How Time Travel Could Work in 'Avengers: Endgame'

If comments made by Samuel L. Jackson are to be believed, the solution to the Thanos problem may be far simpler than it seemed.

Ever since photos from the set of Avengers: Endgame appeared online, apparently showing Chris Evans in his costume from 2012’s The Avengers, speculation has been rife that this year’s follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War will feature some kind of time travel element — something that Nick Fury himself, Samuel L. Jackson, has alluded to in a newly released interview.

But if the Avengers are about to travel through time in order to defeat Thanos, how could it happen? There are some potential options that don’t involve flying around the world backwards really, really fast. (Superman: The Movie, we will never forget.)

In the final moments of Infinity War, Nick Fury pages Captain Marvel. Is it possible that she is involved in a time-travel scheme to defeat Thanos?

“She’s pretty much the strongest character — in terms of someone with powers are able to do things — in the Marvel Universe,” Jackson told Entertainment Tonight in a recent interview. “And at some point, we'll find out how powerful she is and all the things that she's capable of. She's one of the few people in the Marvel Universe that can time travel, so …”

Wait. What?

It’s possible that Jackson is trolling with that last sentence; for one thing, it would appear to be a massive spoiler for either Captain Marvel or Avengers: Endgame, if not both. For another, it’s a strange power to add to the character, in that the comic book version of Captain Marvel doesn’t have the ability to travel through time, which would suggest that — if Jackson is to be believed — there has to be a reason for it to be there beyond, “Hey, how come Brie Larson hasn’t visibly aged in the last 20 years?” Could Carol Danvers be the key to dealing with the threat of Thanos once and for all?

There are other ways time travel could come into play, too:

The Time Stone Is the Key

The most obvious dangling thread from Avengers: Infinity War is that Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) believed that everything would work out after using the Time Stone — something that has already been shown in 2016's Doctor Strange to allow those possessing it to travel through time. Even though Thanos seemingly has the stone in his possession, could Strange have already planned something — or, confusingly, already done something — in the past with the Stone that would impact the future? When time travel is included in a story, almost anything is up for grabs — but would that kind of intricate planning and delivery be the kind of thing that audiences would find a satisfying payoff, or do they want something more visually explosive and immediate?

Enter the Quantum Realm

We know, from the first trailer to Avengers: Endgame, that Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has something to tell the surviving Avengers; we also know from Ant-Man and the Wasp that Scott was in the Quantum Realm when the snap happened. So … besides the potential for it to protect people from being snapped by Thanos, what else could Scott have learned from his shrunken little home away from home?

Given that it is apparently connected to magic in some way and can also hide Michelle Pfeiffer for decades — transforming her into some kind of superpowered being as a result, but we’ll find out more about that in Ant-Man 3, I assume — it’s not too far beyond the realm of possibility that the Quantum Realm could prove to be integral to Endgame in ways people haven’t even considered yet. Never mind the potential it has to take heroes through time, what if the Quantum Realm is where everyone who was snapped away ended up …?

The Gentleman’s Name Is … Kang! (Or Whoever)

If our heroes do go traveling through time, there’s absolutely no reason to assume they’ll do so with the assistance of anything that has already been introduced in the MCU. After all, Marvel’s comic book universe is filled with all kinds of time travelers, whether it’s traditional Avengers villain Kang the Conqueror, the original Guardians of the Galaxy — they came from the 30th century, don’t you know — or even the Time Variance Authority, a self-imposed police force making sure that no one destroys history too much with all their time adventuring.

Sure, it might seem like a bit much to introduce new characters merely to solve a plot problem after such a high-profile cliffhanger, but that’s forgetting two things. Firstly, the characters would already have a Marvel comics background, bypassing some level of accusation of deus ex machina, and secondly, comics have been doing that kind of thing for decades. If nothing else, it would be very comics appropriate.

None of the Above

As the old comic book series would put it, What If … there’s no time travel in Endgame at all? Photos leaked from the set of Endgame seemed to suggest that scenes would be taking place in the past, prompting many to think that time travel was an option but that’s not the only possibility. What if scenes featuring familiar locations and costumes are, as Frank Grillo has suggested, traditional flashbacks, or take place in alternate dimensions, dream sequences or — potentially most likely — the world of the Soul Gem, which has already been visited in Infinity War and shown to feature past incarnations of characters the audience is already familiar with? If Gamora-as-a-child can live there, why can’t Captain-America-in-his-costume-from-the-first-Avengers?

Avengers: Endgame will be released April 26.