If you want to know where Avengers 4 will go...follow the stones.
Guest Blog by Robert Mills
SPOILER ahead, unless you have the Time Stone.
The odds were stacked against them from the start.
So, everyone seems really surprised that the Avengers lost this round. The real surprise is the misdirection at the conclusion of the first chapter in the Avengers two-part Infinity War. The brutal conclusion to Avengers: Infinity War left us with a lot of questions, some easily answered - I think. The possibilities when activating all the stones together are near endless...but I’m going to follow the trail. I think I have some compelling clues as to unveils big misdirection headed into Avengers 4.
To understand where Avengers 4 will go, it is imperative to explore the different dynamics of combining the powers of the different Infinity Stones as Avengers: Infinity War develops.
Before the movie even starts, Thanos has already destroyed Xandar. He has the Power Stone. If you remember GOTGv1, you see a Celestial with the Power Stone annihilate an entire planet. This already basically made Thanos the most powerful being in the MCU. He then gets the Space Stone in the opening moments of Infinity War.
At this point, Thanos is capable of going anywhere in the universe in an instant and destroying all life (if he chose). Ebony Maw bows down in front of Thanos proclaiming him the first to wield two Infinity Stones. The combination of even just these two stones is utterly powerful and interestingly diverse. The Space Stone amplifies the range of the Power Stone and vice versa as the Power Stone increases the range of the Space Stone. If you watch closely, many of Thanos’ most powerful moves can be understood a little deeper by seeing which stones are activated. For instance, as he tosses one of the moons of Titan at the Avengers the Power and Space Stones are lit up. We can also learn more details about a scene by seeing which stones are not lit up in his gauntlet. When he tortures Nebulla, the Reality Stone is not lit up meaning that as Thanos rips her apart it is very real. So, he could have theoretically wiped out half of the planets if that’s what he wanted to do. Why wouldn’t Thanos do something like this? Hard to believe, but he actually does believe that what he is doing is a mercy mission (more on that later).
How did Doctor Strange know the future if he was dead?
At the end of Infinity War, Doctor Strange hands over the Time Stone to Thanos, despite the fact that he had told Tony Stark earlier that he would sacrifice Iron Man or Spider-man if it meant keeping the Time Stone away from Thanos. Why did he have this sudden change of heart?
While on Titan with Stark and Star Lord plotting/planning, Dr. Strange was able to see 14,000,605 outcomes to the Infinity War. In all of them but one, the Avengers were defeated. How was he able to see that the only way they would win was the path that he put them on? How can Dr. Strange see past the moment of his death?
Again, here is where Marvel is playing the long game. It’s also a classic case of misdirection. Did you see what you thought you saw? In Doctor Strange (the film), the Ancient One says that she could never see past the moment of her death. She knew when she would die. Not even the power of the Time Stone would let her see beyond that moment where she would cease to be. So, that raises a really interesting question.
Is Doctor Strange actually dead? Or did he get sucked into the Soul Stone? Or did Thanos use the Reality Stone to turn half the MCU to dust?
Regardless of whether he is inside the Soul Stone or just “reality shifted” into dust, Doctor Strange is NOT dead. By the same logic, neither is Star Lord, Spider-man, Drax, Black Panther, Falcon, Bucky, et al. The finger snap didn’t kill anybody. Sure, Heimdall, and Vision are all probably dead...but nobody that turned into ash is actually dead. Also, what about Gamora and Loki? Are they actually dead? Did you see what you thought you saw?
With the Reality Stone...did you see what you thought you saw?
Let’s talk about what I’ll call “Reality Shifting.” With his SNAP, Thanos activated all of the stones to do his will. It’s hard to imagine the possibilities of using all the stones but we can get a picture of what “reality shifting” is when he does. The Power Stone amplifies the Space Stone spreading the impact across the a universe. An overpowered Space Stone does the same for the Reality Stone altering reality beyond the “range” we saw of just the Reality Stone on Knowhere. On Knowhere in Infinity War, Thanos essentially ‘killed’ Drax and Mantis. He changed Drax into stone and Mantis to ribbons - like in the Infinity Gauntlet comics. As soon as he left the area, they turned back into their normal forms. The Time Stone may have moved the “shifted” heroes into a different time and the Soul Stone may have imprisoned them within the stone itself. Is this what Thanos did at the end of the movie? Did he just shift their physical forms into dust? How does the Time Stone play into this interaction? Clearly there is a lot at play and possibilities are numerous.
Mercy. Thanos keeps talking about Mercy. He feels that he must be strong enough to make the hard decisions in order for all life to survive. Thanos does not strike me as a person who revels in the task he has had laid upon him by Fate. He doesn’t kill for fun. He isn’t a cold-blooded murder. Thanos seems to be the kind of person who wishes that fate had laid the burden on someone other than him, but also being determined enough to keep the rest of the universe from suffering like he did when he watched Titan destroy itself.
With mercy in mind, ‘reality shifting’ everybody into dust could potentially be what he did. He changed half of the universe in to ash. Much like Drax and Mantis had ceased to be able to move and function, half the MCU aren’t actually dead. They’ve been stopped from using the resources and putting all life in the universe at risk. No more suffering. No more threat of extinction for all life in the galaxy. Mercy. A quick and painless removal from Reality. But where or when did they go? The Soul and Time Stones could have been used to displace half of the living beings in the universe.
To the earlier point about Doctor Strange. If the Sorcerer Supreme was only changed into a different form of matter by the Reality Stone, then he’s still alive and can see the possible outcome where the Avengers were able to ultimately defeat Thanos.
The Soul Of The Narrative…
So, about that Soul Stone... Why was it so important? In the comics, the Soul Gem/Stone has the ability to absorb people into it. The vanish and move to a place called The Soulworld. The other option here at the end of the movie is that everybody is not dead, but they were absorbed into the Soul Stone. This has some basis in the Infinity Gauntlet comics.
The Russo Brothers (directors of Infinity War) have confirmed that Thanos goes into the Soul Stone immediately after the finger snap. He speaks with what is probably Gamora’s spirit, or a representation of her spirit. Unlike others, her body didn’t disappear, but her death was directly tied to the Soul stone. If Gamora was the sacrifice and the Soul Stone absorbed her soul, who else might be hiding inside the Soul Stone? And if the heroes have all been sucked into the Soul Stone, it’s very likely that their combined strength and intelligence might be able to figure out some way to break out of the Stone. Remember, you have approximately 13 superhero souls trapped inside the Soul Stone (if that’s what happened when Thanos snapped his fingers). How will they get out? Can they break out from within? Will Thanos become riddled with guilt at the damage he has done? There is a lot to explore in Avengers 4.
What does all of it mean?
Let’s step back into our reality outside of the movie universe’s narrative. We already know that there is an upcoming Spider-man sequel with Tom Holland. James Gunn has also confirmed that Guardians 3 will be out in 2020. Unless those were leaked to fool us, you can fully expect that Spiderman, Star Lord, Drax, Mantis, and Groot will be back by the end of Avengers 4.
For as brave as Marvel was in killing off Loki, Gamora, and Vision, I don’t see any way that they’re going to completely destroy the MCU and leave us with a bunch of all new franchises in phase 4.
The real thing to consider is the characters that are all ‘alive.’
If you didn’t notice, the original Avengers all survived. There have a little bit of help but all of the biggest names were victims of the SNAP. Most of these Avengers have reached the end (or almost the end) of their contracts. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, and Don Cheadle. These are all the ‘old guard’ who have been around since Phase 1. I think that the SNAP was a misdirection. The heroes turned to ash will turn out to be the safest ones in Avengers 4. Entering into Avengers 4, the real danger is for the heroes left in the real world.