisputed strongest Avenger in the source material and seems like a logical next step, especially after Thor was given Stormbreaker to increase his power. (Side Note: Stormbreaker actually undoes all of the “power within you” character development we see in Thor: Ragnarok, but that’s a post for another time).
“[It is] kind of like what we saw in Infinity War, when they gave Thor his new hammer. We saw in Ragnarok that Thor had really become the God of Thunder, even without [Mjolnir]. And then in Infinity War, when he got the Stormbreaker, he really just became the all-powerful god. And I have a feeling that we’re going to see that with Hulk in Avengers 4. We didn’t get to see a lot of Hulk during Infinity War, and I think we’ll see a Hulk that is very different. Especially because they always use that joke that Hulk is the strongest Avenger and [after Infinity War] he really needs to step up his game in order to top Thor.”
Likeliness Quotient: 3 out of 6 Infinity Stones
The Quantum Realm Theory
SlashFilm goes deep into this theory, which suggests that Ant-Man and the Wasp will return us to the Quantum Realm, briefly seen in the original Ant-Man, where time and space do not operate by conventional laws. The two characters will go in search of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet van Dyne (Hope’s mother), who became trapped there years ago.
The theory goes that these heroes will emerge from the Quantum Realm at the conclusion of Infinity War and find themselves in an altered reality in which the vanished heroes have been forgotten, or never existed in the first place. As the only ones with memories of the “prime” timeline, they’ll have to mess around with the wonky aspects of the Quantim Realm to re-set reality.
The discovery of doorways to alternatie universes within the realm—which could conceivably be housing Captain Marvel—would play a role in this.
Ant-Man and his team would provide the Avengers with the Quantum Realm technology so that they could enter alternate universes/timelines where certain events from the MCU have not yet taken place (more on this in a bit). This is one way they could intercept the Infinity Stones before Thanos gets his purple hands on them or create their own Infinity Gauntlet to battle him (more on this in a bit too). Avengers 4 has been rumored to be titled “Infinity Gauntlet.”
Trippy, we know.
Likeliness Quotient: 3.5 out of 6 Infinity Stones
The Who’s Not a Skrull Theory
Back in 2017, Marvel confirmed speculation when it announced that Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel would indeed introduce the shapeshifting aliens known as the Skrulls, setting up a potential adaptation of the beloved comics storyline Secret Invasion.
For movie fans who have not yet dabbled in the source material, Secret Invasion revolved around a Skrull takeover of Earth as it was revealed that many prominent politicians, business people and even key heroes on the Avengers roster were actually Skrulls in disguise. It has long been believed that Avengers 4 could also play a role in setting up this storyline for future use in the MCU. As such, fans have spent a considerable amount of time speculating on which heroes may actually be evil aliens.
But let’s flip that thinking and start eliminating who we believe is not a Skrull in disguise. To do that, we need only to take a gander at some characters’ medical histories.
In the comics, Skrulls naturally have a different physiology than humans—their blood is green after all. That likely disqualifies Nick Fury, Hawkeye and War Machine from being Skrulls as all three have received extensive examinations in recent MCU entries. In The Winter Soldier, Fury was under close observation by several doctors after the assassination attempt on his life. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Dr. Helen Cho gave Hawkeye a thorough once-over following his injury. And in Civil War, Rhodey receives an MRI after his spinal injury. Any alien anatomy would have been revealed during these detailed check-ups.
Of course, the movies could easily change this for convenient plotting, but for now, this is the best assumption to work off of.
Likeliness Quotient: 3.5 out of 5 Infinity Stones
The Sacrificial Gauntlet Theory
Ever since the stakes began to heat up in The Winter Soldier, fans have predicted that Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers/Captain America would sacrifice himself for the greater good with one of his buddies taking up the mantle (it’s totally Bucky).
This theory adds a bit of context to that potential self-sacrifice, with Vanity Fair speculating that ol’ Cappie will trade his life so that Stark can wield the Infinity Gauntlet. As we saw with Thanos and Gamora, the Soul Stone requires a sacrifice of a loved one in able to be used. How better to mend the fences broken between these two MCU-defining characters in Civil War than with Captain America showing just how much he really cares for Tony?
The good guys have used an Infinity Gauntlet a time or two in the comics and even though the MCU takes a lot of creative liberties, this seems to be something they’ve been setting up for awhile. Cap’s worthiness to wield great power has been a point of discussion ever since he nudged Thor’s hammer in Age of Ultron. Something big has to happen here.
The phrase “we don’t trade lives” is thrown about a few times in Infinity War. The heroes that vanished were greener Avengers and many of the originals made it out OK. In Avengers 4, there could be some trade-off of life; a soul for a soul.
Likeliness Quotient: 4.5 out of 6 Infinity Stones
The Time Travel Theory
Most of us assume that some sort of time travel trickery will be used to ressurrect many of the heroes who vanished in Infinity War. Squawk all you want Marvel, but there’s no way you’re leaving billions of dollars on the table by not making sequels to Black Panther or Spider-Man: Homecoming.
But that isn’t the only use of time travel that might be on the table.
*Possible Spoiler Warning for Avengers 4*
Leaked set photos from the upcoming sequel feature characters in older costumes and in familiar locations, such as the Battle of New York from 2012’s The Avengers.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has even said that “different realms” will be explored in the MCU capper: “They can be separate geographically, or separate in time—not just in place, but in time. So there’s almost—it’s not quite infinite, but the directions we could go are extraordinary.”
Will we be revisiting certain key moments from the MCU’s history?
Likeliness Quotient: 5 out of 6 Infinity Stones
The Time Stone Theory
This theory was so layered and multifaceted that we gave it it’s own entire post, which you should absolutely check out. But if you prefer the abridged version, here it goes:
We’ve all assumed that Doctor Strange gave Thanos the Time Stone because it was the only way to set up the one timeline out of 14 million-plus in which he saw the Avengers winning the conflict. But it may go further than that; Strange may have actually set a trap for Thanos by sending the stone forward in time. The deep dive explanation is very convincing, but it basically boils down to Strange sending future Tony Stark the Stone in order to go back in time and warn the Avengers of Thanos’ looming threat.
There’s more to it than that, but you get the general gist.
Likeliness Quotient: 5 out of 6 Infinity Stones
The Gamora Theory
Thanos kills Gamora in order to weild the Soul Stone, but is Gamora really dead? Fortunately for fans, one half of the Russo brothers decided to comment on the matter.
One of the biggest points of speculation that Infinity War generated was over the scene between Thanos and young Gamora after he wipes out half of the universe’s population.
To this, the co-director explained (via TheRealStanLee.com):
“Yeah, it’s implied that it’s the Soul Stone. It’s all orange around, then [Thanos] is inside the Soul Stone with the amount of power that it took to snap his fingers. He has this out-of-body experience. [Gamora], in fact, is [alive]. It was an attempt on our part—because we won’t like two-dimensional roles or three-dimensional villains where every villain is a hero in theor own story. And as insane and psychotic and brutal and violent as Thanos is, he’s a more complex villain if you go on a journey with him emotionally.”
If Gamora is indeed alive and trapped within the Soul Stone, it stands to reason that the rest of our departed heroes are also there too in the Soul World. Hopefully, a couple of key deaths will stick to add some emotional weight, but this looks to be the most sensical way to bring back the fan-favorites.
Likeliness Quotient: 5 out of 6 Infinity Stones
The Avengers 4 Ending Theory
This isn’t so much a theory as a potential Avengers 4 spoiler warning. You’ve been warned.
This description of the ending of next year’s Avengers 4 was originally posted on 4chan before quickly being taken down. You can find the archived link here. Normally, you shouldn’t put much stock into these Internet rumors, but the fact that it was removed so quickly is…interesting.
It’s worth noting that there is another rumor going around online that only two original Avengers remain after the events of the film, something this separate plot description seems to support.
“The device seen in leaked set photo’s allows the user to harness the power of the infinity stones. After defeating thanos, each original avenger is left with an infinity stone and a choice.
Cap uses the time stone, returning to peggy and living out his life with her.
Thor uses the soul stone, returning his brother from the dead, they rebuild asgard on earth.
Bruce uses the mind stone, and separates himself from hulk. They say their farewell and exchange a heartwarming hug.
Ant-man, who refuses the reality stone, selflessly gives it to wanda, who uses it as a new power source for Vision.
Finally Tony is left with the power stone, vowing not to weponize something so powerfull, he destroys it…”
Again, this is all just pure speculation and could be 100 percent off-base. There’s no mention of Hawkeye (who could be dead) or Black Widow and that description is also mysteriously missing the space stone. But this would eliminate Captain America (opening the door for Bucky to pick up the mantle in the modern day) and the Hulk. Thor would retire so that he could rule New Asgard. Hawkeye is either dead or retired and Tony could remain as the new director of SHIELD perhaps.
Likeliness Quotient: ¯_(ツ)_/¯