Avengers: Endgame dropped a trailer to the eager masses on the morning of Friday, December 7th and within 24 hours it was the most viewed trailer in history. Nobody thought anything but this was going to happen, was it’s always fun to see these things play out in real time. The trailer didn’t disappoint either. It set the stage for how each Avenger handled the Decimation and the fallout that happened as a result. Though much of the trailer was like an updated version of Soul Asylum’s ‘Runaway Train’ music video, but with missing Avengers instead of missing children, the trailer did end on a high note. Ant-Man has made his way from the Quantum Realm to the front door of Avengers HQ.
Scott Lang’s return to the land of the living seems to defy expectations, especially when he show’s up at Avengers HQ. When Scott shows up, it baffles the Avengers because they believed he was snapped away. Viewers know that, per the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp, Scott was actually in the Quantum Realm when the snap occurred and was not among those wiped from existence. How Lang escaped the Quantum Realm and returned to the real world has not yet been spelled out. Comic-wise readers and those who pay attention to the words of Marvel Studios execs and the actors and directors they hire are speculating the Quantum Realm will be heavily involved.
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has already stated that the Quantum Realm will be a factor going forward. The end of Ant-Man and the Wasp left no choice but to deal with the Quantum Realm in some way. Scott was left alone after the Decimation took Hank, Janet, and Hope Van Dyne. Couple that with these words from Feige in Marvel Studios: The First 10 Years:
At the end of Ant-Man we followed Scott Lang into the Quantum Realm for the first time. We were beginning to peel back the onion that would later be completely peeled back in Doctor Strange as we go into the multiverse. So that was our little test into that. But now the Quantum Realm is a whole other territory that we can play with to tell our stories. This Quantum Realm is much larger than we ever imagined, and there are all sorts of adventures to be had at that level, which perhaps we will explore in another film.
With the facts as we know them know, coupled with what Feige said, it’s pretty clear that the Quantum Realm is going to play a major role moving forward and will fit together with Avengers: Endgame rather perfectly.
Time Travel in the MCU
Piecing together reports from outlets like Screen Rant, we can gather that the Battle of New York (the major battle that was featured in the first Avengers film) will somehow mysteriously play a role in Endgame in some way, likely with a pint-sized Avenger there to help this time. That can only mean one thing: time travel is finally coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Comic readers are more than familiar with time travel in the comics, but we’ve only seen snippets of it in the MCU and nothing that is out and out time travel like Ant-Man going back to the Battle of New York.
There are number of fan theories going around. I was far from the only person to notice the “1983 Archive” in the footage of the Endgame trailer (see image below,) which hints at Ant-Man traveling back to the past before traveling again to the future. There’s no guarantee this is even part of the plot, as the Russos are known to use digital tricks to fool fans — think putting the Hulk in the original Avengers: Infinity War trailer. Fans were expecting to see Hulk in the Battle of Wakanda, but instead we get Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner in a Hulkbuster suit, as the Hulk refused to come out after Thanos beat him down on the Asgardian ship.
Time travel is an interesting concept to fully realize in the MCU for multiple reasons. Time travel is something that the MCU has flirted with by way of the Time Stone, but the Quantum Realm allows for time travel outside of the Infinity Stones. Of course, using time travel in film and television has drawbacks and pluses. What will be even more interesting to watch is how the notion of time travel flies internationally.
Time Travel Rules in China?
One aspect of time travel that remains interesting is how that is going to fly with film rules in China not allowing time travel. Time travel has been banned in Chinese film and television since 2016 because they feel it “disrespects history.” Given that the MCU isn’t part of actual history, Chinese authorities may not care about the time travel. It will be something interesting to watch.
Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson believes that while time reversal was used in his film, it wasn’t ever ‘time trave’l, not in the traditional sense. For Derrickson, it didn’t qualify as time travel because there was only one timeline and and while Doctor Strange reversed time, he only did so to restore everything, not change history. Here is a quote by Derrickson as told to CinemaBlend:
Well, we don’t time travel in the movie. He reverses time, and time resets. But there’s only ever one timeline, and so it’s a movement of that timeline back and then forward, and then there’s the subject of time loops and things like that. So it’s never ‘time travel,’ and we never had to struggle with the rules of time travel because it never happens!
As such, it would appear that the MCU has been able to sidestep this issue. Based on these rules, Thanos’ actions of reversing Wanda’s destruction of the mind stone at the end of Avengers: Infinity War would qualify as time reversal and not time travel.
That brings the ball back into the court of Chinese authorities. If the Avengers travel back to the Battle for New York and Ant-Man deliberately takes the Space Stone from Loki and brings it back to the present, how will they view that? China’s ban on time travel is a complicated issue. It stems from the over romanticism of a China that existed before Communism — a dangerous belief that is seen as not patriotic.
So, what does that mean for the American release of Avengers: Endgame? Not a single thing. These rules have no bearing on the American release, it will only impact the Chinese release. That said, that could end up leading to two different versions of the same film. Nobody’s really pressed Marvel on this subject, so it’s difficult to know what Marvel Studios managed to negotiate or if they even had to negotiate. It’s entirely conceivable that Chinese authorities may exclude Marvel Studios from their rule on account of the franchise’s popularity.
Time Travel in Marvel Comics
How will time travel work in the MCU? There’s a little time left to dabble in the history of time travel in the comics. It’s a concept that isn’t exclusive to one character or group of characters, but has permeated throughout the Marvel Universe. The original Guardians of the Galaxy traveled through time, X-Men characters have the ability to travel through time. The mutant Bishop is a great example of a character that uses time travel on a consistent basis. A more recent film example would be the character of Cable in Deadpool 2. Time travel doesn’t really need to be explained to anyone with a rudimentary concept of film or science, so all that really needs to be said is that the way different characters go about it is often tied to their abilities, either through science, magic, or ascribed.
Regardless of the Chinese rules, the usage of time travel is bound to be something that people are split on as an idea, depending on how they use it and what they use it for. As the movie approaches, more and more people are going to speculate on what happens when the good guys get control of the gauntlet or acquire the Infinity Stones. If they use the Gauntlet like they did in the comics, which is to say that they undid everything Thanos did, some people might not care for that. It will lessen the impact of any sacrifices and diminish the moments of raw emotion, such as when Thanos killed Loki. As always, anything Marvel does is subject to debate.
How do you feel about time travel as a MacGuffin? Are you in favor of Marvel using it to undo Thanos’ snap? Would you want them to use it to bring back dead characters? What do you want to see in Avengers: Endgame? Have your say in the comment section below.
Avengers: Endgame opens worldwide on April 26, 2019.