In April 2018, a little movie you might have heard of called Avengers: Infinity War was released, marking the MCU's tenth birthday, and sending cinema-goers into a tailspin as most of their favorite Marvel characters from those ten years disappeared in puffs of smoke while the big, purple alien responsible retired to the countryside to admire his work. The result has been to send an already hyperactive fanbase into theorizing overdrive to work out how the as-of-yet untitled sequel will remedy the devastation. Even while the next slate of MCU movie titles that have been announced is somewhat spoilery, the specifics of how and in what state certain characters will return are still completely up in the air.
With Avengers 4 and Captain Marvel rounding off Marvel Studio's Phase Three, Phase Four will be kicked off by Spider-Man: Far From Home -- the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming -- and the third chapter in the Guardians of the Galaxy series, the development of which has been slowed by Disney's sudden firing of director James Gunn. Beyond that, a long-awaited solo Black Widow film and a big screen adaptation of the Eternals are in the works. And, of course, the looming Disney/Fox deal clouds the future of the MCU with even more exciting unknowns, with the possibility of the X-Men and Fantastic Four being introduced into their rightful shared cinematic home. Will we ever see Wolverine suiting up with the Avengers? Or Reed Richards nerding out with Bruce and Tony? Who knows what the next ten years of the MCU will bring...
15 THE SIX ORIGINAL AVENGERS WILL GET A STONE EACH
Some eagle-eyed Infinity War viewers were quick to spot that, of the lucky few who survived the Thanos Snap, the six founding Avengers were among them: Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Bruce Banner (plus the Hulk-in-hiding) and -- presumably -- Hawkeye. This is a nice "back-to-basics" set-up for the sequel and also the perfect set-up for an MCU Infinity Watch.
In the comics, the Infinity Watch are six people chosen to safeguard each Infinity Gem. One theory argues that in the films, each original Avenger could wield the power of a Stone to reset the damage caused by Thanos. Alternatively, a return trip to Eitri by Thor could result in a new gauntlet being forged for someone with Thanos-sized hands. The top candidate? Hulk.
14 THERE'S A THIRD SURVIVOR ON TITAN
This theory rests on the assumption that when Thanos wished half of the universe out of existence, his will was carried out with scientific precision. In other words, every inhabited world's population was reduced by 50% exactly. In the ruins of the Mad Titan's homeworld, only Tony Stark and Nebula were left alive post-Snap.
But by this logic, the math doesn't add up as there were an even six on Titan. So, is there a hidden third survivor? Did Doctor Strange use an illusion spell to fake his own death? Did he cast it on someone else like Spider-Man? Or did Mantis use her telepathic powers to shift others' perception of her? Or, has someone else we haven't met yet been hiding on Titan?
13 TONY STARK IS THE KEY TO STRANGE'S PLAN
By far the most popular theory about how Thanos will be thwarted in the Infinity War sequel rests on that one in 14 million chance foreseen by Doctor Strange with assistance from the Time Stone of the good guys winning. During his zen state as he crumbled into ash, he reassured a terrified Tony Stark as he met his maker, and implied that Strange believed they were on course for that win.
What could have been the key factor? One theory suggests that Strange -- a man of strong conviction -- was going back on his word to put Tony's life over the fate of the Time Stone. This means that the Master of the Mystic Arts must have realized that Tony's survival is that key factor, or at least, part of it.
12 CAPTAIN MARVEL WILL INCLUDE FURY'S LOST EYE STORY
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Fury references that he lost his eye because he "trusted someone," a throwaway line that some fans believe will be fleshed out in the upcoming Captain Marvel, which appears to be as much a Nick Fury origin story as it does a Carol Danvers one. Betrayed by someone you trust?
Sounds like the work of a Skrull posing as a S.H.I.E.L.D agent! Or, as another theorist puts forward, the "unwitting" work of Carol herself. The theorist goes on to reason that the falling out could also explain Captain Marvel's absence since the '90s, with the pair forced to reconcile in Avengers 4 in the wake of Thanos' destruction.
11 NORMAN OSBORN WILL BUY STARK TOWER
Despite the head honchos at Marvel Studios ruling out the possibility of villains who have already been used in previous Spider-Man films being recycled for the MCU, fans know that things can change. It would be remiss, after all, to build a new Spidey-verse without the likes of the Green Goblin, and one Homecoming viewer spotted a prime opportunity to introduce him.
In the film, we saw Stark Tower being cleared out for new ownership, and wouldn't it be interesting if in Far From Home that tower sported the "OSCORP" logo? Even if Norman Osborn himself never makes an appearance, his presence could mirror Thanos' -- a threat looming large on the horizon, biding his time to attack.
10 THOR'S POWER IS BOUND TO EARTH
In the comics, Thor was born to surpass the power of Asgard as Odin's heir. Like a magical battery, he also relies on his own internal force to keep his power topped up whenever he goes on his intergalactic travels. In the MCU, self-reliance is something the Asgardian prince has had to learn through losing his hammer, homeland, and family.
With Asgard gone, Earth seems the most likely candidate for Thor to put down roots, and one fan theory suggests he might not actually have a choice in this. As Earth was where Odin's life ended -- right after instructing Thor to "remember" this place -- his power could be bound to it. Maybe that's why Thor's blow to Thanos in Wakanda packed such a punch.
9 ANTON VANKO WAS FRAMED BY HYDRA
The "Grand Unifying Theory of Doctor Anto Vanko" puts forward that Whiplash's father was secretly one of the biggest unsung heroes in the MCU. As shown in Iron Man 2, Anton was the co-designer of the Arc reactor technology alongside Howard Stark. Based on a line from Obadiah Stane about it being constructed to "shut the hippies up," the theorist dates its creation back to the '60s/'70s.
Anton was deported for allegedly trying to sell it to Russia, but, as the fan points out, we know from The Winter Soldier that Hydra was pulling a lot of political strings. What if his deportation was a sham and his exile to Siberia punishment for never giving Hydra the technology?
8 HELA IS LOKI'S MOTHER
Bear with us on this one. Firstly, there's the obvious family resemblance: pale skin, long dark hair and a preference for black and green clothing. Then there are the similarities in personality: a love of drama, a lust for power and resentment of Odin. Still not convinced? The theorist reminds us that Loki was abandoned as a baby.
Laufey could have dismissed the child for being a half-breed runt while Hela could have been too busy running from Odin to take him with her. There's also evidence Hela was present for Odin's war with Jotunnheim as she has knowledge of the Casket of Ancient Winters. Most telling, perhaps, is that when Hela spears the throne room murals, Odin, Frigga, Loki, and Laufey's images crack.
7 THE NEW THOR WILL BE... A FROG
While it's hard to picture anyone else in the role of the God of Thunder than Chris Hemsworth, many have proven themselves worthy of wielding the power of Thor in the comics. From Jane Foster, Beta Ray Bill and Captain America to far stranger candidates: Conan the Barbarian, Wonder Woman and a formerly-human frog.
Based on the "Frog of Thunder" story in which Loki transforms Thor into the web-footed animal for a laugh, Simon Walterson the frog becomes "Throg" after coming across a shard of Mjolnir in Central Park. As one theorist points out, Mjolnir's shattering on Earth in Thor: Ragnarok perfectly sets up Throg's MCU debut -- potentially as a Howard the Duck-style gag in a post-credit scene.
6 STORMBREAKER IS HOW GROOT RETURNS
Groot is one of a handful of MCU characters we've seen make a miraculous comeback from the grave. After a noble self-sacrifice in Guardian of the Galaxy, Rocket's leafy BFF was reborn from a twig, growing from a cute sapling into a sulky teenager. Though he was was a victim of The Snap in Infinity War, a piece of him still remains.
That piece is the handle of Stormbreaker. In fact, given the ancient mysticism of Groot's race, it could even be a contributing factor to the ax's power. The theory's creator also points out that Thor was taught Groot's language on Asgard, strengthening the connection between the two races, and Groot could even be linked to the World Tree.
5 NICK FURY "ACTIVATED" CAPTAIN MARVEL
Infinity War left us with one small ray of red, blue and yellow hope when Nick Fury hurriedly sent out a call for help -- before being dusted -- on what looked like a modified pager. Upon his message being sent, the unmistakable logo for Captain Marvel popped up on screen, confirming that Carol Danvers will soon swoop in to punch Thanos in his many chins.
One dark theory, however, reckons that Nick Fury wasn't simply calling the Captain in, he was activating her. Referencing The Manchurian Candidate and Carol's infamous memory loss storylines, the theorist suggests that she could, in fact, be a brainwashed agent for S.H.I.E.L.D in the way Bucky Barnes was for Hydra.
4 TONY STARK WILL MAKE THE "TITANBUSTER" ARMOR
What if Avengers 4 sees Thor whisk Tony Stark off to Nidavellir to forge a brand new "Titanbuster" armor for his rematch against Thanos? It's definitely a theory we'd love to see pan out. We've seen Tony burn through so many Iron Man suits over the years, and after his Bleeding Edge armor took severe damage in Infinity War, he's certainly in need of another upgrade.
Further weight for this idea comes from the "Fear Itself" storyline in the comics, in which Tony is granted access to the ancient dwarven forges. He combines his Bleeding Edge suit with Uru -- the metal that made Mjolnir -- to create his Iron Destroyer armor. He did the same thing in the Earth's Mightiest Heroes cartoon to make a Thorbuster version.
3 ODIN AND HELA SEARCHED FOR INFINITY STONES
Thor: Ragnarok gave movie-goers a chance to see a side to the All-Father that rang truer to his comics' iteration: war-mongering, brutal and unforgiving. This stemmed from the unexpected arrival of his long-lost daughter, Hela, who laid down some home truths about her and Odin's old conquesting days on her two half-brothers.
After Hela takes back Asgard, we briefly glimpse her tipping over a fake gauntlet in the palace's vault that's identical to Thanos'. This led some fans to wonder if Odin and Hela had once planned to assemble the Stone themselves. As Odin softened, he could have decided against this extreme plot, angering Hela and leading to her banishment.
2 HULK WAS ACTING UNDER STRANGE'S ORDERS
The Hulk finally met his match when he squared off against Thanos early on in Infinity War. The Titan gave the poor green guy such a beat-down, in fact, that he refused to show his face again throughout the rest of the film -- despite Banner's desperate pleas. Was this because of fear? Embarrassment? Laziness? Or was it actually a tactical decision?
One fan theory posits that, as Hulk refused to make an appearance each time an Infinity Stone was being argued over, he could've been acting under doctor's orders. It's possible that after Thanos' inevitable defeat, Doctor Strange uses the Time and Space Stones to pay Hulk a pre-Infinity War visit, telling him to only strike at the right moment to ensure an eventual victory.
1 AVENGERS 4 TITLE WILL BE REVEALED IN CAPTAIN MARVEL
With Kevin Feige teasing that the title for the hotly anticipated Infinity War sequel in 2019 might be a spoiler, speculation over what said title will be is one of the top concerns for Marvel fans at the moment. "Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet" has already been ruled out, but what about: "Avengers Forever?" "Avengers Reassembled?" or "Avengers: United We Stand?"
Some are even placing bets that the Russo brothers could just make Avengers 4 the official title just to screw with us and prolong the mystery about the film's content until the time of its release. Another more credible theory, however, is that Captain Marvel -- which will directly precede it -- will end with the tantalizing, "Captain Marvel will return in Avengers: [insert real title here.] "