'Avengers: Endgame' Time Travel Explained: How Hulk Clears Everything Up
Of all the Marvel characters to explain why you shouldn’t worry about time travel paradoxes, you reasonably can’t expect it to be the Hulk. Bruce Banner, sure. The Hulk? No way. Yet, that’s exactly who explains away all of the potentially confusing time travel problems in Avengers: Endgame.
Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame ahead.
As fans guessed, the Avengers use time travel as the way to retrieve all the Infinity Stones when just taking them from Thanos became a dead end. So the Avengers revisit some of their past adventures in order to get the Stones back.
Thus, Avengers: Endgame becomes a surprise a celebration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it takes moviegoers on a victory lap through the unseen edges of films like The Avengers (2012), Thor: The Dark World (2013), and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). (Apologies to Marvel TV, you still don’t exist.)
But because the Avengers are taking the Infinity Stones from specific times and places, this poses quite a few issues. Namely, if you remember from literally any other movie dealing with time travel, this could mean drastic changes in the timeline. See DC’s Legends of Tomorrow for a weekly lesson.
So, the Avengers’ plan shouldn’t work. But what the Hulk — who merged with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to become a version of what the comics called “Professor Hulk” — and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) discover in Endgame is that, actually, it does.
But how? The secret: It doesn’t matter. The Hulk says as much.
In the film, when time travel becomes the Avengers’ only option, the Hulk waives off concerns from Rhodey (Don Cheadle), the de facto voice for the audience in the room.
We, being obsessive moviegoers who are attuned to the rules of time travel thanks to a million science-fiction stories, are likely asking the same questions Rhodey is rattling off: Won’t taking the Infinity Stones away from the timeline change time itself? Wouldn’t it undo the snap? Why can’t the Avengers just kill Baby Thanos?
In another movie, these questions would provide all the stakes for the film. But this being Avengers: Endgame, a movie big, bold, and brave enough to challenge Back to the Future as possibly “bullshit,” the film proposes that none of the typical time travel rules matter for the story.
Hulk doesn’t quite get into the specifics of how time travel works in the Marvel Universe, and that’s Endgame’s greatest weapon.
While there is a general rule with the Infinity Stones, in that plucking them away from their proper time and place can create dangerous new realities (which adds to the urgency of the Avengers’ mission), the film’s comical over-explanation for everything else, as it comes from a salt and peppered dad bod Hulk, ultimately says just one thing: Quit thinking about it, you nerd.
Yes, the film does have a rhyme and reason to how time travel works and it is established to be functionally dangerous. But how Avengers: Endgame stands apart from all other time travel movies (which the characters joke about, in a prime example of lampshading) is how it doesn’t care for all the typical rules. Because imagine how much of a boring ass movie Avengers: Endgame would be if the heroes were dealing with the same problems seen in every episode of Doctor Who.
Hulk’s dialogue that dismisses all the usual questions about time travel, such as “Your past becomes your future,” is less about making sense of time travel and more about making sense of the very human stories in this superhuman universe. The film’s final shot of two certain characters (you know who) living in happy bliss proves that the Hulk knows what he’s talking about.
Avengers: Endgame is in theaters now.