Cameras have been rolling for a good while on Marvel's still-untitled Avengers 4, with reports and leaked set photos seeming to confirm the film will travel back to the early days of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Among other things, there's confirmation that a scene takes place during World War II, another that revisits Loki during the Battle of New York, as well as a return to Tony Stark's Hall of Armors, which was destroyed in Iron Man 3.
But the most recent set photos hint at something else. Taken on what looks to be a re-creation of the Battle of New York, from 2012's The Avengers, the images depict Captain America with a bright costume throwback hairstyle, and Mark Ruffalo in full Hulk motion-capture suit. This seems to add fuel to speculati0on that the the 2019 film will feature extensive flashback sequences, or possibly even time travel. But then, we noticed some important incongruities.
For instance, Paul Rudd's Ant-Man appears in the photos, despite the fact that Scott Lang wouldn't have been active as a superhero at the time of the Battle of New York. Then, there's also Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, who appears to not be wearing the Mark VII Iron Man armor from The Avengers. Instead, he's sporting a S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform. These quite-confounding differences instantly make us wonder whether we might not be looking at flashbacks, or even time travel, but a different reality altogether.
First of all, there's no telling how Avengers: Infinity War will end, and set the stage for Avengers 4. With Thanos working to assemble the Infinity Gauntlet, don't be surprised if the Mad Titan uses the Reality Stone to alter reality all together. That could be the reason the movie features so many familiar costumes and sets. This could be a reality in which Ant-Man was a founding Avenger (like he was in the comics), and where Tony Stark isn't Iron Man but instead a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent -- or even the agency's director.
The creation of an alternate reality would also seemingly give clarity to the theory that Pepper Potts dies in Avengers: Infinity War. And yet, actress Gwyneth Paltrow was seen filming on the set of Avengers 4. Perhaps that's because the movie actually features an alternate reality in which Pepper survives, and she and Tony live happily ever after.
Equally plausible is the idea that Scott Lang may travel to this alternate reality from the original timeline. In fact, the character can be seen in the photos with his new costume that will be featured in the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp. That means Scott could be from the "prime" universe, trying to put things back together. Don't believe us? Then consider that Evangeline Lilly recently teased that the Ant-Man sequel will dabble into the notion of the multiverse. Because that film will be released in between Avengers 3 and 4, could Ant-Man and the Wasp hold answers as to the direction of the final film?
Perhaps that the scene featuring Ant-Man, Captain America, Hulk and S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Stark isn't even in Avengers 4. Maybe the photos were snapped during the filming of a scene that will serve as the end-credits tag of Ant-Man and the Wasp, setting the stage for the Avengers finale. If Lang is somehow able, through the Quantum Realm, to punch through to this other reality, he could be the one trying to convince all of his friends that this isn't the world they know, and that they have to work together to put everything back the way it was.
On top of all that, it's also important to consider ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The series' producers confirmed that the show will no longer tie directly into the events of the Marvel films, choosing instead to tie into them only thematically. The characters of the series are currently stuck in a future where Earth has been destroyed, one some have theorized might be a parallel universe. Is this the theme Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is emulating then -- alternate realities and parallel universe?
It's no wonder we don't even know the title of Avengers 4. It's quite possible it will give us all the information we need to confirm what the story will be. And the more we learn about it, the more it seems likely the movie will feature a different reality -- an alternate past or present. Something that would truly bring the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe full circle.
The untitled sequel to Avengers: Infinity War arrives May 3, 2019. Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War stars Robert Downey Jr., Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Benedict Wong, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Holland and Anthony Mackie.