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Marvel fan theories that change everything

Over the years, the folks at Marvel have shown themselves to be master storytellers of the highest quality. From creating memorable characters to weaving various story arcs together, the complexity and depth of Marvel's comics and movies are nothing short of impressive. But sometimes it takes the audacious, foolhardy hypothesizing of fans to bring a whole new level of drama into the picture, upending the established norms and opening out minds to new concepts.

There can be no doubt that fan theories have provided an endless stream of speculation over the years. But genuine, provocative suppositions — those that manage to balance recklessly shooting from the hip with a good dose of realistic application into existing storylines — can be rather hard to come by. Here are our candidates for some of the most intriguing fan theories that would have profound effects on characters, stories, and the very fabric of the MCU itself.

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Fury the Wise

We'll call this one the "everything happened for a reason" theory. It was postulated by Reddit user u/sfmarch07, and it has to do with a rather complex series of purposeful events that will find its culmination in the upcoming Captain Marvel/Endgame jamboree. The theory quite impressively weaves together on and off-screen factors, including the Russo Brothers' influence as directors of specific movies like Captain America: Civil War, along with a rather tragic trajectory for Tony Stark's story arc, to boot.

But probably the most dramatic element at play here isn't the heroic journey of everyone's favorite billionaire playboy, nor the wisdom of the directors, but rather its take on Nick Fury. It suggests that Fury's role in Captain Marvel isn't simply for the movie's own sake. Since the film is largely set to take place in the '90s, Fury may actually be confronted with the devastating facts regarding the future smackdown with Thanos and his infamous finger snap. This knowledge would then equip him to be the prime mover of events going forward, making sure that everything from recruiting Avengers to making sure Tony Stark gets his deceased father's box of memorabilia all happens at just the right moment to ensure things stay on track for the one in 14 million-plus scenarios that keeps the good guys on top.

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Purposeful parallels?

One popular criticism of Infinity War was the logic of Thanos needing to wipe out half of the universe in order to accomplish his goal. Couldn't he have just doubled the number of resources available or something? But Reddit user u/joethehamface actually found a workaround for the issue by speculating that maybe the Mad Titan didn't kill anyone at all. Before you assume this is just a "they're all in the soul stone" scenario (it isn't), let us explain.

The thought behind this one suggests that perhaps all Thanos did was split reality into two different halves with the same resources for each. This would, in essence, create a second dimension and simultaneously double the resources available. Those two parallel and closely linked dimensions — along with Ant-Man, who was safely ensconced in the Quantum Realm, outside of both when the snap happened — could go on to play an important role in Endgame. However, for our purposes, the biggest factor at play here is the concept of new dimensions. While time travel has been very heavily speculated to play a critical role in both Endgame and now Captain Marvel as well, this theory proposes that perhaps it will be space rather than time that will change our concept of the MCU going forward.

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Infinite time loops

While the possibility of parallel universes in the MCU is fun to contemplate (and certainly nothing out of the ordinary for comics), there's still a pretty good chance that we're going to see time travel sooner rather than later. However, the way that fans have typically been projecting this time travel to play out involves a rather direct application of the concept with Dr. Strange, Tony Stark, Ant-Man, or even Carol Danvers making their way back down a single thread of the story. This rather complicated theory, on the other hand, takes the idea of time travel to a whole new level.

While a summary never does something this complicated justice, the basic concept is that, rather than simply helping orchestrate a specific outcome in a single event, Strange has literally put the entire storyline into a time loop that is replaying over and over again. It's the same trick he played at the end of his origin story in order to defeat Dormammu. This time, it won't just take a few dozen rather gruesome replays to solve the problem, though. It'll be more like 14,000,605 tries before arriving at the moment where the heroes have finally won. If true, it would blow the concept of time wide open for future films.

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The greatest misdirect of them all

What if the story actually followed the dusted Avengers into a new universe? That's what Reddit user u/improperhoustonian suggested. A key component of this theory is the observation that most of the victims of the Snap were newer heroes poised to play major roles in upcoming movies. Maybe the survivors, most of whom are from the MCU's original lineup, will be less central to Endgame than we're being led to believe. Leaving the OG Avengers crew metaphorically "in the dust" is a pretty radical idea, but the theory makes a few good points. For instance, many of the original Avengers' contracts are either nearing completion or have already expired, which means they're going to need to make some kind of an exit sooner or later.

The theory also brings into play the idea of a multiverse again, hinging on the fact that, while Carol Danvers is likely to triumph over the incoming Skrulls in her first solo outing, perhaps she doesn't have such a happy storyline in other universes. This opportunity could allow the snapped Avengers to join with the heroes of another universe — one where Thanos hasn't gotten all of the Infinity Stones yet — and could help proactively defeat the gauntlet-wielding fanatic while simultaneously setting up the scenario for the long-desired fan-favorite Secret Invasion narrative to hit the big screen.

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Why won't Hulk come out to play?

Speaking of Skrulls and the potential for a Secret Invasion story, one Reddit user threw up a quick but earth-shaking suggestion in mid-2018 that suggested the simple possibility that "Bruce Banner is a Skrull all throughout Ragnarok and Infinity War." That's it. No explanation, no deeper reasoning. The comments came fast and furious defending the Green Machine's genuine role in everyone's favorite Thor film as well as the penultimate Phase 3 Avengers flick. It should come as no surprise that the post was deleted.

Still, the concept got us thinking. After all, the idea of Skrulls already having invaded the MCU has been thrown out there six ways from Sunday with everyone and their mother being targets at some point. Even the seemingly sacred heroes of the MCU, folks like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, have been fingered as possible Skrull spies. And while it seems that adulterating any of the Avengers' characters by revealing that they've been imposters, even just for part of the time, seems like a pretty horrific idea, that doesn't mean Kevin Feige and company won't try it. They've done worse (like that time they let the bad guy wipe out half the universe). If they decide to break our hearts yet again, why not do it with the Emerald Giant?

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The god who never dies

Whether you think he's a hero or a villain, everyone loves Loki. He's served as one of the MCU's greatest antagonists over the years, providing a depth of character that others like Iron Monger or Abomination utterly lacked. Of course, part of the appeal of Loki resides in his ever-growing desire to be one of the good guys. Ever since Thor: Dark World, the God of Mischief has been up to a bit more do-gooding than was his norm during the first phase of the MCU.

With his newfound protagonist potential, as soon as he died (again) in Infinity War, the theory mill began pumping out all of the ways that he could still be alive. While most of these were put to bed by the Russos' confirmation that he was indeed deceased, one simple theory followed soon afterward, explaining why his clone power and even the way he entered the scene makes it perfectly conceivable that Thor's adopted brother is alive and kicking in the shadows somewhere. 

It's hard to argue with, historically speaking. If by some chance this one turns out to be true, it allow Loki to help take down Thanos (or possibly aid him?) in Endgame. It would also be strike three against the trustworthiness of the Russos — there's already the matter of footage in the Infinity War trailer that never appeared in the movie, as well as the brothers' strategy of misleading everyone about the Avengers 4 title.

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Thanos retired... to Wakanda?

Infinity War was about as cosmic as you can get. Stretching from Earth to Titan and on to places like Knowhere and Nidavellir, the film was constantly flying about the universe as it unfolded. But while everyone expects Marvel's cinematic universe to continue growing at break-neck speeds, one theory has the final showdown with Thanos in Endgame potentially remaining a terrestrial affair.

Claiming to have some undisclosed "insider information," user u/thepride325 claimed that the final scene of Infinity War showed Thanos retired not on some lonely, distant planet but right on Earth — in a desolated Wakanda to be precise. The theory leans on a few specifics that, while not in any way conclusive, wouldn't be outside of the bounds of reason. There's a potential connection between the sunsets in Wakanda and Thanos' desire to "watch the sun rise on a grateful universe." There's even a resemblance between the Titan-turned-farmer's bumper crop and the African kiwano fruit. In short, the theory really does open the possibility of Thanos literally having taken up residence right in the Avengers' backyard. All things considered, this would naturally reshape the way that Endgame could play out, and quite dramatically at that.

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Super Stan, the Watcher

Stan Lee was nothing less than one of the greatest legends in the Marvel universe… or of the world of comics and entertainment in general, for that matter. When he passed away in 2018, the world mourned the loss of the man who co-created some of the greatest superheroes to ever don a uniform. He'll also be remembered for his numerous cameos, which had become a staple of Marvel cinema. The happy-go-lucky actor showed up sooner or later in every film without fail, typically in a very minor role or even as an innocent bystander.

But, while the cameos were fun to watch regardless of their intent, several years ago a theory popped up that suggested there was a bit more to Stan Lee's endless procession of appearances than met the eye. It asserted that Mr. Lee was none other than Uatu, the Watcher. The Watchers were characters in the comics who, in short, observed events while vowing never to interfere with the beings they watched. Uatu watched the creatures of Earth, which gave Lee's inevitable appearances much more purpose than might have been expected at first glance. When Kevin Feige endorsed the idea in 2017, it was a sweet confirmation of a theory that transformed the cameos into something far bigger than was initially suspected.

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A belated Mistress Death?

This one wanders a bit from the typical MCU tone, though it's a bit more in line with the dark trail the movies are currently blazing. Once he fully entered the picture, it quickly became apparent that Thanos' character was lacking one of his original motivations for annihilating half of the universe — his infatuation with Mistress Death. In the comics, it was largely his adoration of Death herself that drove him to his evil deeds. In the films, this evolved into a crusade to end overpopulation in the universe by wiping out half of its occupants… with Mistress Death nowhere to be found.

One theory asserted that perhaps Gamora would actually return not as herself in resurrected form, but rather as Mistress Death. While the theory is all sorts of wonky, if it were to ever come true, it would be an interesting way to keep Zoe Saldana in the picture, introduce Mistress Death, and even keep Thanos' new character and story arc intact. Of course, having the Mad Titan fall for his deceased-resurrected-adopted-daughter would be a heck of a storyline to sell without making the entire audience just throw up in their mouths at the mere thought of it.

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The defeat of the Avengers

While Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War both featured battles with bleak outcomes for our heroes, a theory from u/ParameciaAntic actually puts the first defeat of Earth's Mightiest Heroes right at their origin. On the surface, the Battle of New York was a smashing success for Nick Fury's newly-formed crew. They held off a huge invasion of Chitauri soldiers, they saved a lot of people in the streets from becoming collateral damage, and Iron Man even managed to send a nuke right back up to the mothership.

However, if this theory turned out to be true, while the fearless band of heroes celebrated with their shawarma, the real Chitauri invasion would have actually been finishing up its victory lap across the globe. It posits that the Chitauri attack on New York was made in the name of distraction rather than outright conquest. While the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. were busy stopping the aliens and beating Loki to bits, stealth ships had been making their way through the wormhole undetected, depositing shapeshifting Chitauri agents around the world in an initial effort to create future chaos.

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Peggy Carter is Tony Stark's mother?

Okay, this last one is admittedly getting into the weeds, but let's have some fun with it. A while back, Reddit user u/savepublicdomain took a stab at a wrinkle in Tony Stark's story that could have some rather awkward implications if it were to ever come to fruition. The theory proposed that Tony's mother was none other than Peggy Carter. After all, Cap's World War II sweetheart has been known to work rather closely with Stark's father in the past, and a secret love child left in the custody of Howard Stark could conceivably be worked into the continuity.

Of course, if you fast forward a few decades, a reveal of that nature to Cap and Iron Man could do quite a bit of damage at this point. This is especially true considering how fragile the entire situation has been since the events of Captain America: Civil War, coupled with the fact that Stark and Rogers have yet to share a tête-à-tête. Doubtless the knowledge that Steve Rogers' first love went on to give birth to the very man that can't reconcile with him even when the universe is at stake would be a tough pill to swallow.