The massive batch of character posters Marvel Studios released for Avengers: Endgame led fans to whip up a flurry of memes and comb through each image hunting for clues about the film's plot. Since the posters were clearly coded by survival status (full color means the character lives, black and white means they were taken out by Thanos's population-halving finger-snap), they appear to provide some straightforward information that can't be disputed. For instance, though Shuri's death didn't happen onscreen, we now have confirmation that she was indeed among the victims.
But one poster featuring a character from the "fallen" half of the cast may contain an oblique hint about where he, and by proxy all of those who were Decimated, have gone. Groot, the sentient tree creature of the Guardians of the Galaxy team, appears in his black-and-white picture with a slight difference from when he was last seen in Avengers: Infinity War. Specifically, he has a scruff of moss around his face and neck, much like prepubescent facial hair.
Groot appeared in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies before Infinity War, and his design has been different each time. The original Groot sacrificed himself at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy and was replaced by the adorable six-inch baby tree that scurried around wreaking havoc in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Then, in that film's mid-credits stinger, we first saw adolescent Groot, the version of the character who starred in Infinity War.
All those changes make it a little complicated to track the differences in the latest image, especially since Groot is a CGI character. Small improvements and tweaks are often made to computer-generated character designs from film to film, as has been seen with Thanos as well as Groot's platonic soulmate Rocket, whose coloration and fur textures have been less than consistent throughout his career in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
However, MCU fans are known for their painstaking scrutiny of all promotional material and every offhand remark from the cast and crew. Marvel Studios is well aware of this fact and tends to plan accordingly. So could the addition of Groot's moss be more than a cosmetic change, or is it meant to throw us off the film's storyline?
If an actual difference in his body has taken place between "now" and the time he was disintegrated in Infinity War, that means that some amount of time has passed for him, and potentially for all of the characters who met the same fate as he did. This would lend weight to some of the theories circulating about the current status of the victims of the Decimation which suggest that they're not simply dead or in a stasis, but in a state of life and/or consciousness on a separate plane of existence. Since we've already seen Thanos visiting the late Gamora in an orange-tinted world, it's possible that the Decimated characters have joined her in a universe within the Soul Stone.
Assuming Groot's mossy chin means anything, though, there's still a question of how much time has passed, and the possible answers can only raise more questions. From what we know about Groot's biology, he ages much more rapidly than humans; he's roughly four years old in Infinity War, but his maturity corresponds to a boy of about twelve. Sure, this might be around the time a Groot begins to grow some fuzzy facial hair, but if that's the only visible change on anyone, and if it happened as quickly as his other bodily changes did, it still seems like only the blink of an eye can have passed for the fallen.
The span of time that has passed for the survivors is also not entirely clear, but trailers so far seem to indicate that it's substantial, with the initial chaos of the Decimation having died down and characters reassembling to plan their response to the event -- essentially, longer than it would theoretically take for Groot's stubble to form. This could easily be resolved by establishing that time moves differently in the Soul World, especially since Gamora was shown there de-aged to childhood, but that could mean anything from universal time compression to separate pocket dimensions for each fallen character.
Another, far simpler explanation for Groot's poster is that it depicts him after his resurrection rather than during the interim. Marvel Studios has been careful in its promotion of the movie to avoid any suggestion of the Decimated characters being brought back to life, but realistically, it's fair enough to assume Groot has a long, leafy life ahead of him. If that scruff keeps growing, he may even become the first onscreen Groot to sport a full tree-beard.
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, Avengers: Endgame stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Benedict Wong, Jon Favreau and Bradley Cooper, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Josh Brolin. The film arrives April 26.