Marvel Studios is going to great lengths to position Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel as the most powerful being in the MCU. A new trailer for her March 2019 stand-alone movie finds the intergalactic hero skyrocketing like Green Lantern with the punch of Superman. Nick Fury alludes to her being a Plan B for the entire Avengers initiative in the recent Captain Marvel Prelude comic. And while she doesn’t appear in the first trailer for the Infinity War sequel, Avengers: Endgame, Disney and Marvel made sure to time the trailers in close proximity — much like the movies themselves, considering the fourth Avengers film’s new release date.
This is all to suggest that however Captain America and Black Widow are plotting to take down Thanos and retrieve the missing Avengers from the post-snap ether, Captain Marvel will likely swoop in to finish the job. Nick Fury already sent the distress call to her beeper.
But the Endgame trailer emphasizes a different twist with a different hero. Instead of Captain Marvel arriving to Earth like a savior from the skies, Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (aka adorkable Paul Rudd) shows up to Avengers HQ’s front door. Captain America assumes he’s dead — the trailer goes so far as to remind us he’s “missing” in the Avengers’ indexing of “Decimation” victims — but there’s Scott, goofy as always, hoping to talk to Cap and Widow about ... something.
How’d Ant-Man survive? The Ant-Man and the Wasp post-credits scene found Scott stranded in the Quantum Realm after the snap turned Hope, Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne into dust. Either Scott wasn’t one of the randomly selected victims of Thanos’ gauntlet snap, or chilling at the microscopic level with a bunch of tardigrades insulated him from the Infinity Stones’ power. Whatever the case, he lived — but as we know from Janet’s days stranded in the Quantum Realm, there’s no easy way out unless you have someone on the human level to help dig you out.
And yet, Endgame finds Scott back on his feet and gunning to help.
As the MCU has drifted toward the galactic, and built logical foundations for the warped corners of the universe by tying science to magic with films like Doctor Strange and the Thor trilogy, mastermind Kevin Feige opened, and left open, every door to every possibility.
If a portal opened to another dimension to save Tony from the crushing punch of Obadiah Stane’s Iron Monger suit in 2008’s Iron Man, audiences would have rolled their eyes and given up on the franchise. Reality would have been broken — but not in the fun Thanos way.
But in 2018, as we prepare for a grand payoff with Avengers: Endgame, the MCU has the building blocks to make even the most outlandish deus ex machina feel like just another facet of an expanding, magical fabric. We just watched the collection of six Infinity Stones blow half of the universe’s living creatures out of existence. Our heroes can and should wield similar, ultimate power to defeat our foe. Which is why I’m really hung up on time travel.
Before Scott dove into the Quantum Realm at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp, Janet tells him to not “get sucked into a time vortex.” On one hand, hilarious: What a job! On the other, the perfect tee-up for what comes next.
While there’s a strong, comic-lore-based reason to think that everyone who vanished in The Decimation is residing in a pocket realm courtesy of the Soul Stone, there are enough spacetime-bending Chekov’s guns on the table to think that Endgame’s battle may resolve with some time jumping of its own. Ant-Man and the Wasp’s emphasis on the time vortices line elevates a throwaway world-building wisecrack into an escape route for Scott Lang, either to the future or the past. There are final-scene-of-Back to the Future II vibes to Ant-Man showing up at Captain America’s door just after seeing his mug in the “missing” section of the holofiles.
Then there’s Doctor Strange’s Infinity War reassurance to Tony that handing over the Time Stone to Thanos won’t be an issue ... even though it results in the Sorcerer Supreme’s immediate demise. Strange saw 14 million possible outcomes to the fight, and sacrificing the Time Stone was the “only way” to go, in the end. The common theory goes that Strange cursed the Eye of Agamotto in such a way that would allow the living members of the Avengers to exploit its power (or perhaps for the sorcerer to do the same from wherever he wound up). “It’s a simple spell, but quite unbreakable,” he tells Ebony Maw earlier in Infinity War. “You’ll find removing a dead man’s spell troublesome.”
There’s also some less noble details, thanks to spoiler-hungry paparazzi, that point to a remixing of the MCU as we know it.
[Ed. note: The next paragraph contains possible spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.]
During the filming of Avengers: Endgame, photographers caught the cast in costumes that included an aged-up Tony Stark, indicating a jump in time. While Infinity War recreated a portion of the big set-piece from 2012’s The Avengers, the fact that time travel is in the air lends credence to the idea that Scott — or perhaps the entire crew — could be traveling from timeline blip to timeline blip in search of an opportunity to bust up Thanos. Rumors that Marvel have cast an older Cassie Lang, Scott’s young daughter in the movie, for Endgame only add to the speculation.
[OK, safe now!]
For all the mayhem packed into a decade of Marvel movies, and the flexing of the Infinity Stones’ true powers in Infinity War, it still feels like we don’t know the true extent of what the Space, Reality, Power, Soul, Mind and Time Stones can do. The Space Stone, known as the Tesseract early on in MCU history, sent Red Skull zipping through space, only to be “judged unworthy” and banished to the planet Vormir to spend his days babbling on about the Soul Stone. Anyone see that coming?
Scott made it out of the Quantum Realm. However he did it will change the rules of the MCU and likely set into motion the endgame of the title. Consider this: Scott’s quests down through the fractaling passageways of the micro-universe have always mirrored Doctor Strange’s magical mirror-verse. Are the time vortices Janet warned of the quantum fuel of Eye of Agamotto? Could we see Ant-Man controlling the power of the green Infinity Stone from his downsized, rudderless position?
We’ve achieved full galaxy brain. But in an era of plot-hole poking and logic scrutiny, the potential for the connecting of dots is the Avengers mega-franchise’s greatest asset: The rules never break. They bend.