‘Avengers: Endgame’ Opened Some Huge Questions About the Future of the Marvel Universe

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Let’s just get this out of the way up top — if you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame yet, don’t read this! We’re gonna SPOIL the heck out of it!

Now that that’s taken care of, hello fellow Avengers-lover! Or, well, at least Avengers-watcher — we know these big crossover Marvel movies are such big cultural events that even people who are less than interested in the adventures of brilliant green monsters and Norse lightning gods will show up to see them.

But Avengers: Endgame, the latest outing of Earth’s greatest heroes, ends the first mega-arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since Iron Man back in 2008, we’ve been building to the moment when the Avengers were finally victorious over the Mad Titan Thanos.

And now that our boy Tony Stark sacrificed himself to snap Thanos to dust, we have to ask ourselves… what now? I mean, it’s not like Marvel is going to stop making movies, right? Who are our heroes going to punch and kick for the next 11 years? There are a lot of questions about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we’re here to, well, not answer them, but to at least ask them and offer up some theories!

BIG QUESTION NUMBER 1: What was the Captain America who went back in time and married Peggy Carter doing this whole time?

At the end of Endgame Captain America went back in time for what should’ve been a quick lil’ trip to pop the Infinity Stones back into place. But he never came back, deciding instead to live a full and happy life with his main squeeze Peggy Carter.

Here’s what we know about the time-travel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

If you go back in time and change things, you create a new timeline. But if you go back in time and really quick make things right again, that timeline re-converges into the initial timeline. Essentially, you can’t change anything and time travel’s useless… unless you use it to get together the ultimate plot loopholes, the Infinity Stones.

So Captain America’s been hanging around, chillin’ with his equally old wife, while all this shit’s been going down.

With the Infinity Stones back in place, Captain America decided to stay put, which means he’s always stayed put. That means that, when the Battle of New York went down (you know, the big fight scene at the end of the first Avengers), not only was there one Captain America there fighting, there was another, older Captain America kicking back on the sofa, watching it all go down while knowing where it would all end up. To that Captain America, the most destructive moment in the Marvel universe’s history was basically a Fresh Prince rerun.

Has he been working behind the scenes?

Captain America doesn’t really seem like the type to just hang out and let things happen, even if he knows how they’ll turn out. So maybe while Thanos’ forces were unleashing their fury, our guy was on a stealth mission to sneak folks out of collapsing buildings?

And going forwards, Captain America is in officially play for any Marvel prequels.

If Captain Marvel 2 is also set in the ’90s, maybe we’ll see this Second Steve (as I’ve dubbed him) working behind the counter at a Blockbuster, or waiting in line to buy Beanie Babies.

BIG QUESTION NUMBER 2: What’s the deal with this Black Widow movie now?

It used to be that Marvel could just throw a dart at their list of characters, see who it hits, and announce a solo movie for that character. (We have to assume that’s what happened with Doctor Strange.) But man oh man, did Endgame ever make that more complicated…

You see, in Endgame, Black Widow, uh, dies.

Black Widow sacrificed herself to get the soul stone so… she’s dead. And the movie goes out of its way to say that when someone dies to get the Soul Stone, they’re dead for good. That means no more Black Widow. Scarlett Johansson, you’re free. Go make all the indie arthouse alien movies you want.

But Marvel’s already announced a Black Widow solo movie.

Hey, Scarlett Johansson, not so fast. The Black Widow movie is already a-rollin, with the filmmaker behind the 2012 Nazi movie Lore Cate Shortland named as the director and actors Rachel Weisz and David Harbour already cast.

So, is she coming back?

Marvel wouldn’t do a Black Widow movie without Black Widow, would they? Here’s a theory: maybe when Second Steve put the Soul Stone back, it resurrected Black Widow? Seems a little deus ex machina-y, but hey, I’d take it.

Is it going to be a prequel?

Maybe Marvel could finally explain this whole Budapest thing? Vut here’s the thing — are we supposed to watch an entire movie rooting for Black Widow, all the while knowing she’s going to die and all the darkness set to come is inevitable? What is this movie going to be, Sunset Boulevard?

BIG QUESTION NUMBER 3: Did time-heisting the Infinity Stones change anything else?

Just before Captain American goes back in time to replace the stolen Infinity Stones, Hulk pretty explicitly tells him that changing anything else could open up some pretty gnarly timelines as a consequence. What changed that we don’t yet know about?

Remember, after the original Avengers, the Battle of New York had a number of ramifications we didn’t see until much later.

And I don’t just mean all the child-art it inspired. In the Netflix Daredevil show, it was the Battle of New York that cleared up a lot of space for Kingpin to move in and develop real estate upon. And Michael Keaton’s character in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Adrian Toomes, ran a construction crew that was cleaning up from the battle, which lead him to the tech he used to make his Vulture costume.

All that is to say, maybe the great time-heist did something that will affect future movies?

Remember, the Avengers were back there mucking about in time. As we learned from The Simpsons, one small change in the past can have dramatic consequences back in the future-er, present. The future-present. Time travel is dumb.

Is this how the X-Men are going to get involved?

Could changing the timeline affect the very course of human evolution in the Marvel universe? Could Captain America’s presence back in the 1970s have created a new timeline, where mutants have been running around fighting giant robots and evil senators all along? This all raises another big question…

BIG QUESTION NUMBER 4: How will the Fantastic Four and X-Men fit in?

The Avengers have a good thing going — they’re a makeshift family that goes through the same highs and lows as any group. But now there are two other fully-formed groups — the X-Men and the Fantastic Four — who are going to glom onto them and make some kind of super group. How is Marvel going to make sense of that?

We know Disney acquired Fox, so for the first time ever, all the Marvel characters are under the same cinematic roof.

At some point in the future, Wolverine will be interacting with Spider-Man, and that’s going to feel weird. Although, will it feel that much weirder than when the Guardians of the Galaxy met Black Widow? Raccoon men and tree people are kind of just weird all on their own.

So how do you add mutants to the MCU?

The X-Men aren’t like regular superheroes, where they can just be near an explosion and get superpowers. The X-Men are a part of a cultural movement; a superhero team that is overtly political. Their fight is against the Magnetos and Apocalypses of the world, yes, but at its core, the X-Men’s fight is really about attaining equal rights for all of mutant-kind. No way did Tony Stark and the rest of the team just tune out Cyclops testifying on Capitol Hill.

BIG QUESTION NUMBER 5: Which haircut is Captain Marvel gonna have?

Okay, this one isn’t such a big question. It’ll probably be short again. Or back to long. It probably doesn’t matter too much either way.

BIG QUESTION NUMBER 6: Is everyone who got dusted just going to be five years behind everyone else?

The idea of closing your eyes and waking up five years in the future is terrifying. The idea of being turned to dust and then waking up five years later is an existential nightmare. How sure are we that Peter’s soul came back when he re-formed, huh? I’ve heard conspiracy theories that that’s the reason teleportation isn’t commonplace — we don’t know if people who are reformed have their same soul. Yeah, you didn’t think about that little bit of horror when Spider-Man came swinging back on the scene, did ya?

When Peter Parker came back at the end of Endgame

Which, to be honest, was a relief, whether he has a soul or not.

… He told Tony that being dusted felt like passing out.

Okay, so there’s no psychological trauma for this 15-year-old kid after turning into nothing. That’s good. That’s what you want to see after a massive semi-extinction event.

But five years passed while they were dusted.

Throughout Endgame, I was SURE they were going to go back in time to right after the snap, to make it so that the world could just keep on keepin’ on as if the Avengers had beaten Thanos the first time. But they didn’t! The movie ended with everyone still in 2023!

So is Peter just supposed to go back high school five years later?

Half his friends will have gone off to college. His teachers will have either been replaced or changed entirely due to living five years in a hell world. And music will probably be different too! How’s Peter going to fit in with the rest of his class if he isn’t up to date on all the new music?!

Is Black Panther going to fight whoever took over Wakanda in his absence?

Unless Wakanda just didn’t have a king this whole time, T’Challa is going to have a power struggle on his hands. I think there was an episode of The West Wing like this? Where President Bartlett had to give up the presidency to John Goodman, and then when he was ready to come back and be president, everyone was like, “Yo, is John Goodman goona give us the presidency back?” He did, of course, because John Goodman is a good man, as is everyone on The West Wing. Man that was a good show.

Is anything going to be different for the Winter Soldier?

Probably not. That dude just sort of hangs out.

BIG QUESTION NUMBER 7: What will be the next big team-up movie?

In the last three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we always knew what that something was: a big-ass team-up of all our favorite super-friends. Presumably, Phase 4 will still be building to something, but that something is… what?

Who’s even still on the Avengers?

If there is going to be a fifth Avengers movie, we already know that Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man (RIP) won’t be involved. So which of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are left?

We know Spider-Man is officially an Avenger.

Iron Man knighted him back in Infinity War, making him an official Avenger. I think it’s fair to say that in the next big team-up, Spider-Man will be down to clown.

But, like, is Black Panther an Avenger?

My guy has a lot to handle since he’s, you know, running an entire country. Is T’Challa going to have time to go smash a bunch of Ultrons if Spider-Man gives him a call?

How about Valkyrie?

In Endgame, Valkyrie officially takes Thor’s place as the King of Asgard, but does that mean she’s also taking his place on the Avengers? Is being on the Avengers an official part of being King, like how the President of the United States is just inherently in the UN?

Winter Soldier?

Eh, he’s probably not on the Avengers. They don’t really need a dude who just sort of hangs out. In any event, Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming, and whether it can live up to the lofty standard set by Phases 1 through 3 remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: when Captain America used Thor’s hammer, it was awesome as hell. Just the dopest shit I ever did see.