WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War, in theaters now.
Most Marvel Cinematic Universe fans are likely still processing the tragic events of Avengers: Infinity War, which saw Thanos succeed in his goal of erasing half the life in the universe to create a kind of perverse “balance.” Despite the best efforts of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thanos won. Audiences watched as fan-favorite heroes and beloved side characters withered away to dust right before their eyes. The film’s directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, have encouraged fans to accept the deaths as real and permanent, but that might not be the case. It now seems possible that Tony Stark will use time travel in Avengers 4 to undo the deaths depicted in Infinity War.
Some months ago, we posited that one familiar piece of Stark Tech may play a big role in the upcoming Avengers 4. That piece of tech was B.A.R.F., Binary Augmented Retro Framing, which Tony Stark used in Captain America: Civil War to revisit his past and introduce audiences to his mother and father. B.A.R.F. was seemingly present on the set of Avengers 4. Since the AR glasses were nowhere to be seen in Infinity War, many believe they will feature heavily in Avengers 4 as the means to reversing the Mad Titan’s heinous act.
B.A.R.F. also appears to tie in to a gallery of leaked set photos from the dual Avengers productions. The leaked photos appear to show Stark wandering through a memory from when Loki was captured after the events of The Avengers. When the photos were first leaked, it seemed only natural that these events were the result of Stark experimenting with B.A.R.F., but viewing these leaked images with a fresh set of eyes reveals a subtlety that was not apparent without first having seen Infinity War.
Thus, the time travel theory. But how does that work?
The first clue comes in the form of Tony Stark’s clothing. The scene depicted in the leaked set photos shows Stark wearing a uniform similar to the one the guard in charge of escorting Loki wears. If this scene is Tony revisiting the past through an augmented reality array, then why is he undercover? If he is viewing a moment from when he was fresh from the fight with Loki and the Chitauri, then he would almost certainly be wearing his gunked-up Iron Man armor. If this is months after, there’s no doubt he would be dressed, well, in a way that only Tony Stark could dress -- to the nines and with ample swagger. There is no reason for Stark to remain discrete unless he is revisiting this moment in time in-person.
That sentiment is compounded by the fact that another photo appears to show Loki, still bound, holding the Tesseract, the housing unit for the Space Stone that allowed the Chitauri to wreak havoc on New York City. There is no conceivable way Stark or any of the other Avengers would allow the God of Mischief to gets his hands on the Space Stone so soon after he attempted to conquer Earth.
The only thing that would really make sense is if Stark were to go back in time and try to prevent Thanos’ invasion from happening, recruiting friends and foes to his side so they could strike the Mad Titan before that fateful snap. Whether that is the result of a heavily augmented B.A.R.F. or the Time Stone reclaimed (or something completely different) is a matter for the future.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Infinity War stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Tom Hiddleston, and Josh Brolin. The film is in theaters now.