As of right now, a lot is unknown about the upcoming Avengers 4 (including, well, it's title). But judging by what fans have already seen, one thing seems clear: the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be taking some sort of trip down memory lane.
If you've been paying attention to the on-set photos released from the film, it isn't too hard to put together. Several photos have hinted at the film revisiting of some pretty major MCU events, including the first Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy films.
A lot of the cast's social media posts only stoked further speculation, with Gwyneth Paltrow seeming to hint at her wearing her Iron Man 3 rescue armor once again, Evangeline Lilly sporting her hairstyle from Ant-Man, and most recently Scarlett Johansson dressed in her outfit from the opening scene of Captain America: Civil War. This was also echoed by Lilly, who joked at the film's parallels to Lost.
"You want me to tell you about the flash-forwards and flashbacks and flash-sideways?" Lilly joked late last year. "When I heard about Infinity War and the direction that they’re heading, I did have this moment of realizing, oh, wow, there’s a bit of a déjà vu for me with the Lost franchise. We are hitting that [Lost] Season 4 space where everything’s about to shift, and you’re about to lose the solid ground underneath you. And [Ant-Man and the Wasp], of course, will play a part in that."
Admittedly, it's way too early to know exactly how these flashbacks will factor into Avengers 4. But we thought we'd run through the possibilities -- and what they could possibly mean for the MCU going forward.
This was the first theory to enter fans' minds, after Skrulls were confirmed to appear in the upcoming Captain Marvel solo film. Now that the race of shape-shifting aliens are canon, it caused some to wonder whether a "Secret Invasion" storyline be the key to switching out some of the MCU's key actors?
Sure, the news that your favorite character was really a menacing alien might not be what every MCU fans want to hear. But looking at the "Secret Invasion" storyline from the comics, it certainly could be possible, and leave a pretty easy out for a few major characters. The flashbacks that already seem to be confirmed could play a role in that, with characters from those scenes of Iron Man 3, Ant-Man, and Civil War possibly being revealed to be Skrulls.
If anything, the biggest argument against it happening is that there's just so much to the arc, and condensing a large portion of it to one movie might not be the way to go. But the MCU certainly has a precedent for sort of making these iconic storylines their own, particularly with Civil War and even Infinity War to an extent.
This option might not have an exact Marvel Comics counterpart, but some have already considered it to be likely.
A recent fan theory considered the possibility of Avengers 4 taking on a Back to the Future-esque storyline, which would directly tie into the fallout of Avengers: Infinity War. The general conceit is that after Thanos wins the battle of Infinity War, Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) would be tasked with using the Time Stone to change the events.
If anything, this feels like a pretty logistical way to factor in the flashbacks that seem to be confirmed. And the sight of Doctor Strange revisiting those key events -- possibly to the confusion of the characters initially in the scene -- would be something to see.
In the process, this would create a sort of ripple effect throughout the MCU, allowing for a soft reboot while much of the MCU is still intact. Maybe characters like Wasp and Captain Marvel joined the Avengers way earlier? Maybe the Lagos mission goes differently than what fans saw in Civil War, leading to the events of the entire film occurring differently -- or not happening at all? Maybe a certain new roster of characters were actually there all along? The sky is the limit at this point.
Something Else Altogether?
And finally, there's also a chance that these flashbacks and flash-forwards could be more than meets the eye. After all, the MCU is no stranger to surprising fans, and using these flashbacks in a fairly unconventional way would certainly do that.
Of course, this makes things a little bit harder to speculate about, as there's really no telling what it could mean for the film. Here's hoping that as the release date of Infinity War looms closer, more answers begin to come to light.
Thor: Ragnarok is now playing in theaters. Other upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movies include; Black Panther on February 16, 2018, Avengers: Infinity War on May 4th, 2018, Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6, 2018, Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, the fourth Avengers movie on May 3, 2019, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 5, 2019, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.