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Avengers 4 to start 5 years after Infinity War?

Ever since those desperate last few seconds of Infinity War faded from the screen, we've all been struggling with the possible repercussions of half of the MCU shuffling off into the Marvel dustbin of history (at least temporarily). Every day a new rumor or leak gives us some insight into where things might go next. From Tony Stark and Nebula stranded on Titan to Hulk's refusal to "come out and play," there are thousands of little tantalizing tidbits.

One of the latest bits to hit the fan, though, is a bit of a doozy. According to one reliable source of Avengers leaks and rumors, Avengers: Endgame will pick up well after Infinity War — as in five years later. Talk about messing with a cliffhanger ending. Rather than seeing the world in the immediate, aftershock of Thanos-induced heart-rending grief, we could come back to the MCU after years of healing and adjustment have taken place. It's hard to wrap one's mind around the idea — but let's give it a shot.

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Casting our doubts aside

One possible confirmation of the five-year time jump comes in the form of casting rumors. While Scott Lang's daughter, Cassie, has been played thus far by Abby Ryder Fortson in the two Ant-Man films, it looks possible that the superhero daughter could be growing up fast. In April 2018, just before the release of Infinity War, news leaked that Marvel had cast Emma Fuhrmann as Cassie for Avengers: Endgame. While any actor change in the MCU is scrutinized regardless of the cause, the deeper meaning behind the move was instantly apparent: Emma Fuhrmann is seven years older than her predecessor. The move clearly wasn't bringing in someone to fill an empty role — they're planning on aging Cassie, and quickly.

Of course, this could play out in very different ways onscreen. For instance, with Avengers: Endgame time travel rumors a dime a dozen these days, an older Cassie could simply show up at some point. But it's hard to ignore the thought that a five-year gap fits comfortably with the seven-year difference in age between the young ladies playing the two Cassies. Or maybe it's just a red herring covering up an even better twist. Only time will tell.

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A Thanos... paradise?

Rumors aside, let's take a look at what exactly a five-year gap between the two Avengers sequels might mean. For one thing, we'd see how everyone has adjusted to years of half the universe being gone. The truth is, while grief can last for a lifetime, five years is a long time to get over some initial emotions. It's hard to imagine everyone moping around like they just went through something traumatizing five minutes ago.

One of the Thanos selling points in Infinity War was that he wasn't just out for blood like some petty, sadistic warlord of old; he was convinced that removing half of the life in the universe would ultimately spare all of the life in the universe from the fate of his own planet. While this genocidal mental distortion is all sorts of crazy, the Mad Titan's actions very well may have begun to bear fruit for the survivors five years after Infinity War ended, and if so, we may be looking at a world that's actually doing well, possibly even thriving without the pressure of overpopulation. It could throw quite a wrench into the whole "go back in time and 'fix' things" argument.

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Avoiding some loose ends

One of the more curious implications of a five-year jump forward in time is not just "what will things be like at that point," but rather how many loose ends from Infinity War will probably just disappear. The aftermath moments of the finger snap, most of which were so tantalizingly withheld from us — supposedly for the next installment — may simply be already over.

Along with the obvious emotional adjustments that will have been made, there are also some logistical situations that may be long resolved. The issue of Tony Stark's return from Titan, a topic that has filled many a comment feed and article, would be most likely already have been accomplished (probably with the help of Nebula). The movie ended with Tony stranded way out in space on Titan… with no one knowing he's there except for everyone that just got zapped out of existence. The trip back would have been a fun start to things, but chances are, if these rumors are on target, we'll just hear a quick summary and maybe a flashback or two.

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The Tony Stark storyline

Stranded on Titan or not, far and away the most compelling storyline of Inifinity War was that of the Iron Avenger. Everybody and their mother lost somebody important at the end, but Tony Stark's own personal trauma took front and center for much of the movie.

The movie started with Tony and his fiancee, Pepper Potts, talking about the future and Tony's reluctance to set aside his role as Iron Man… just before Tony was whisked away yet again to save the day. However, this time he utterly failed, while everyone he loved fell to ashes around him. Oh, and he was stabbed too.

If Avengers: Endgame jumps forward five years, there are a lot of pieces to the Stark storyline that will likely be already in place when things begin. Not only will he probably be back from Titan, but he could already be married… and might even already have a kid that's several years old. Wherever they have Tony when the new movie starts, if it's five years in the future, you can be sure he'll have gone through some pretty radical changes, from his lifestyle all the way to his hair.

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Reconciliation and redemption? Or more green drama?

Another notable plot point in Infinity War was the conspicuous reluctance of Hulk to participate in the action. After a brief foray into the fray, one that ended rather quickly and unpleasantly for the Green Machine, Hulk remained safely ensconced within Banner for the remainder of the film other than when he popped out quickly to yell at his alter ego like he was a kid ringing the doorbell too many times.

Speculation on Hulk's reasons for staying out of things were generally put to bed when the Russo brothers explained that Hulk wasn't scared. He was just tired of being kept in Banner's back pocket until the scientist needed him to get out of a pinch. The Hulk and Banner have been duking it out ever since Ragnarok saw the Hulk end a two-year streak of being in control.

While Avengers: Endgame has long been discussed as the third part of the Hulk's three-story character arc, one wonders what a five-year gap will have done to the relationship between the two. Will Banner be bitterly unforgiving that the Hulk refused to stop Thanos from getting the Mind Stone in Wakanda? Will Hulk still be angry at feeling manipulated and used? Or will the two finally have put their differences to bed… and perhaps even created Professor Hulk in the process?

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The sidelined Avenger

Another long-held and popular theory suggests that in Avengers: Endgame, we'll finally see the return of Clint Barton — but not necessarily Hawkeye. No, the retirement-prone Avenger won't be coming back as a neutral observer, but very possibly may come back as Ronin, a samurai-inspired character whose mantle has been taken up by quite a few people in the comics (including Hawkeye for a while).

As for the five-year gap? That would play perfectly into the reemergence of a completely retooled Barton, giving him time to develop the new persona. After all, the man really wants one thing in life, to be with his family, right? Thanos' mad claim to wipe out "half of the universe" didn't mean it would be an even half everywhere it happened. We saw it on Titan, where everyone but Tony Stark and Nebula were wiped out. What if Barton's whole family is gone now and he's moved on in grief, taking on a new persona to help him in the fight for revenge? If the five-year rumor is true… the timeline could fit.

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A really — like really, really — overdue reunion?

Another issue pointed out by fans as they sorted through the haze of Infinty War was the lack of the long-awaited reunion between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. The two had literally beaten the crap out of each other at the end of Captain America: Civil War, and by the time Infinity War rolled around, Stark was still reluctant to pick up the phone and make the call to his former "friend from work."

The Infinity War writers tried to fit in a scene where the two co-leaders of the Avengers are in the same room together — and they actually had it in some of the earlier scripts, but it just took too much away from the Thanos-centric feel of the movie.

That's understandable, but you can't jump five years into the future and just tell us that the long-awaited Captain America and Iron Man reunion still hasn't happened… can you? If the feelings of shame or guilt run deep enough, maybe they could have avoided each other, but you can bet it's going to make for that much more of an emotional scene when the two broken heroes are finally, painfully, at long last forced to gaze into each other's eyes once again.

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Time travel fits right in

From leaked set photos apparently showing scenes from the Battle of New York, to toy packaging, to countless hair-related hints, the concept of Avengers: Endgame involving some form of time travel has been rumored since well before Infinity War even hit theaters. Whether Tony Stark or Bruce Banner are involved or, as seems more likely, the Ant-Man crew shows up to bring some Quantum fun to the story, the idea of going back in time to fix things or figure things out or alter the past or whatever the heck they choose to do seems to be a fan favorite theory at this point.

And the idea of a five-year jump into the future continues to add oomph to the argument as well. After all, if time travel is in their future, who cares what time it is when the movie starts, right? Heck, they could all be on their deathbeds. As soon as going back in time becomes a factor, it can all be undone one way or another. It can't be a copout solution or fans will riot. Luckily, with the Russo brothers at the helm, the odds of disappointment seem slim.

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Tying it in

The MCU has mastered the art of the crossover, tying together films without screwing things up… so far, at least. But the sheer number of characters, plot lines, and loose ends that will need to be woven together in Avengers: Endgame is incredibly daunting.

One issue that a five-year jump in time could complicate is the fact that movies already lined up for after Endgame need to fit in with whatever takes place. If things start with a five-year jump, will they end back at the end of Infinity War or five years after it? And, if the latter, then how will that impact the storylines of other movies?

Former Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn did let slip that Guardians 3 would take place after Infinity War, though he didn't mention Endgame. Since then all hell has broken loose with that franchise, so the resulting movie (or not) could go anywhere. But what about the upcoming Spider-Man sequel? Spider-Man: Far From Home is supposedly starting "immediately" after Endgame. If that's the case, will that be just after Infinity War… or will a revived Peter Parker be five years older?