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The intriguing time-travel Easter egg you missed in Endgame

Thought you knew all there was to know about Avengers: Endgame? Think again. 

A few eagle-eyed Marvel aficionados have spotted an intriguing Easter egg tucked in the super-sized superhero film.

Taking to the site's r/MovieDetails forum, Reddit user kobikwahbz uploaded a screenshot of the Avengers: Endgame scene that shows a travel log of all the time periods the Avengers jumped to in the film. The log appears when the 2014 version of Nebula (Karen Gillan) is executing her plan to activate the time-travel machine at Avengers HQ in order to bring Thanos (Josh Brolin) to the present day in 2023. In the top right section of the screen, one can spot this supposed user history — which details in part that Earth's Mightiest Heroes traveled to May 2012. Viewers saw this play out during the time heist mission in Avengers: Endgame, but what they didn't see is the heroes traveling to January 2988, which is included in the time-travel log. 

Another Marvel fan spotted a mention of the year 2988 in a different scene in Avengers: Endgame. A Reddit user by the name of Teja-Stark followed up on kobikwahbz's post, sharing a still from Endgame that depicts Chris Hemsworth's Thor standing in front of two screens in a conference room at Avengers HQ, where he and his fellow heroes were discussing the origins and purposes of each Infinity Stone. Being the God of Thunder and an Asgardian noble, Thor naturally spoke about the Reality Stone, otherwise known as the Aether, which his grandfather Bor Burison (Tony Curran) seized from the Dark Elves thousands of years ago. Behind Thor, one of the screens reads "2988 B.C." — the same year that Bor battled against the Dark Elf forces and Malekith the Accursed to obtain the Aether. 

In Avengers: Endgame, Thor and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) travel to Asgard in 2013 to obtain the Aether by extracting it from Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). However, the screen displaying the year 2988 B.C. hints that Thor and Rocket may have discussed traveling back to the First Battle of Svartalfheim, snatching up the Aether right then and there. Perhaps this conversation happened because Thor clearly had mixed feelings about returning to Asgard in his current state — depressed, anxious, overweight, and beating himself up over his perceived mistakes he made at the start of Avengers: Endgame — and because he knew it would be painful to see his homeland in the moments before thousands of people were killed during the events of 2013's Thor: The Dark World. Not that jumping back to the bloody First Battle of Svartalfheim would be any less intense for Thor, but there would be at least a little bit of emotional distance given how long ago the battle took place. 

It seems pretty plausible that some cut of Avengers: Endgame saw the heroes leaping back to the year 2988 B.C., but it's also just as likely that the film included a scene in which the Avengers bounced forward to see what was going on in the future. Maybe one hero was simply curious about how the world was getting on hundreds of years after their generation, or were curious to see if Thanos' Snap in Infinity War (and the Avengers' subsequent reversal of it Endgame) was still impacting society. Or perhaps Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo just wanted to include a funny sequence in which the Avengers go out clubbing in the far-off future as a way to lighten the mood ahead of their big battle against Thanos. 

Since we haven't heard anything official regarding what the year 2988 means in Avengers: Endgame, all we have to go on is speculation — and that includes a theory that claims the Marvel Cinematic Universe might see the arrival of a new bad guy because of this very Easter egg. 

This Endgame Easter egg could spawn a dangerous new villain

Marvel fans — particularly those with keen knowledge of the comics — have pointed out that the time-travel machine in Avengers: Endgame, the logged trip to 2988, and Hulk's (Mark Ruffalo) familiarity with the ins and outs of time-hopping might be sufficient evidence to prove that a new villain could rise in the MCU.

That baddie is named Maestro, a version of the Jade Giant from an alternate future timeline who made his print debut in the October 1992 comic Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect #1. The idea goes that perhaps the Hulk — seen in Avengers: Endgame in his Professor Hulk form that came about after Banner merged his brains with the Hulk's brawn — was secretly traveling to the future in the film, which would offer a different explanation as to why the year 2988 showed up in the travel log. Maybe the Hulk wasn't as level-headed and rational as he came across in Endgame, and the experiment he performed on himself left him with some mental instability that drew him to the future to live out a life as a tyrannical ruler. 

Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo has appeared in six Marvel movies thus far, which is the standard for actors in the superhero franchise. However, we have heard rumblings that Ruffalo's Hulk might play a role in the upcoming fourth Thor movie Thor: Love and Thunder, or even on the Disney+ series She-Hulk, which centers around Banner's cousin Jennifer Walters, a female version of the Hulk. Whether or not that will actually happen is up in the air, as is the chance that Ruffalo's Hulk will be seen transforming into Maestro in either project. 

From our perspective, the most plausible place we may see the 2988 Easter egg from Avengers: Endgame tie into a storyline involving the Hulk and Maestro would be on Marvel's impending Disney+ animated series What If…?, which is said to take several plots from the MCU's Infinity Saga and add a twist to each one. Maybe one episode will explore what would have happened if the Hulk traveled to the year 2988 in Endgame — revealing that he would have lost his sanity and become Maestro, ruling over the alternate world. 

Another point in the MCU where we might see the year 2988 that may not involve Maestro? The time when Marvel finally reboots the X-Men film franchise. In the Marvel Comics, there's an alternate Earth known as Earth-2988, and within that reality, the mutant Wolverine becomes a horseman of the powerful villain Apocalypse. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is reportedly hoping to cast a younger actor in the role of Wolverine, so perhaps his big plan for the character is to have him face off against an alternate version of himself — with the villainous Wolverine traveling to the present day to wreak havoc on the Earth that MCU fans are most familiar with.

We may never unravel the full mystery of the 2988 Easter egg within Avengers: Endgame, but here's to hoping that the minds behind Marvel had something bigger mapped out when they included it in the flick.