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Breaking Down the Complicated Time Travel in Avengers: Endgame

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame .

At the end of Avengers: Infinity War , Thanos uses powerful gems called Infinity Stones to snap his fingers and destroy half of all life in the universe. At the beginning of its follow-up film Avengers: Endgame , the Avengers hunt down Thanos and try to take the Infinity Stones back to undo the damage. Unfortunately for them, Thanos has already destroyed the Stones. There is nothing they can do.

Fast forward five years. A rat happens to crawl over a machine that allows people to travel through the Quantum Realm and accidentally releases Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). He’s been stuck in the Quantum Realm for half a decade, even though it feels to him as if only five minutes have passed. Ant-Man rushes to Avengers headquarters to tell his fellow superheroes that they can travel back in time and collect all the Infinity Stones.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) agrees to work on a machine that would allow the Avengers to time travel — on one condition. He has started a family in the last five years and thus does not want to alter recent history in any way. Instead of trying to rewind time once they have the Time Stone and undo everything that has happened in the last five years, they decide to use the Infinity Stones to bring back everyone who disappeared in this current timeline, five years later. That way, Tony can preserve his daughter’s life, while saving dusted characters like Spider-Man (Tom Holland).

If you’re already confused, well, we’re just getting started. Time travel in pop culture can get rather tricky. Just ask J.K. Rowling, who destroyed all the Time Turners in Harry Potter just to avoid dealing with time-loop-related plot holes. Avengers: Endgame tries to side step these problems by establishing certain time travel rules. It’s complicated, so bear with me.

The Avengers time travel through the Quantum Realm


Ant-Man theorizes that because he was able to jump forward five years in what felt like five minutes, the Avengers could travel back in very little time. They use Pym Particles (created by his mentor Hank Pym before he disappeared in the snap) to shrink to subatomic size and enter the Quantum Realm. Tony just has to mess around with some of the technology for a day and ta-da! He’s solved the problem of how to control where they land in time using tiny little watches. Anyway, back to the plot.

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They decide to split up and visit a few spots to intercept the Infinity Stones. Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Ant-Man travel to New York in 2012 when both the Mind Stone and the Space Stone (then known as the Tessearact ) were in Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) possession during the Battle of New York and the Time Stone resided at the Sanctum Sanctorum in the same city.

Iron Man and Ant-Man flub stealing the Space Stone (Loki gets away with it), so then Captain America and Iron Man travel further back in time to a military lab in New Jersey in 1970 to steal it from Tony’s father’s lab. They also grab more Pym particles from Pym’s lab while they’re at it.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) travel to Asgard in 2013 where the The Reality Stone resides inside Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Nebula (Karen Gillan) and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) travel to Morag in 2014, where Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) found the Power Stone. And Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) travel to Vormir in that same time period to find the Soul Stone.

What the Avengers do in the past won’t affect the future in their timeline


Let’s say they steal the Space Stone from Tony Stark’s father in 1970. Doesn’t that mean that Tony Stark’s father was never able to study the Stone, thus he never creates the Arc Reactor technology that Tony later uses to power the Iron Man suit? And Iron Man is never born? This is basically a version of the Grandfather Paradox of time travel: Travel back in time to kill your grandfather, and then you are never born — hence you are unable to kill your grandfather.

Well, not in this movie! This movie version of time travel isn’t quite what most moviegoers are used to. For example, the rules of the butterfly effect where changing one tiny aspect of the past will alter the future in unpredictable ways — think Back to the Future or this famous Simpsons episode — aren’t in place.

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Nor is there a time loop. For example, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the characters who travel back through time know exactly what they need to do in the past because it’s already happened in the future. (For example, future Harry and Hermione know they have to hit their past selves with rocks because they already felt themselves being hit with rocks at the time.) They also know they will tear apart their world if they diverge from that strict plan.

If the Avengers change something in the past, they create a parallel timeline

Time travel in Avengers: Endgame is based on a popular time travel theory in the field of quantum physics. At one point, Iron Man even drops the name David Deutsch — that’s the guy who came up with the “Many Worlds Theory” or “Multiverse Theory.” Basically, he argues that the place we conceive of as our universe is just one of many parallel universes. And if you change something in the past, you create a new timeline, branching out from the original timeline. So nothing they do in the past affects their main timeline.

For example, in the original timeline, Loki was captured and taken to Asgard by Thor in 2012. In Endgame , the 2023 Avengers accidentally facilitate Loki’s escape with the Tesseract (the Space Stone). But when they travel back to the future, Loki hasn’t used the Stone to wreak havoc for a decade. That all happened in a separate timeline. This logic eliminates the option of simply traveling back in time and killing Thanos as a baby, as Rhodes suggests, because it would not change their future, only an alternate universe.

But they have to return the Infinity Stones to their original places

The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) insists that in order to maintain the reality of each universe that they visit, the Avengers need to return the Infinity Stones to the places they found them after they are done using them. It’s fine if they create separate timelines, but if they deprive one timeline of the gems that maintain its reality, then they essentially break that timeline. Captain America does return all the stones at the end of the movie. (He also returns Mjolnir, the hammer that Thor took from Asgard, back to Thor’s home planet for the same reason.)

Nebula can kill her past self and still survive


The movie contains an extreme example of why parallel timelines are different from the butterfly effect. Toward the end of Endgame , the new, good Nebula (Karen Gillan) from 2023 shoots and kills old, evil Nebula from 2014. And though you might expect 2023 Nebula to start bleeding out or disappear, she’s completely fine. That’s because when 2014 Nebula traveled to the future on Thanos’ orders, she created a split timeline. Thus these are two different Nebulas who exist on two different timelines. What happens to one does not directly affect the other.

Captain America was married to Peggy all along


Remember when I said earlier that there were no time loops? That’s not entirely true. There is one time loop that seems to work differently from time travel in the rest of the movie. I don’t know why. It just does.

Mid-way through the movie, Hulk promises the Ancient One that he will return the Infinity Stones to their original places in space and time. At the end of the movie, Captain America goes back in time to do this. But instead of returning after five seconds, like he agreed upon with Hulk, he stays in the past.

A few seconds later, Bucky and Sam (Anthony Mackie) see an old Captain America sitting on a nearby bench. We see in a flashback that after returning the Infinity Stones, he goes back to live out a quiet life with Peggy. We see them dancing together in their shared home.

According the logic of the movie, Captain America didn’t actually create a new timeline. If he did, he wouldn’t have been able to return to that same bench. He just lived out what had always happened to him. He was always married to Peggy (Hayley Atwell).

Back in Captain America: Winter Soldier, Peggy mentions a husband, though she never reveals his name. In a video that plays on a loop at the Captain America exhibit, Peggy says, “[Steve Rogers] saved 1,000 men, including the man who would become my husband, as it turned out. Even after he died, Steve is still changing my life.” She looks down after saying this, perhaps evasive — probably because said husband was, in fact, Steve.

Later, when Steve visits her hospital bed, we see pictures of children but none of her husband — presumably because that would give away who her husband was. Tellingly, Peggy says in that scene that “none of us can go back.” She then forgets that Steve is there — because at that point, she’s suffering from Alzheimer’s — and exclaims, “You came back!” He replies, “I couldn’t leave my best girl. Not when she owes me a dance.” Likely this is a parallel to the off-screen reunion that happens when Steve travels back in time to find Peggy.

As long as Steve maintained his false identity and didn’t interfere with anything in the past that would bring the Avengers to their fight with Thanos (like saving Bucky from being brainwashed by HYDRA) the timeline stays stable. The other version of Steve still wakes up in 2012 after being frozen during World War II and still joins the Avengers. Older Steve watches on from afar. It’s unclear whether the two Steves would have encountered one another at Peggy’s funeral: They were both alive when it happened during Captain America: Civil War , but perhaps they were both there and the younger version simply didn’t recognize the older version or his fake moniker.

Everything happened the way it did because it had to, according to Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange suggests in Infinity War that the Avengers could only beat Thanos in one possible future out of millions. In Avengers: Endgame , he tells Tony Stark, “If I tell you what happens, it won’t happen.” Given that the Avengers defeat Thanos at the end of the battle (and Doctor Strange not-so-subtly flashes one finger at Iron Man during the fight), we know that we are seeing that one single future in which the Avengers defeat Thanos.

Knowing that, old Steve would resist meddling in the Avengers’ affairs so that they would eventually win their fight against the big purple baddie.

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The Avengers: Endgame Timeline, Explained

Here's exactly how Marvel's time travel works, how it doesn't, and what it means for the future of the Cinematic Universe [This Article Contains Spoilers].

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Editor's note: There are spoilers in this story.

Most fans leaving the theater after Avengers: Endgame will likely spend the next few days lying awake at night trying to figure out time paradoxes and drawing out visual aides of timelines. The time travel theories the MCU introduced with its latest movie are complex, but within the comics, heroes and villains have actually been jumping between both time and space for decades. It's part of what's most exciting about the vast world that thousands of creators have had a hand in building, but also why translating something like time travel to the screen can ultimately be incredibly confusing.

Time Travel in Avengers: Endgame

In Avengers: Endgame , the Ancient One explains to Banner that each of the Infinity Stones help keep the core timeline in place. But if the Avengers remove them, they'll create splinter timelines that would hypothetically each continue alongside the original one. The technical term for this would be a multiverse, and that's something that has existed for almost the entire history of the Marvel comics continuity. But when Banner convinces the Ancient One to give him the Time Stone, he theorizes that returning all the Stones back to their rightful places in time will mean that the timeline has been rectified, meaning that nothing in the timeline should be out of place.

By the end of the film there are a lot unknowns in the MCU's version of time travel. And their meddling with the past fundamentally changes the entire universe in ways our heroes couldn’t have possibly predicted.

Another part of why the Avengers exploration of time travel feels so strange is that, unlike the whirling cosmos of the Marvel Universe in the comics, the MCU has largely attempted to stay away from the complex nature of the multiverse. Intergalactic heroes like the Guardians and Thor have been more interested in adventures and scavenging than solving the cosmic mysteries of the universe.

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Time Travel in The Marvel (Comics) Universe

Over the natural course of thousands of comics, the idea of a multiverse has been used to explore and explain away the often narratively muddled Marvel Universe, while also giving creators a chance to delve into numerous realities and possibilities. To explain the concept behind the Ancient One's warning, we have to go back to the earliest days of the Marvel’s fictional comic universe to hundreds of thousands of years ago when the Infinity Stones were created.

During the the "Thanos Quest" storyline it's established that the Infinity Gems, as they were known in the books, were the remnants of an ancient entity from before recorded time. According to what Thanos saw in the Infinity Well, this all-powerful being was the only living thing in any and all realities. The loneliness of this omnipotent solitude led the entity to kill itself, but out of the ashes of their death came the six Infinity Gems, which held the all the power of their former self. Eagle-eyed fans might remember that this origin was briefly summarized and reimagined in the MCU by the Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy .

But if we look back to the comics, that scope, alongside time travel has long been a part of the shared storyline of some of our favorite heroes and their most fearsome villains. Kang the Conqueror is one of the Avengers' most notorious villains and one of Marvel's most prolific time travelers. The iteration that we see of Hulk in Endgame —a smart merging of both sides of Bruce Banner—has to face down an evil future version of himself known as Maestro. Time travel is a tangible thing that scientists can access, and heroes can utilize. In the comics it is accepted that it exists and almost always has. That influence is felt here in Endgame with the sudden inevitability of time travel.

preview for Avengers: Endgame is Already Smashing Records

The Problem With Time Travel in Avengers: Endgame

In the world of the MCU, Banner's plan to put the Infinity Stones back where they found them kind of works. After Tony dusts Thanos and his army, the stones and the universe are theoretically safe.

Unfortunately, the film also contradicts its own version of time travel. When the Avengers go back in time to try and secure the Stones, Thanos' actions in the Infinity War dusting aren't immediately changed. When they gain all of the stones, however, Banner is able to bring the vanished back into existence by thinking on it and snapping his fingers. But surely the simple act of taking the Stones at all would've meant that Thanos would have never been able to collect them all and dust half of the world in the first place, right? Well, not quite, because what it seems like the MCU is actually presenting here is one fluctuating singular timeline.

An ever changing but singular timeline is the only way that the film's events would make any sense. It appears that the directors want us to believe that the impact of the events were such that they happened during the films we have already seen, without changing the future in 2024.


It's a messy set of rules that seem to shift depending on the needs of the story. The Russos and Feige are essentially taking a leap of faith, relying on the fact that the suspension of disbelief is needed from viewers—as if it wasn't a stretch from aliens and trees fighting an evil extraterrestrial threat to time travel being real.

The Future of Time Travel in the MCU

It's highly probable that this is just the beginning of the MCU's exploration of time travel, and Bruce's hashed-together plans might have much larger ramifications. For example, Loki's escape is a fact that is likely to be revisited in his upcoming Disney+ series, which will now probably center on the God of Mischief causing havoc throughout time and space with the cosmic cube. The tesseract has been a key part of the MCU, so this should affect the world as we know it. These moments will have an impact outside of the cinematic universe as Cap's arrival with a shiny new shield for Sam means that his Disney+ series will now focus on his tenure alongside Bucky as Captain America rather than as Falcon.

If we are to imagine that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, there's a chance that all the Avengers' time-shenanigans have just opened the door to some of Marvel's most famous dimension hoppers... the Fantastic Four and their notorious enemy, Victor Von Doom. Kang the Conqueror could be lurking in the shadows waiting to take advantage of the timescape, or maybe we will see the return of the omnipotent Adam (Warlock) who was introduced at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 , and has in the comics wielded the gems. For now, let's hope that the interdimensional rift caused by Endgame doesn't create too many problems as 2020 still doesn't have any heroes lined up with no MCU films on the release slate.

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Spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame .

Time travel is a bitch of a narrative device. Like a wild horse, it'll buck off any and all comers, no matter how well they think they have the idea buttoned down. At first glance, such appears to be the case again in Avengers: Endgame . By the end of the story, too many things have gone wrong, too many moments in the past have been driven directly off the rails. There is no way the timeline is an intact Mobius Strip. This is no Kate And Leopold where the past and the future happen in tandem, meaning any time travel was supposed to happen and therefore no paradoxes can come into play due to the inertia of time itself. Then again, what if that wasn't the goal? Instead of a Mobius Strip, it looks like the Russo Brothers may be utilizing another time travel staple: The Trousers of Time.

For those of you who aren't fans of author Terry Pratchett (shame on you!), let me explain: the Trousers of Time is just a simple way to explain a multiverse. Trouser, or pants as I'll be calling them from now on because I'm an American, begin as a single unit near but then split into two sleeves. The other portions can touch, they look identical, but they are two separate things. The best possible scenario for Endgame is the MCU is now functioning on two timelines. Worst case scenario is they just made Trousers of Time for an eldritch beast with 800 legs.

Let's look at the rules established by the film. Changing something in the past doesn't change the future. However, if the time travelers don't put the Infinity Stones right back where they got them from, time will splinter into new offshoots. Tilda Swinton 's Ancient One only gives BruceHulk ( Mark Ruffalo ) the Time Stone once she is certain he understands the danger. Did he though? Yes, Steve Rogers ( Chris Evans ) took the Stones back to where they came from. But even if he also went back and undid a couple of fumbles during the Time Heist, the pants have already split.

First of all, Loki ( Tom Hiddleston ). During the initial attempt at grabbing the Tesseract, the Avengers' plan goes south when the Asgardian Prince snatches the briefcase and teleports away. There is no putting that oopsie-daisy back in the bottle. Loki is long gone. Capturing him and sticking him back in the timeline is not within Captain America's wheelhouse. And this is not the bittersweet, emotional growth Loki that MCU audiences have grown to love but the one still covered in a thick layer of villainy. Which might be a problem in and of itself, but let's focus on how this new wrinkle in time ripples out into the greater narrative.

Loki escaping means he is never returned to Asgard. He is never imprisoned in the dungeons so he's not there to "make mischief" when the Dark Elves break-in. Without that, Frigga ( Rene Russo ) might survive the assault. But it also means Thor ( Chris Hemsworth ) had no one easily on hand to help him reach the Dark Elves' homeworld of Svartalfheim. There's a possibility this timeline sees Malekith ( Christopher Eccleston ) succeeds in his mission to absorb the Aether and attacked Asgard.

But that time split is nothing compared to the big one: Thanos (Josh Brolin). In the final act of Avengers: Endgame , Nebula 2 ( Karen Gillan ) uses the Time Heist machine to bring her father and his army forward in time to fight. The villains disappear from the beginning of the first Guardians Of The Galaxy movie, prior to Star-Lord ( Chris Pratt ) obtaining the Power Stone. They never return. Thanos' gambit does not pay off and his entire military might is dusted. His minions, his Generals, everyone. Perhaps the only survivor is Gamora 2 ( Zoe Saldana ) who is now trapped in the MCU Prime timeline. That is going to have massive reverberations.

On a small scale, it means Star-Lord 2 will never meet his Gamora. Without her, Rocket 2 ( Bradley Cooper ) and Groot 2 ( Vin Diesel ) simply collect the bounty on Star-Lord 2 and move on with their lives. Drax 2 ( Dave Bautista ) never enters the picture. Star-Lord probably escapes but he isn't part of a new found family. The events of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 never happen, or if they do it is probably Star-Lord would simply choose to join his father, Ego the Living Planet 2. ( Kurt Russell )

The overshadowing change though is the void left by Thanos 2. He is just gone from the universe. It's possible Ronan ( Lee Pace ) survived since he was already on another mission, but a majority of the army is wiped out. Thanos never destroys Xandar to retrieve the Power Stone. He never wipes out most of the Asgardian refugees (and there most likely wouldn't be any since Loki isn't there in that timeline anyway to push events towards Odin's ( Anthony Hopkins ) death and Hela's ( Cate Blanchett ) release). He never kills Heimdall ( Idris Elba ). Knowhere isn't destroyed. The Soul Stone is never retrieved. The battle in Wakanda never takes place. The Avengers never make up after the Age Of Ultron in order to be strong enough to fight Thanos. The Snap never happens. If there's no Thanos to defeat, there's no reason for Black Widow ( Scarlet Johansson ) to die. The consequences of killing Thanos 2 in the wrong pant leg of time has repercussions that reverberate up and down the timeline.

Comic books have never shied away from the concept of a multiverse and Into The Spider-Verse proved the MCU is willing to at least flirt with the concept. But it is the upcoming Disney+ Marvel shows that telegraph a split timeline is probably in the near future. Looking at the line-up all but confirms the television shows will be taking place in MCU2.

First there's WandaVision starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany . Unless Bettany is only visible to Wanda through Infinity Stone magic or the show takes place in the short timeframe between the end of Ultron and the beginning of Infinity War , they are definitely in MCU2. The same for Loki starring Tom Hiddleston. Wherever Loki 2 absconded to when he stole the Tesseract is the likely suspect as the narrative jumping off point for his show. Hawkeye will see Clint Barton ( Jeremy Renner ) passing the baton on to Kate Bishop, a story which could take place in either the MCU or MCU2. But if they want to use Matt Fraction' s amazing run as the show's baseline, that works best in a reality where Clint isn't a married father of three. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier could be a natural extension of Endgame 's final moments, but not calling Anthony Mackie "Captain America" when he has both the shield and the blessing of the original superhero seems off. If this tale is indeed from the MCU2, the question of where Steve Rogers might be is a nail-biter.

Finally, Disney+ announced an animated series called Marvel’s What If...? which will delve into alternative histories, such as what would happen if Peggy Carter ( Hayley Atwell ) was given the super soldier serum instead of Steve. This could be entirely separate from the continuity of the films and live-action television shows. But with Endgame shaking out the way it did, there's a distinct possibility all these loose time threads being explored were caused by the Time Heist.

What do you guys think? Did the Russo Brothers merely leave plot holes in their time travel narrative, or were these purposeful choices setting up the next phase of the MCU?

Note: This article was initially published at a prior date, but in advance of  Avengers: Endgame’s  release on Digital HD on July 30th, we’re highlighting our spoiler-filled  Endgame  content .

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The 7 Biggest Avengers: Endgame Time-Travel Questions, Answered

marvel endgame time travel explained

Good news: The latest Avengers movie is not confusing at all. It’s a straightforward romance set in a small town, where the superheroes spend the majority of the movie cooking meals, softly bickering, and contemplating the weather. It’s like August: Osage County , only this time Benedict Cumberbatch has a beard.

Just kidding! Avengers: Endgame isn’t the most convoluted time-travel movie of all time, but maybe that’s because we, the audience, were somehow also flung back in time at some point during the course of the movie’s 182 minutes and lost our memories of convoluted time-travel stories along the way. In the 22nd installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were doppelgänger confrontations, there were conflicting rules about how said doppelgänger confrontations might alter the past or future, there was an ending that made you wonder, Huh, can he do that? In other words, you probably have more than a few lingering questions about how the hell time works in the MCU, and we’re here to answer them:

Massive spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame.

What are the rules of time travel according to Bruce Banner?

First, let’s explain why time travel is necessary. The Avengers’ agenda in Endgame is as follows: It’s the year 2023. The Avengers have, by this point, tried and failed to secure the Infinity Stones that Thanos brought with him to his retirement planet after he turned 50 percent of the world to dust. Turns out, in fact, he destroyed the stones, so there’s no way to reverse his deadly snap by simply stealing the rocks back in the current timeline.

Enter Ant-Man, who has finally returned to Avengers headquarters after a conveniently curious rat freed him from the Quantum Realm. He’s back to suggest that the superheroes use his girlfriend’s dad’s technology to — what else? — time travel. Scott was stuck in the microverse for five years, he asserts, but only five hours passed for him. Could his more scientifically inclined colleagues figure out a way to harness the Quantum Realm for the purpose of retrieving the stones? Yes. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, a.k.a. Professor Hulk, figure it out. How? Not important. (Tony creates, not kidding, GPS bracelets that apparently do all the heavy lifting when it comes to navigating the “everything happened and is happening” nature of the Quantum Realm.) Just know that time is travel possible, and that this is how the Avengers will obtain the stones they need to bring them back to 2023 and correct Thano’s dustup.

Okay, so say we believe the Avengers: Time travel is possible. Fine. How does it work for the people actually traveling through time? What are the consequences of sending groups of superheroes back to various points in history, where they will inevitably encounters loads of familiar faces and alter the course of events as we know them? Well, the answer is both alarmingly simple and achingly complicated. After War Machine asks the gang why they don’t just go back in time and kill Baby Thanos, Banner outlines an early rule for time travel in the Endgame universe: “If you travel back into your own past, that destination becomes your future, and your former present becomes the past, which can’t now be changed by your new future.” If it sounds a little murky, that’s because it is. But the takeaway is: You can’t just kill Baby Thanos, because his death wouldn’t change the snapped timeline the Avengers have already lived; going into the past doesn’t affect their reality, because their reality has already happened. (If you think this sounds a little like a linear timeline, à la the time-travel rules of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban , you’re not alone.)

So, okay. That’s why Tony isn’t afraid to speak to his dad in the S.H.I.E.L.D. base in 1970, when he’s attempting to heist the tesseract, or why Captain America isn’t nervous to fight himself in an effort to snag the Space Stone in New York in 2012, or why Thor doesn’t fumble the entire endeavor by crying on his mom’s shoulder the day before she dies. There is no butterfly effect . Endgame basically tries to be like your hippest friend by telling you that everything you’ve ever heard before about time travel before this movie is bogus. “ Back to the Future is bullshit!” Ant-Man declares.

What are the rules of time travel according to Tilda Swinton?

Endgame’s easy approach to time travel gets complicated once you start wondering what Tony meant when he mentioned the EPR paradox and the Deutsch proposition, and whipped up that fancy Möbius-strip visual. Deutsch, as in David Deutsch, as in the multiverse? Are we talking about parallel realities?

Yes, we are, which is pretty standard comic-book fare. When Professor Hulk meets the Ancient One in New York in 2012 (we’ll just call her Tilda Swinton from here on out), she sets the team straight: “The Infinity Stones create what you experience as the flow of time,” she tells Banner. “Remove one of the stones and that flow splits.” Here she whips up a handy visual in midair, showing one long, healthy line shooting across the horizon. She mimics plucking a stone from the timeline and a menacing-looking black line branches out from the original. That, she says, is a parallel reality. Welcome to the multiverse.

In conclusion, the Avengers’ meddling might not affect their own timelines, but their actions will amount to new timelines — and, in the case of the stones’ removal, new timelines that lack the cosmic balance of a reality that possess all six stones. Quick on his feet, Banner promises Tilda that the Avengers will return every stone to its own timeline at the very moment it was taken, “so chronologically, in that reality, it never left.” Tilda seems pretty unconvinced, and concerned for all the people who have to live with the consequences of the Avengers’ actions in their branched realities, until Banner tells her that Dr. Strange indirectly approved the plan. And so she tacitly agrees to go along.

The big takeaway from Tilda’s speech is that it allows Endgame to say, “Hey we’re not changing the past, but we might be creating some alternate futures.” But wait: If the stones are cosmically needed to keep the universe in balance, why was it okay for Thanos to destroy them in the first place? The easy answer is: Because the rest of the movie happens.

Did Captain America’s decision to return to the 1940s contradict these rules?

The final scene of Endgame reveals that Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who was tasked with returning the stones to their respective timelines after the Avengers defeated Thanos, did not instantly return to the present after “trimming the branches.” Instead, he traveled back on his personal timeline, to his superhero point of origin around the time of World War II, and lived out an entire life with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). In the final scene of the movie, we see the two dancing to the song “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” one of the post popular U.S. pop songs of late 1945, essentially written as an anthem for soldiers returning from WWII. It’s sweet, but does Steve’s little time jaunt totally contradict everything that the movie has established? And what about that TV series Agent Carter ? Has its plot been totally undone?

Of all the tim- travel stuff in the movie, Steve’s decision here seems to work with Endgame ’s deliberately flexible laws governing time. The simple way to look at it is this: 2023 Steve Rogers is part of a predestination paradox, meaning, he was destined to travel back in time and be quietly reunited with Peggy. Everything in his life prior to returning to the 1940s happened, the only wrinkle being that at certain points there were two Steve Rogers alive on Earth simultaneously. We can call them Young Steve and Old Steve. Young Steve gets frozen in ice before the end of WWII only to wake up in 2012. Old Steve picked up where Young Steve left off, living out a quiet life with the woman of his dreams, approaching old age just as Young Steve wakes up from his chilly nap. As far as Peggy goes, if Steve arrives after 1947, then the events of Agent Carter aren’t impacted at all! The only question left is whether or not the 1970s Peggy we saw in Endgame was already aware of Old Steve, and we’re just going to assume the answer is yes.

Oh, and at certain points in time there were three if not more Steves running around on Earth. In 1970, you’ve got Young Steve in the ice, Time-Traveling Steve with Tony Stark, and Old Steve. Then, in 2012, there’s freshly thawed Young Steve, Time-Traveling Steve, and Old Steve. That’s not even taking into consideration the other Time-Traveling Steves putting Infinity Stones back where they belong, but you get it.

What about the two Nebulas?

Near the end of Endgame , Nebula (Karen Gillan) from 2014 faces Nebula from 2023, which results in the older and wiser Nebula killing the younger hothead Nebula. So what’s the deal with these two Nebulas? Nebulae? Grammatically this situation is about as confusing as it is paradoxically. Your brain wants to believe that as soon as 2023 Nebula shoots 2014 Nebula, that 2023 Nebula should instantly disappear, because that’s what happens in the time-travel movie Looper . If her younger self has been killed by her older self, then how can her older self exist? Wouldn’t this all fall under the grandfather paradox?

According to Professor Hulk’s linear time explanation, no. According to Tilda Swinton’s branch-reality explanation, no. But the movie plays fast and loose with its logic when it comes to the Nebulae. One creative explanation could reference the fact that the memories of the two Nebulas merged thanks to their cybernetic brain implants. If you’ve seen the other franchise Gillan is involved in, Doctor Who , this is kind of like when the Doctor creates an instant “memory” of having already done something through the course of his time travel. If you go back and watch all the various Who episodes in which there are multiple Karen Gillans, it will make Endgame seem straightforward. In any case, Nebula is one of the timey-wimey-est Avengers.

Is Gamora alive again?

Thanos infamously killed Gamora (Zoe Saldana) so he could get the Soul Stone in Infinity War . But she shows up in Endgame as a 2014 version (still bad, not yet in love with Star Lord) of herself, who ends up helping the Avengers defeat a 2014 version (still bad, not yet in possession of the Infinity Stones) of Thanos. This amounts to the reverse of the Nebulae paradox. Gamora from the past has now been put on a different path that seems to prevent her death in her own personal future. But, if future Gamora hadn’t died in Infinity War , then 2014 Gamora couldn’t be given this second chance. Could this have caused a bootstraps paradox or an information paradox? Of all the time-travel paradoxes, this one is the more confusing, and maybe the one most likely to be addressed in a future movie, given that Star Lord (Chris Pratt) was found in an attempt to track Gamora’s whereabouts at the end of Endgame .

It should be noted that the Gamora predicament and the double Nebula problem are both the result of 2014 Thanos getting in on the time-travel game, too. So, if Tony has now snapped him out of existence, it’s possible that the 2014 timeline has branched, and no longer involves Thanos killing Gamora four years later.

What happened to Loki and the tesseract?

Umm, we don’t know. When the contemporary Avengers go back in time to steal the tesseract from themselves and Loki, they manage to screw up so badly that Loki runs away with the tesseract, again. This isn’t readdressed, but it does, maybe, seem to create the most definitive branch timeline. If Loki escapes, and is running around the universe with the tesseract, it could neatly explain why Tom Hiddleston has a Loki TV series booked on Disney+. In terms of explanations within Endgame , there are really only two that don’t involve this being a “mistake.” First, maybe Thor manages to catch up with Loki anyway, and bring him back to Asgard a bit later than expected, causing everything to proceed as close to before as possible. Second, during Captain America’s trip to “trim the branches,” perhaps he returns to this period and “fixes” the error along the way. If that explanation is true, there would be — hold onto your American butts — four different versions of Steve Rogers alive on Earth in 2012 at the same time.

Wait, can you explain this movie to me using a Back to the Future analogy?

Even though Endgame likes to make fun of Back to the Future , it does borrow directly from the beloved time-travel trilogy in two very specific ways. First, Tilda Swinton’s explanation of the “branches” and her accompanying visual diagram is pretty much exactly like Doc talking about the alternate 1985 in Back to the Future II . The only difference is that in BTTFII , Doc and Marty are trapped in an alternate branch, and in Endgame Tilda is asking Professor Hulk to prevent one of those from forming.

Second, when Captain America shows up as an old man the moment after he disappears to go back in time, this is pretty much exactly like the ending of Back to the Future II and the beginning of Back to the Future III. When Marty sees the DeLorean struck by lighting, a few seconds later some people show up with a letter, perfectly timed to be delivered at that moment. Captain America did the exact same thing at the end of Endgame . The only difference was that he didn’t send a letter. He sent himself. There you go!

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Avengers: Endgame Time Travel Explained

Still not clear on how time travel works in the mcu maybe we can help.

Scott Collura

For more on Avengers, read our Endgame review , or find out about everything in the Fortnite X crossover . Learn about the post-credits scene in Endgame , or let us explain the Endgame ending for you! Find out more about that mystery kid from Iron Man's funeral . Dig into Gamora's dead or alive status in Endgame . And is Black Widow really dead? We explain here .

So now it can be confirmed. As we long suspected, yes, the Avengers use time travel in order to undo Thanos’ Snap heard round the universe. And while the circumstances of how that time travel play out might be different from what many fans had theorized, the end result is the same: The Mad Titan is defeated and everyone who was lost in the Decimation is returned, albeit after five years of non-existence.

But how exactly does the time travel work in Avengers: Endgame? Basically, it’s super confusing, and it seems like the filmmakers purposely avoid fully explaining it, instead opting to point out how it doesn’t work. That said, let’s put on our Quantum Realm Suit, adjust our time GPS, and time-heist this thing!

The Quantum Realm

At first, Tony Stark isn’t interested in pursuing the matter, as he thinks it was dumb luck that Scott made it out of the Quantum Realm at all. So Captain America and Black Widow bring Ant-Man to the Hulk, who agrees to give it a go… even if it isn’t exactly his area of expertise.

Time Travel Doesn’t Work That Way!

Eventually “Professor” Hulk comes in to help figure out how to use Scott’s discovery to send the Avengers back in time. And while everyone has their own idea of how to go about the mission, Banner reminds the group that time travel doesn’t really work the way it does in movies such as Back to the Future or The Terminator (or Time After Time or Somewhere in Time or Timecop…). War Machine suggests just going back in time and killing Baby Thanos, a twist on the old killing Baby Hitler concept, but again, that’s “movie time travel.” Or so we’re told.

According to Banner, you can’t just go back in time and change the past in order to alter the future. Because the future is already your past! You can’t change the future, because if you did, you wouldn’t be the same version of yourself who time-travelled in the first place to make that change. See, it’s confusing.

Instead, any change to history will create an alternate, or divergent, timeline. Say you did kill Baby Thanos. That wouldn’t affect the Thanos in the MCU timeline that already saw him cause the Decimation. Instead, it would just create a parallel reality where Thanos died as a baby. But the world of our heroes would remain unchanged. So what to do then?

Time Heist!

Here’s where we get to the time heist, as Tony Stark can’t help himself and basically figures out how time travel works when he has a few hours of spare time one evening. He joins his old teammates, who have been kinda/sorta getting there, though Scott Lang narrowly avoids being permanently turned into a child/baby/old man in the process, and definitely wets himself along the way. The Hulk is smart, but Stark is needed for this one.

Soon enough, the plan is hatched to send three teams back to various points in time/space in order to retrieve each Infinity Stone from a time before Thanos had them. The Avengers will then take them back to their present time of 2023 (five years after the Snap) and use them to undo the Decimation with a new Snap. But as the Ancient One explains to Banner during the Battle of New York back in 2012, removing one of the Stones from their timeline will cause said timeline to splinter off into the divergent realities mentioned above. The Stones being together, presumably in the same time if not in the same specific place, keeps the timeline intact. That’s why, once the Avengers finish undoing the Decimation in 2023, they must return the Stones to the exact moments they took them from the past. That way the Stones will not truly leave their respective past points, and hence not alter the timeline.

And that’s what Captain America apparently does with each of the Stones at the end of the film, returning them to their rightful places in the past. Though he takes a 70-year break or so along the way. Speaking of which...

Splintered Timelines

Despite the goal of not altering history, it seems that’s what happens anyway, as the Nebula of the present’s mind and memories mix with those of the Nebula of the past. This allows the Thanos from around the time of Guardians of the Galaxy 1 (in 2014) to see the future, including his own death at the beginning of Endgame and the Avengers’ time heist plan. And so he travels into the future to the “present” of Endgame, in 2023, which leads to the film’s final confrontation and Iron Man’s death as he snaps Thanos and his army out of existence.

But! How could the Thanos of the past be killed in Endgame, since now he will never be able to find the Infinity Stones, put them in the Infinity Gauntlet, and wipe out half of all life in Infinity War, leading to the Avengers coming up with the time heist plan as a result? Unless this Thanos is from a divergent timeline, created by the fact that history was altered when the Avengers travelled to the past (and Nebula inadvertently revealed the future to Thanos). Which, Endgame previously told us, should not happen as long as the Infinity Stones don’t leave their place in the timeline.

The same question applies to the Gamora of the past, who didn’t die on Vormir and is seemingly alive and well at the end of Endgame, with Star-Lord preparing to go find her in space (Guardians Vol. 3 plot line?). If she’s living in the present, how can her future self have died in the past when Thanos sacrificed her for the Soul Stone? Divergent timeline?

The Loki who escapes with the Tesseract right after the Battle of New York is another big question that comes out of the Avengers' time travel shenanigans, since not only did he disappear into a portal to points unknown, but he also took the Space Stone with him. That’s why Cap and Iron Man had to go back even further to the 1970s to find another instance of the Tesseract that they could steal. But by the end of the film, when Captain America returns all of the Stones to their rightful place (off camera), there’s no way he could’ve returned the one that past Loki made off with. Perhaps we’ll learn more about this in the Disney+ Loki show, but it sure seems like that’s another divergent timeline right there.

And then there’s Cap, who winds up living out his life with Peggy Carter in the past. This conflicts with what we know to be Peggy’s history in the MCU, as she married a man who Cap saved during World War II, a man with whom she had children. If Cap and Peggy got together in the past, then that aspect of her history would have to be altered… creating a different timeline. (Though, yes, one could argue that Steve Rogers was always the guy she married and that he and Peggy basically kept that info hidden for 70 years. But really, that’s a stretch.) And if a different timeline was created, how did elderly Cap make it back at the end of the film, as he doesn’t arrive on the Quantum platform where he left from? Perhaps the Tony Stark in that other reality gave him some kind of upgraded Quantum GPS device that allows him to pop in and out between realities.

The Bottom Line

So what can we definitively say about time travel in Endgame? It seems clear that, as the Hulk pointed out, changing the past won’t change the characters’ futures. But beyond that, it seems that despite the team’s best efforts, at least some divergent timelines were formed. All of which brings us back to the beginning, when we said that time travel in the MCU apparently doesn’t make much sense. Or at least it doesn’t make much movie sense. But Endgame is a movie. And now our heads are exploding.

What do you make of the MCU’s take on time travel? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Talk to Executive Editor Scott Collura on Twitter at @ScottCollura , or listen to his Star Trek podcast, Transporter Room 3 . Or do both!

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Avengers: Endgame Ending Explained

The Avengers: Endgame ending might seem a little confusing and...well, it is. We're here to help.

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This article consists of nothing but massive  Avengers: Endgame  spoilers. You’ve been warned. We have a completely spoiler free review right here.

Avengers: Endgame , like any other movie dealing with time travel, can be a little confusing when it comes time to wrap things up. The more you think about how time travel works in this movie, the more it makes your head hurt. But, since you’re already here at this article, it’s probably too late for you anyway. Fortunately, the time travel elements only directly affect the endings of Thanos, Tony Stark, and Steve Rogers, while whatever is next for Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy (the Gamora problem notwithstanding, which we’ll get into), and the rest of the gang is relatively straightforward.

But you can’t really deal with the Avengers: Endgame ending without at least trying to figure out the headachey rules of time travel (which we’ll go into in much more thorough detail in another article). Most time travel narratives featuring characters traveling into their own pasts follow one of two time travel logics. The first logic is that time travel is a closed loop and that anything you change through traveling back in time will have always been changed. Everything that’s happened in the past has already happened, even if you didn’t know it until your current present. The second option is the branched parallel timelines logic. If you travel into the past, every change you make will create a new branch of the timeline that exists in parallel to the “original” branch. In this logic, you can never change the present and future of your own timeline, only the present and future of other timelines. Which logic does the time travel in Endgame fall into? Kind of both, but mostly the second.

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The fact that the Infinity Stones are stolen from the Avengers at various points in the timeline, even if they are returned, implies there are multiple timelines that were created from those changed moments. In other words, parallel universes would branch out from Steve, Tony, and Scott’s jump to Battle of New York in 2012; Steve and Tony’s jump to New Jersey in 1970; and from Rhodes, Clint, Nebula, Scott, and Nat’s jump to 2014. So keep all that in mind as we sort out the events of the Avengers: Endgame ending.

We tried to explain all of the  Avengers: Endgame  time travel rules right here. Maybe that will help with the rest of this.


This parallel branches theory, which is alluded to in Tony Stark’s final voiceover about the multiverse, is perhaps better explained by Thanos’s time travel. If he travels to his own future (the Endgame present) and dies before ever assembling the Infinity Gauntlet and snapping in the first place, then the Avengers’ original need to stop him would become irrelevant… only if this were a closed loop timeline. Since that didn’t happen, this implies that there are parallel branch universes that our heroes and villains are jumping between, but those branches are “clipped” (Steve’s word) when the Stones are returned to their place in the timeline.

Tony Stark uses the reality altering power of the Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out Thanos, the Black Order, and their entire army, just as Thanos wiped out half of all life in the universe at the end of Avengers: Infinity War . Of course, the destruction of the Thanos of “five years ago” in the “present” of the current MCU opens the door to all manner of headaches, but the simplest explanation here is that the Thanos that Thor beheaded early in the movie is still “our” Thanos, while the one defeated at the end of the movie is from a parallel universe, which might help explain why his demise doesn’t invalidate the next few years of the MCU.


The seeds of Tony’s death by Infinity Gauntlet have been teased since at least 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy , when Ronan the Accuser disintegrated because he couldn’t handle the energies contained within the Power Stone, and was thus consumed. Just a little earlier in Endgame , it was clear that the power of the Gauntlet and the combined stones could barely be contained by the Hulk’s gamma-irradiated physique, so if he couldn’t handle it, the minute Tony had to use it, we should have all been clued in to his imminent exit from the land of the living.

read more – Marvel and MCU Easter Eggs in Avengers: Endgame

We suppose you could say that there’s some symmetry with killing off Tony Stark, the character who made the entire MCU possible thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, and the late 2018 death of Stan Lee , the legendary writer, editor, and co-creator (and master of cameos) of many aspects of the Marvel Universe as a whole. In both cases, an era has passed.

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In attendance at Tony Stark’s funeral you can find all the surviving Avengers, plus a few special guests, including Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill, Marissa Tomei’s May Parker, William Hurt’s Thaddeus Ross, and Ty Simpkins’ Harley Keener from the immensely underrated Iron Man 3 .

We wrote in much more detail about the significance of all the guests at Tony Stark’s funeral right here.


Believe it or not, the Asgardians of the Galaxy is actually a thing in Marvel Comics . Somehow. Don’t expect that to be anything other than a clever pun in the MCU, though, as that team consists almost exclusively of characters who haven’t been (and probably never will be) introduced on screen.

However, the prospect of Thor galivanting around the cosmos with the Guardians of the Galaxy is certainly a fun one. Thor: Ragnarok fed off the colorful, comedic energy of the Guardians movies, and Chris Hemsworth has proven himself a natural comedic presence, with fun timing and chemistry with Chris Pratt. Whether this is the direction James Gunn chooses to go with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 or not remains to be seen, as he has been pretty good about keeping his movies partitioned off from the wider concerns of the MCU. It’s more likely that Thor 4 will take on a similarly interstellar tone to Thor: Ragnarok , one that sees Thor finally recover from the depression that gripped him after losing Asgard, the events of Infinity War , and his actions at the start of Endgame . The prospect of Valkyrie running the show in New Asgard should leave fans hopeful for a larger role for Tessa Thompson in future Marvel movies, as well.

read more – Which Avengers: Endgame Deaths are Permanent?

But the bigger problem for the Guardians is Gamora. The Gamora we all knew from the first two Guardians movies most certainly died in Infinity War , leaving us with the Gamora of five years ago (or, well, the Gamora of an alternate timeline from five years ago) who never had these experiences with the Guardians. But the ending of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 set up the arrival of Adam Warlock , a character who has traditionally been tied quite closely to the Soul Stone. Is it possible that through assorted shenanigans, Warlock is able to bring that back into existence, and in the course of that adventure, the essence of the “original” Gamora ends up merging with the one currently running around the MCU? Who knows? We wrote much more about what happened to Gamora in  Endgame  right here.

In any case, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is going to be the first of that arm of the franchise to have to deal heavily with story and character elements introduced in the rest of the MCU. We’ll see how James Gunn and company handle it when the time comes.


Make no mistake, Sam Wilson is your next Captain America . Sure, there have been other characters who took up the shield in the pages of Marvel Comics before Sam got his turn, notably characters like the ill-advised John Walker and everyone’s favorite best pal/ship Bucky Barnes. But here’s the thing…

Steve Rogers never got a say in either of those two characters getting the shield. John Walker was appointed by the US Government after Steve went rogue (as he is known to do from time to time), and Bucky only put on the red, white, and blue while Steve was dead (he got better). To be clear, when Steve returned from the dead (as he is also known to do from time to time) he still gave Bucky his blessing to continue for a while before he took the shield back, but in terms of “officially” passing the mantle on, the only person he has ever done that for is Sam Wilson.

read more: Marvel Movies Watch Order – An MCU Timeline Guide

And with good reason. Even though Bucky pre-dates Sam by nearly thirty years in comics, Sam has been active for far longer, and did plenty of service as Cap’s partner. Steve officially giving Sam the nod here is a big deal. Still, this is very much only the beginning of Sam’s journey to becoming Captain America. There’s a  The Falcon and The Winter Soldier TV series coming to Disney+ that will likely deal with Sam getting comfortable with the responsibility that comes with the Captain America title, and Bucky will presumably help him navigate that.

Sam Wilson as Captain America

Oh, and the other good news is that Sam Wilson’s Captain America costume is really, really badass, and the MCU version won’t have to make too many modifications to make it work on screen.


As the Ancient One explained to Bruce Banner, removing the Infinity Stones from their place in the timeline causes branching issues, but returning them to the moment from which they were taken means that the branching in question never happens. So Steve has six stops to make, including in 1970 (from where he and Tony swiped the Tesseract), 2014 (where the Power Stone was located), Asgard in 2013, Vormir in 2018 (soul), New York in 2012 (time), and…this is where things get cloudy. Where does the Mind Stone get returned to? Because at a certain point in the past, this could potentially allow Vision to return to life.  

read more: Avengers: Endgame Review – A Brilliant MCU Finale

But while Steve is only gone for a few minutes of “our time” he’s gone for considerably longer of “his” time. And he decides to take a detour back to 1945, the point shortly after he went into the ice, to live out his days with Peggy Carter. The song playing as Steve and Peggy dance is “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” specifically the version recorded by the Harry James Orchestra with Kitty Kallen on vocals. “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” was  a 1945 hit with lyrics that are really, really appropriate, as they seem to deal with welcoming a lover back from years at war. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Steve lives out his days with Peggy (and outlives her by a few years, as she died in Captain America: Civil War ), and returns to the spot where he left to let his buddies know that he’s ok, apparently wearing the same tan jacket he wore as young, pre-super soldier serum Steve in Captain America: The First Avenger . He doesn’t look bad for a guy who is about 110 years old, all things considered. And there is still some precedent from the comics for Steve Rogers to still be a part of various Marvel adventures, even if he isn’t taking an active, physical role .

One potential headache here comes when you look too closely at Peggy Carter’s story arc. We know from other MCU films that Peggy eventually married someone else — someone Steve rescued in his big The First Avenger rescue mission. Perhaps Peggy was playing coy and she meant it was Steve himself? Perhaps she married someone else either to lose him in some way (or dump him upon Steve’s return)? Or maybe Steve successfully changed the past here? Or, more likely, after all the other Infinity Stones were returned, he simply created an alternate timeline where he lived out his life with Peggy, and found a way to return to the spot of his disappearance in “our” universe both to reassure his friends and to pass on the shield to Sam.

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Regardless of whatever explanation you choose, just know that Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter get the “happily ever after” that they so desperately deserve. May we all be so lucky.


During Tony Stark’s final voiceover, we see Peter Parker returning to school, where he’s greeted by Ned Leeds, who is the same age he was when we last saw him in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Infinity War . And we saw in  Spider-Man: Far From Home that many of Peter’s other classmates, including Flash Thompson are back, as well. There seems to be some confusion about why Peter Parker’s friends are still the same age as he is when there has been a five year time jump, but it’s not that hard to explain.

Anyone who survived the snapture aged as normal over the next five years. Anyone who was “dusted” is returned at the same age they were five years previously. The key to this comes in the moment when Hulk is about to use the Infinity Gauntlet, when Tony tells him not to “just bring everybody back, don’t change anything else about the last five years.” 


No, there’s no post-credits scene. Why? Because this movie doesn’t need one. Instead, this movie has a pre-credits scene, which plays kind of like an alternate post-credits scene from Avengers: Infinity War , dealing with what Hawkeye sees when the snap happens. Marvel has the next ten years to set up future movies with fun little teases, they just ended this decade beautifully. What, you were expecting Wolverine to show up? Nah. Marvel Studios takes enough heat for the commercial nature of these post-credits scenes, letting Endgame actually end the way it does is a wonderful thing.

read more – What’s Next for the MCU After Avengers: Endgame?

But that doesn’t mean you should leave as soon as the credits roll. If you are patient and stay to the end and listen very carefully during the very end of the credits, you can hear a faint clanging sound. That is the sound of Tony Stark forging the Mark I armor in the first Iron Man movie. We wrote more about the significance of this here.

“You can rest now.”

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The quantum mechanics of “Avengers: Endgame,” fact-checked by scientists

Many of the concepts in “Endgame” are connected, at least in name, to recent scientific theory.

Spoiler alert: This story contains details of the plot of Avengers: Endgame.

At the end of Avengers: Infinity War half the people (including heroes and villains) in the universe were gone in the snap of a finger from Thanos (Josh Brolin).

So how can Avengers: Endgame try to bring them back?

Well, with that tried and tested movie plot device: time travel. Plus a surprising amount of scientific jargon thrown in, including quantum mechanics , Deutsch propositions , eigenvalues , and inverted Möbius strips .

But don’t think that everything you hear during the movie was created in the minds of some crazy screenwriter. Many of the time-travel concepts in Endgame are connected, at least in name, to recent scientific theory, simulation, and speculation.

Let’s dive into the science of quantum time travel and discuss whether eigenvalues can really save the universe.

Time travel 101

The key premise of the movie is that the only thing that can reverse the deaths of half the universe are the things that caused those deaths in the first place: the powerful Infinity Stones .

Problem is, Thanos destroyed these in the present day, so the stones are only available in the past. Retrieving them will require a convoluted journey back in time to multiple locations by the remaining Avengers.

Is time travel actually possible? We’ve known since Albert Einstein posed his Theory of Special Relativity more than 100 years ago that traveling forward in time is relatively easy.

All you need to do is move at close to the speed of light and you can theoretically travel millions or even billions of years into the future within your lifetime.

But could you get back again? This feat appears to be much more difficult. Here are a few challenges and possible solutions.

The grandfather paradox

Traveling back in time can cause apparent logical inconsistencies in reality, like the well-known grandfather paradox .

If you went back in time and killed your grandfather when he was young, then you could never be born, but if you weren’t born, then how did you go back and kill him?

Scientists have several theories about these time loops (physicists call them closed timelike curves ). Some theories state that such loops are just physically impossible and therefore traveling back in time can never happen.

But we know, also thanks to Einstein, that spinning black holes can twist up both space and time , which is why one side of the black hole is brighter than the other in the first picture ever taken of one .

Time travel in Endgame

In the movie, the characters first make fun of many other time-travel movies such as Back to the Future and the Terminator series where changing your own past and future is possible.

Instead, Endgame goes with the alternative reality idea, where any changes back in time cause a whole new universe to be created, a so-called splitting or branching off of multiple timelines. In physics, this idea is called the Many Worlds Theory .

To avoid this problem, the Avengers plan to borrow the stones from past timelines, use them in the present day, but return them to exactly the same moment once they have finished with them. But will it work?

Enter quantum mechanics

Quantum mechanics is mentioned a lot in the movie and there are in fact many emerging theories about quantum time travel , including some that potentially solve the grandfather paradox .

In quantum mechanics, atomic particles are more like indistinct waves of probability . So, for example, you can never know both exactly where a particle is and what direction it’s moving. You only know there is a certain chance of it being in a certain place.

A British physicist named David Deutsch, who is mentioned in the movie, combined this idea with the Many Worlds theory , and showed that the grandfather paradox can disappear if you express everything probabilistically .

Like the particles, the person going back in time only has a certain probability of killing their grandfather, breaking the causality loop. This has been simulated successfully .

This might seem strange, and while some of the jargon used in the movie may seem a little over the top, you can be sure that real quantum science is even stranger than movie makers could ever imagine. It’s clear that even scientists are struggling to make sense of the implications of quantum theory.

Terminology for effect

The time-travel theory scenes (of which there are several) are filled with technical jargon, some out of place and some in the right ballpark.

Here are a few of the terms we hear in the movie concerning time travel:


In discussing their approach to time travel, characters Tony Stark and Bruce Banner mention eigenvalues . This is most likely an example of movie math talk for effect, as eigenvalues are a fairly low-level (basic) concept in linear algebra.

Verdict: A case of the math mumbles

Planck scale

The Planck scale is all about very small things. Planck length, time, and mass are base units used in physics. A Planck length is 1.616 × 10 −35 m. That’s very small.

It is the distance that light travels in one unit of Planck time—which is also a very small amount of time. Given the movie is about quantum mechanics-based time travel, chatting Planck scales don’t seem too far off topic.

Verdict: Planck has a point.

Inverted Möbius strip

The time-travel jargon also discusses inverting a Möbius strip. A normal Möbius strip is a surface with only one side. You can create one easily by taking a strip of paper, twisting it once, and then sticking it together.

Although a Möbius strip has a range of interesting mathematical properties, its technical relevance to time travel is tenuous, beyond some high-level attempts to explain the grandfather paradox.

Verdict: Twisting theory a little.

From a scientific perspective, it’s intriguing to have a new movie with such a heavy plot foundation in time travel, and the movie doesn’t pull many punches in diving straight into both the jargon and implications of various time-travel scenarios.

While some of the mathematical terminology is clearly there for effect, the plot makes a reasonable effort to adhere to current high level-thinking about time travel—to a point.

Time travel is one of those captivating scientific concepts that is perhaps furthest from implementation by scientists, and so its pivotal role in a movie about superheroes who can fly, go subatomic, destroy universes, and change reality is perhaps particularly apt.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article .

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'Avengers: Endgame' Time Travel Explained: How Hulk Clears Everything Up


Of all the Marvel characters to explain why you shouldn’t worry about time travel paradoxes, you reasonably can’t expect it to be the Hulk. Bruce Banner , sure. The Hulk? No way. Yet, that’s exactly who explains away all of the potentially confusing time travel problems in Avengers: Endgame.

Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame ahead.

As fans guessed , the Avengers use time travel as the way to retrieve all the Infinity Stones when just taking them from Thanos became a dead end. So the Avengers revisit some of their past adventures in order to get the Stones back.

Thus, Avengers: Endgame becomes a surprise a celebration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it takes moviegoers on a victory lap through the unseen edges of films like The Avengers (2012), Thor: The Dark World (2013), and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). (Apologies to Marvel TV, you still don’t exist.)

But because the Avengers are taking the Infinity Stones from specific times and places, this poses quite a few issues. Namely, if you remember from literally any other movie dealing with time travel, this could mean drastic changes in the timeline. See DC’s Legends of Tomorrow for a weekly lesson.

So, the Avengers’ plan shouldn’t work. But what the Hulk — who merged with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to become a version of what the comics called “ Professor Hulk ” — and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) discover in Endgame is that, actually, it does.

But how? The secret: It doesn’t matter. The Hulk says as much.

Avengers Endgame

The Avengers do exactly what fans predicted and time travel throughout 'Avengers: Endgame.' But it's the Hulk who addresses every concern you might have.

In the film, when time travel becomes the Avengers’ only option, the Hulk waives off concerns from Rhodey (Don Cheadle), the de facto voice for the audience in the room.

We, being obsessive moviegoers who are attuned to the rules of time travel thanks to a million science-fiction stories, are likely asking the same questions Rhodey is rattling off: Won’t taking the Infinity Stones away from the timeline change time itself? Wouldn’t it undo the snap? Why can’t the Avengers just kill Baby Thanos?

In another movie, these questions would provide all the stakes for the film. But this being Avengers: Endgame , a movie big, bold, and brave enough to challenge Back to the Future as possibly “bullshit,” the film proposes that none of the typical time travel rules matter for the story.

Hulk doesn’t quite get into the specifics of how time travel works in the Marvel Universe, and that’s Endgame ’s greatest weapon.

While there is a general rule with the Infinity Stones, in that plucking them away from their proper time and place can create dangerous new realities (which adds to the urgency of the Avengers’ mission), the film’s comical over-explanation for everything else, as it comes from a salt and peppered dad bod Hulk, ultimately says just one thing: Quit thinking about it, you nerd.

Yes, the film does have a rhyme and reason to how time travel works and it is established to be functionally dangerous. But how Avengers: Endgame stands apart from all other time travel movies (which the characters joke about, in a prime example of lampshading ) is how it doesn’t care for all the typical rules. Because imagine how much of a boring ass movie Avengers: Endgame would be if the heroes were dealing with the same problems seen in every episode of Doctor Who .

Hulk’s dialogue that dismisses all the usual questions about time travel, such as “Your past becomes your future,” is less about making sense of time travel and more about making sense of the very human stories in this superhuman universe. The film’s final shot of two certain characters (you know who) living in happy bliss proves that the Hulk knows what he’s talking about.

Avengers: Endgame is in theaters now.

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marvel endgame time travel explained

All The Time Travel In Avengers: Endgame Explained

The Avengers preparing to time travel

One of the biggest questions surrounding Avengers: Endgame leading up to its release was how exactly Earth's Surviving Mightiest Heroes were going to bring back their snapped comrades. We knew at least some of them would come back, of course (Black Panther's not about to bow out after just one solo film), but what we didn't know was how. Well, now that the film is here, we know that one of the most prominent theories surrounding that question — time travel — was correct.

So, how does time travel work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? What are the implications of it spinning out of Endgame ? What's left of that tech in the universe? We're here to talk about all that and more as we break down the various threads, branch realities, and conundrums that came with the MCU's first foray into spacetime adventuring.

Oh, and in case you hadn't figure this out already, there are MAJOR SPOILERS for the entire film ahead.

The inspiration

As many fans theorized in the months leading up to the film, the Quantum Realm visited in Ant-Man and the Wasp did indeed have a major role to play in Avengers: Endgame , and it all began when Scott Lang returned after being trapped there for five hours, only to discover that five years had passed on Earth. Scott's time travel idea was based on this simple observation of his predicament: If time works differently in the Quantum Realm, and the Quantum Realm is in fact its own pocket reality, can it be used — with Pym Particles as the shrinking agent —  to leave our universe at one point in time and come out at a different point?

When Tony Stark initially dismissed the idea, Scott, Steve Rogers, and Natasha Romanoff turned to Bruce Banner for help, and he believed he could make the idea into something practical. Using the Quantum Tunnel designed by Hank Pym, Bruce tried to send Scott back in time by only a week. But instead of pushing Scott through time, he pushed time through Scott, leading to strange backwards and forwards aging issues. It did technically result in at least a little bit of time travel, but another big brain had to refine the idea to make it something usable.

An idea refined

Tony Stark's initial reluctance to collaborate on the time travel idea wasn't just scientific in nature. It was also personal, as Tony was unwilling to risk losing the family he'd built in the process of altering the past. Tony's mind wouldn't stop working, though, and after running some models, he realized he had a working formula for a "spacetime GPS" that would allow the Avengers to harness the quantum access granted by Scott and Hank Pym's work. With this new tech in hand, they could navigate the Quantum Realm to a specific date and a specific place.

Picking targets was the next great obstacle, and Black Widow pointed out that with the right year, they could collect three different Infinity Stones in New York City alone. So, three travel teams were assembled. Tony, Steve, Scott, and Bruce would travel to New York in 2012 (the year of The Avengers ) for the Space, Time, and Mind Stones. Rocket and Thor would head to Asgard in 2013 (the year of Thor: The Dark World ) to get the Reality Stone. And Natasha, Clint, Nebula, and Rhodey would head to space in 2014 to collect the Power (on Morag) and Soul (on Vormir) Stones. If only it were that simple, right?

The rules of time travel

As the time travel discussions began, Scott suggested that everything would be fine as long as they followed "the rules of time travel," meaning no altering historical events or speaking with their past selves or other tampering. Scott and Rhodey later pushed this argument further by mentioning virtually every film about time travel ever made, only to have Bruce cut them short. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at least, their "realistic" version of time travel does not work the way many other films have postulated.

According to Bruce, you don't change your future if you visit your past, because when you do that your past becomes your future on your own individual timeline, which means your present is now part of your past, and so on. This is, among other things, why we see things like Captain America fighting himself and even Nebula killing her own past self without wiping her present self from existence. That's simply how time travel works in this world, and that's important to remember in the context of the film's overall plot.

Branching realities

When the New York team arrived in 2012, they split up to snatch the Space, Mind, and Time Stones. It turns out that the Time Stone was actually in New York City at the time of the Battle of New York, though the Avengers of 2012 didn't know it. Bruce Banner travels to New York's Sanctum Sanctorum, where he finds The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) fighting her own defensive battle as the Chitauri attack rages on.

Bruce tries to explain to her that they need the Stone for their own future purposes, but she declines to hand it over, going so far as to split Banner's consciousness from his Hulk body so they can talk without fighting. As she explains, the Infinity Stones are actually responsible for helping to maintain the flow of time. If you remove one, it creates a "branch reality" in which people will suffer untold chaos in the absence of the Stone, particularly the Time Stone as it serves as the weapon of the Sorcerer Supreme. It's here that Banner makes a key point about the film's use of time travel: The Avengers can't stop the chaos of branch realities, but they can erase them by returning the stone to the exact spot where they removed it from the timeline. When that happens, the branch reality ceases to exist, and so does the suffering it caused. This is why returning the Stones rather than destroying them is so important.

Further back

Captain America said before the Avengers started the journey that they should be ready for anything, even when they knew the place they were traveling to, and his words proved prophetic in the hunt for the Space Stone, which in 2012 was still in the form of the Tesseract. Tony Stark had the Stone secure in a case, but was knocked across the room by the 2012 Hulk coming down the stairs, sending the Tesseract sliding across the floor and ... right into Loki's path. The God of Mischief used the Stone to open a portal and escape Asgardian prosecution, leaving Tony and Steve with no Space Stone and only enough Pym Particles for one more trip through the Quantum Realm.

So, Tony came up with an idea: Use those Pym Particles to go backwards again, this time to 1970, when he knew both his own father Howard and Hank Pym would be at a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in New Jersey. The trip allowed Tony to steal the Tesseract, while also meeting up with his own father just before his own birth. It also allowed Cap to steal more Pym Particles for the return trip, while also getting a little reminder of just how much he loved Peggy Carter.

Two Nebulas, one cybernetic system

The four-person space team was divided into two two-person teams, with Natasha and Clint heading to Vormir to get the Soul Stone and Nebula and Rhodey staying on Morag to follow Peter Quill's path to the Power Stone. In the process, we learned what happened when a cyborg time travels into the same time she used to live in. When Nebula landed in Morag, she was relatively close to her own 2014 self, and the neural network that existed in both of their brains suddenly became a shared space for two consciousnesses. This not only allowed Nebula to realize that Thanos was growing aware of their plan, but more importantly it allowed 2014 Nebula access to her own future memories. Thanos took full advantage of this, and used those memories to learn exactly what he had to do to get all of the Infinity Stones not with a galaxy-wide search, but by traveling through the Quantum Realm via stolen Pym Particles so he could steal all six from the Avengers in upstate New York after their time heist was complete.

Familiar faces return

Through the magic of time travel, Avengers: Endgame allowed us to get new glimpses of characters who were seemingly killed off for good in Infinity War . This was particularly exciting when it came to Loki and Gamora, who were found in 2012 and 2014, respectively, showing us parts of their stories from The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy we didn't get to see before.

In Loki's case, he used the time travel as an opportunity to snag the Tesseract and disappear into space. In Gamora's, she bonded with a future version of Nebula, realized her place as an enemy of Thanos a bit earlier, and helped keep the Infinity Stones out of his hand when she traveled to the present.

So, what happened to both of them? Well, whatever Loki did with the Tesseract was, according to Bruce Banner's logic, erased when Captain America returned the Space Stone to the point where it was taken. So Loki's timeline stayed relatively intact, meaning he's still dead. In Gamora's case ... well, unless Tony Stark's snap included her (she was no longer part of Thanos' army when he did it), she's out there somewhere, and Star-Lord is determined to find her. Specifically, her past self, who never got to know or fall in love with Quill.

Magic and science

Because this is the first time we've ever seen time travel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Endgame gives us a fascinating look not just at how it works, but at how it affects the larger world. In more than one of the team's time-travel voyages, that included how magic and various magical characters interacted with the science behind the voyage.

In 2012, Bruce Banner made contact with The Ancient One, and while she didn't immediately seem to sense that he was from the future, she wasn't surprised when he asked for Stephen Strange . She was already aware of Strange's place in the timeline, and was also clearly aware of how time travel and Infinity Stones would interact.

Things got even more interesting on Asgard in 2013, when Thor encountered his mother Frigga on the day she died in Thor: The Dark World . Frigga sensed almost immediately that she was looking at a future version of her son, and when he tried to deny it she noted that she was "raised by witches" and she "see(s) with more than eyes." So, at least some magic users in the MCU, including Doctor Strange, have a clear sense of what time travel looks like, and that could have major implications for future films.

The future of time travel

The third act of Endgame features all of the surviving Avengers returning to their compound with the Infinity Stones in hand. And then everything goes sideways when Thanos travels to the future courtesy of Nebula, who has infiltrated the compound with the Pym Particles stolen from her own future self. Thanos' ship destroys the time platform, and then Thanos himself destroys the Quantum Tunnel when he see Captain Marvel trying to make a break for it with the Stones.

That doesn't eradicate time travel from the MCU, though, as we see when Captain America steps onto a brand-new platform constructed by Bruce at the end of the film. Cap uses the remaining Pym Particles to journey back into the past to return the Stones. What this ultimately means is that time travel is not only still theoretically possible, but still practically possible in the MCU. As long as Henry Pym has or can produce more Pym Particles, the Avengers (or someone else) could make jumps through time again in the future.

The First Avenger's second chance

Even after the victory over Thanos, the noble sacrifice of Tony Stark, and the return of all of the Decimated beings to the universe, Avengers: Endgame delivered one more happy ending. Captain America did not simply jump to the past with the Infinity Stones, but returned them and then jumped further into the past to be with Peggy Carter again. That means that, through all the years he was frozen and all the years after he was thawed out, Captain America got to live a semi-regular life while his past self was living out the life we already know in the MCU.

But just how regular was that life? Cap declines the opportunity to fill Sam Wilson in on the past, but we do know that he took Mjolnir, which he'd been proven worthy to wield, and while he brought his repaired shield back to the future with him, he did not seem to bring the hammer. Did he leave it in the past? Did he have adventures with it? Did he and Peggy save the world in their own quiet way during the Cold War? Will we ever see any of those adventures? Cap was coy, but perhaps future MCU stories won't be.

marvel endgame time travel explained

The Bizarre Link Between Captain Marvel And Shazam, Explained

T hanks to the 2019 film Shazam! and last year's sequel, Shazam! Fury of the Gods , the character of Shazam!, has become a household name on par with Superman or Iron Man. That kind of recognition would be great if it weren't for the fact that that isn't the character's name-or at least it wasn't for the first 72 years of the character's existence. Believe it or not, the hero many DC fans affectionately call "The Big Red Cheese" began life under the name Captain Marvel. But isn't Captain Marvel a Marvel character?

The hero now known as DC Comics' Shazam! was originally called Captain Marvel.

In 1939, comic book writer Bill Parker and artist C.C. Beck decided to do what many publishers were doing at the time: create their own ripoff Superman. In 1940, the character of Captain Marvel made his debut in Whiz Comics #2, published by Fawcett Comics. The character had powers similar to Superman, the difference being that they were magical in nature and didn't stem from an alien physiology.

When young boy Billy Batson shouts the word " Shazam! " he is instantly transformed into a large muscular man with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury-hence the acronym S.H.A.Z.A.M.

The character became so popular that Fawcett's Captain Marvel comic outsold DC's Superman for most of the '40s. Captain Marvel even beat Supes to the big screen as the first superhero to ever be adapted to film. All this popularity didn't go unnoticed, however, and DC eventually sued Fawcett over copyright infringement.

Fawcett settled out of court for a hefty sum and decided to stop publishing Captian Marvel comics around 1953, partially because of the lawsuit but mostly because by then, superheroes were no longer as popular as they once were, being replaced at the newspaper stand with war, horror and romance comics.

In an ironic twist of fate, Captain Marvel was licensed to DC in 1972, resulting in the company that had once sued Fawcett over their character being too close to Superman publishing said character alongside The Man of Steel.

Marvel's Captain Marvel

Unfortunately, DC could no longer publish Captain Marvel's comic under the name "Captain Marvel" thanks to a little company that had sprinted to the forefront of the comic book industry in the years between the end of Captain Marvel's initial run and the start of the character's revival at DC: Marvel Comics.

Marvel and DC have stolen names and ideas from each other many times over the years, but this time was different. This time, the company copyrighted the Captain Marvel name, leaving DC with no choice but to call their revival comic Shazam!

In typical legal mumbo jumbo, DC could still call the character that Billy Batson transformed into Captain Marvel, but they couldn't have the name for the actual comic or anything else it would turn out. In 1974, Filmation made a live-action Captain Marvel TV show, again named Shazam! , that ran for two years and has pretty much been forgotten by the pop-culture consciousness.

Between the show and the revived comics, many fans were confused and started calling the character of Captain Marvel Shazam! despite it making about as much sense as calling the shark from Jaws , Jaws , or the T-Rex from a certain 1993 blockbuster about cloning dinosaurs, Jurrasic Park.

Captain Marvel isn't even the only character-or technically even the first-that had to change their name as a result of Marvel's copyright. In the 50's, a British publisher known as L. Miller & Son was making a killing selling reprinted Captain Marvel comics from the USA.

The Birth Of Marvelman

When Fawcett stopped publishing new issues of Captain Marvel, L.Miller & Sons were reluctant to give up their cash cow so they created the character Marvelman, a direct clone of Captian Marvel, with the only differences between the two characters being the name and the word that Billy Bat-Micky Moran speaks to transform into Marvelman, "Kimota!" which was just "Atomic" backward and with a K for some reason.

Marvelman was a huge hit in the UK up until 1963, when L. Miller & Son ceased publication. The character of Marvelman was resurrected in the '80s by famed comic writer Alan Moore, who was forced to change the name to Miracleman because of, you guessed it, Marvel's copyright on the name Captain Marvel. The whole Miracleman saga only gets crazier from there with fights over who owned the character, keeping Moore's run out of print for decades.

Eventually, the rights ended up with Marvel, who-we kid you not-changed the name back to the original Marvelman for one publication before changing it back to the second name Miracleman for all future projects.

Meanwhile, DC eventually got sick of the confusion, and when the company decided to reboot its continuity in 2011 just gave in and started calling their hero Shazam! since many fans already did anyway. In the comics and movies that followed, Billy Batson only ever turns into Shazam! The name Captain Marvel is no longer associated with the character whatsoever.

Perhaps the sickest joke to come out of all of this is that Marvel's version of Captain Marvel never saw a fraction of the success that Shazam! or Miracleman did at their peaks. Marvel has created around seven different characters known as "Captain Marvel," and the only one to gain any sort of measurable popularity is the current Carol Danvers incarnation.

Carol Danvers, who, of course, spent part of her superhero career using the name Ms. Marvel, a name now associated with a completely different character. Oh well, what's in a name anyway?

A Big Red Cheese by any other name would surely fight as much crime.


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How to Watch the Marvel Movies in Chronological Order

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marvel endgame time travel explained

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand, those looking to further immerse themselves into the superhero world might find watching the films in chronological, or timeline order versus release order helpful.

In order of release, the films came out in phases. The Infinity Saga has three phases. Phase one consists of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger and  The Avengers.  Phase 2 contains  Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. Phase Three contains  Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home .

The Multiverse Saga contains two planned phases so far. Phase Four has reached completion with  Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder  and  Black Panther: Wakanda Forever . Phase Five so far includes  Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania ,  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,  and  The Marvels.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with release order, as watching the movies in that way exposes a viewer to how the MCU evolved over time as did CGI. To trace character arcs and how all the installments stack up in terms of the order of the story, though, chronological order will help examine the easter eggs and post credits in a new light.


Captain America

It all stars with Chris Evans as Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger which came out in 2011.


Captain Marvel

Brie Larson starred in  Captain Marvel , which comes next in the timeline even though it was released in 2019.

IRON MAN (2008)

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. brought Tony Stark into the mix in Iron Man (2008).


marvel endgame time travel explained

William Hurt appeared in  The Incredible Hulk (2008) alongside Edward Norton’s Bruce Banner before Mark Ruffalo took on the green monster mantle. 

IRON MAN 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2

Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle starred in 2010’s Iron Man 2 .

THOR (2011)

marvel endgame time travel explained

Chris Hemsworth entered the fray as Thor in 2011. 


marvel endgame time travel explained

The Avengers originally consisted of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk when the first film came out in 2012.

IRON MAN 3 (2013)

marvel endgame time travel explained

Robert Downey Jr. reprised the role of Iron Man in  Iron Man 3 .


marvel endgame time travel explained

Chris Hemsworth came back as Thor in  Thor: The Dark World (2013). 


marvel endgame time travel explained

Chris Evans and Samuel L. Jackson appeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier . 


marvel endgame time travel explained

Dave Bautista, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt and more make up  Guardians of the Galaxy , who were introduced in 2014.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Zoe Saldaña, Karen Gillan, Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista reprised their roles in  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).


marvel endgame time travel explained

Chris Evans portrayed Captain America in  Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).

ANT-MAN (2015)

marvel endgame time travel explained

Paul Rudd came on the scene as Ant-Man in 2015.


marvel endgame time travel explained

Sebastian Stan came back as Bucky Barnes in  Captain America: Civil War after  Captain America: The Winter Soldier.


marvel endgame time travel explained

Scarlett Johansen’s Natasha Romanoff got a film installment all to herself in 2021.


Spider Man Homecoming

Tom Holland entered the MCU as Peter Parker in the first of three films:  Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017.


marvel endgame time travel explained

Chadwick Boseman played T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in  Black Panther (2018).


Doctor Strange Movie

Benedict Cumberbatch brought Dr. Strange to life in the 2016 film.


Thor: Ragnarok

Thor’s third MCU installment was 2017’s  Thor Ragnarok .


Ant-Man And The Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp came out in 2018 introducing Evangeline Lilly as The Wasp.


marvel endgame time travel explained

In  Avengers: Infinity War , an army amasses including (L-R) Danai Gurira as Okoye, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Sebastian Stan as Winter Soldier, 2018. 


'Avengers: Endgame'

In 2019, the world forever changed with this epic scene preceded by the words, “Avengers, assemble!”


marvel endgame time travel explained

Jake Gyllenhaal played the villain in Tom Holland’s second  Spider-Man  film in 2019. 


marvel endgame time travel explained

Michelle Yeoh played Ying Nan and Simu Liu played Shang-Chi in the 2021 film. 


Cast of 'Eternals': (L-R) Lauren Ridloff, Kumail Nanjiani, Barry Keoghan, Lia McHugh, Ma Dong-seok, Angelina Jolie, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Gemma Chan

The cast of Eternals included (L-R) Lauren Ridloff, Kumail Nanjiani, Barry Keoghan, Lia McHugh, Ma Dong-seok, Angelina Jolie, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden and Gemma Chan.


marvel endgame time travel explained

Zendaya and Tom Holland in  Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). 



Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda is a villain of sorts in  Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022).


marvel endgame time travel explained

Natalie Portman reprised her role of Jane, aka Mighty Thor, alongside Chris Hemsworth’s Thor in Thor: Love and Thunder (2022). 


marvel endgame time travel explained

Dorothy Steel, Florence Kasumba, Angela Bassett and Danai Gurira appeared in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). 


marvel endgame time travel explained

Kathryn Newton and Paul Rudd starred in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) .


marvel endgame time travel explained

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 focused on Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) in 2023. 


marvel endgame time travel explained

The Marvels starred  Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel in addition to Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau.

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  1. Avengers: Endgame Time Travel Explained (Time Heist Timeline Diagram)

    marvel endgame time travel explained

  2. Avengers: Endgame: Full Time Travel And Parallel Timelines Finally Explained With This Map

    marvel endgame time travel explained

  3. Avengers Endgame: How does time travel work in Marvel? The timeline

    marvel endgame time travel explained

  4. Using Avengers Endgame's time travel rules, I made this chart to

    marvel endgame time travel explained

  5. Avengers Endgame Time Travel Explained Official

    marvel endgame time travel explained

  6. Interactive Graphic Explains Time Travel In Avengers: Endgame

    marvel endgame time travel explained


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  6. Avengers Endgame Time Travel Explained


  1. Avengers: Endgame's Time Travel Explained (Properly)

    WARNING: Major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. Avengers: Endgame brings time travel to the fore of the MCU and, as predicted, it's really rather complicated. Time travel isn't a totally new concept to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.Doctor Strange made use of the Time Stone in his solo movie to defeat the Dark Dimension's Dormammu by trapping him in a time loop, and Ant-Man and the Wasp teased ...

  2. Breaking Down How Time Travel Works in Avengers: Endgame

    If the Avengers change something in the past, they create a parallel timeline. Time travel in Avengers: Endgame is based on a popular time travel theory in the field of quantum physics. At one ...

  3. Here's The Actual Science Behind That Huge Plot Point in Avengers: Endgame

    The key premise of the movie is that the only thing that can reverse the deaths of half the universe are the things that caused those deaths in the first place: the powerful Infinity Stones. Problem is, Thanos destroyed these in the present day, so the stones are only available in the past. Retrieving them will require a convoluted journey back ...

  4. Avengers: Endgame Time Travel Explained

    Time Travel in Avengers: Endgame. In Avengers: Endgame, the Ancient One explains to Banner that each of the Infinity Stones help keep the core timeline in place. But if the Avengers remove them ...

  5. Avengers: Endgame Time Travel Explained

    The Quantum Realm. The key to time travel is revealed once Scott Lang escapes from the Quantum Realm, where he was stuck for five years ever since the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp. Time operates ...

  6. Avengers Endgame Time Travel Rules and Logic Explained

    1. Alt-New York. This timeline separates from ours during the events of the first Avengers movie in 2012. The big details stay the same - Loki's invasion is defeated, and we assume Captain ...

  7. How time travel works in Marvel's 'Avengers: Endgame'

    Warning: MAJOR spoilers for Avengers: Endgame below.. Time travel can save the fate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and make your brain throb worse than a hammer to the head all at the same time ...

  8. Avengers Endgame Time Travel, Explained: How Does It Actually Work

    Avengers: Endgame wouldn't be possible without every Marvel movie that came before it, which is kind of a beautiful thing. Crucially, Endgame wouldn't be possible at all without Ant-Man's ability ...

  9. Avengers: Endgame's Twisty Time Travel Explained

    In the final act of Avengers: Endgame, Nebula 2 ( Karen Gillan) uses the Time Heist machine to bring her father and his army forward in time to fight. The villains disappear from the beginning of ...

  10. Avengers: Endgame Ending Explained

    The battle finally ends when Iron Man executes his own snap to dust Thanos and his forces. Unfortunately, using the stones takes a heavy toll, and Tony Stark dies from his wounds. Later at Tony ...

  11. How Does Time Work in 'Avengers: Endgame'?

    First, let's explain why time travel is necessary. The Avengers' agenda in Endgame is as follows: It's the year 2023. The Avengers have, by this point, tried and failed to secure the ...

  12. Avengers: Endgame Time Travel Explained

    If you're new, Subscribe! → http://bit.ly/subscribe-screencrushConfused by the #AvengersEndgame timeline? Wondering about what it could mean for #MarvelPhase...

  13. Time Travel In The MCU & Avengers: Endgame Explained

    MCU Time Travel in Avengers: Endgame. As noted, there's strong evidence that Avengers: Endgame will involve an element of time travel. Significantly, then, the MCU has established two mechanisms that allow for time travel: the use of the Time Stone, and the Quantum Realm. The post-credits scene of Ant-Man & the Wasp saw Scott Lang stranded in ...

  14. Avengers: Endgame Time Travel Explained

    War Machine suggests just going back in time and killing Baby Thanos, a twist on the old killing Baby Hitler concept, but again, that's "movie time travel." Or so we're told. According to Banner, you can't just go back in time and change the past in order to alter the future. Because the future is already your past! You can't change ...

  15. Avengers: Endgame Ending Explained

    We have a completely spoiler free review right here. Avengers: Endgame, like any other movie dealing with time travel, can be a little confusing when it comes time to wrap things up. The more you ...

  16. The time travel of "Avengers: Endgame," explained by scientists

    Time travel 101. The key premise of the movie is that the only thing that can reverse the deaths of half the universe are the things that caused those deaths in the first place: the powerful ...

  17. 'Avengers: Endgame' Time Travel Rules Explained

    In fact, that is the primary time travel rule in Endgame: for the time traveler, going into the past is the future, thus making the "future" their past. The timeline as the traveler knows it is ...

  18. Interactive Map Explains Avengers: Endgame Time Travel

    Avengers: Endgame's confusing time travel is explained by an interactive map.Following the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Earth's Mightiest Heroes, alongside a handful of their new allies band together to go back in time in order to collect all six Infinity Stones and undo Thanos' (Josh Brolin) snap.Split into four (five after the Morag and Vormir teams separated) groups, they go to ...

  19. 'Avengers: Endgame' Time Travel Explained: How Hulk Clears Everything Up

    The Hulk says as much. The Avengers do exactly what fans predicted and time travel throughout 'Avengers: Endgame.'. But it's the Hulk who addresses every concern you might have. In the film, when ...

  20. All The Time Travel In Avengers: Endgame Explained

    It's here that Banner makes a key point about the film's use of time travel: The Avengers can't stop the chaos of branch realities, but they can erase them by returning the stone to the exact spot ...

  21. The Confusing Timeline Of 'Avengers: Endgame' Explained

    As a consequence, the Avengers end-up saving two universes: the main reality and an alternative timeline. At the beginning of Endgame, when Captain Marvel and the surviving Avengers find Thanos in ...

  22. Explain Hulk's time travel sentence from Endgame to me

    Hulk's time travel explanation from Endgame is always a bit confusing to me: "If you travel to the past, that past becomes your future, and your former present becomes the past, which can't now be changed by your new future.". Yes, I completely understand the idea of not being able to change your own timeline, but creating a branch of ...

  23. Avengers: Endgame Time Travel Explained By Captain Marvel's New Power

    Does Captain Marvel's time-travel power explain how the Avengers will travel back in time in Avengers: Endgame?At the moment, the plot of Avengers: Endgame is a closely guarded secret. Indeed, there have been rumors that the film's marketing will only use footage from the first 15 or 20 minutes of the movie, which Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has since confirmed that.

  24. The Bizarre Link Between Captain Marvel And Shazam, Explained

    Thanks to the 2019 film Shazam! and last year's sequel, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, the character of Shazam!, has … Continue reading "The Bizarre Link Between Captain Marvel And Shazam, Explained"

  25. How to Watch Every Marvel Movies in Chronological Order

    Phase 2 contains Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. Phase Three contains Captain America: Civil ...