Avengers: Endgame transformed the MCU with its “Time Heist.” In order to undo Thanos’ mighty Snap and revive their lost comrades, the surviving Avengers first had to reassemble the Infinity Stones, requiring plenty of Stone Logistics.
Three stones were located in New York (circa 2012), while one was on Vormir and another could be recovered from Asgard. A mission to retrieve all five broke up the decimated (but still capable) Avengers and kept multiple storylines moving. But was there an easier solution?
The Theory – In answer to the prompt “What’s the most unrealistic thing in the Marvel movies, excluding the superpowers?,” TikTokker @mariedmoonlight identified an Endgame plot hole so massive, you’ll wonder why you never thought of it. Try this on for size: as the Avengers struggled to recover all the Infinity Stones, why did they not simply travel back in time to just after the Snap, fighting a weakened Thanos to capture the Infinity Gauntlet?
Seems obvious, right? So, why didn’t this happen? Theories abound.
Perhaps the Avengers didn’t believe they could beat Thanos again (despite Thor later decapitating him with relative ease). But fighting the Mad Titan right after the Snap certainly would have been easier than fighting a younger, stronger Thanos (from 2014) and sacrificing a team member’s life to secure the Soul Stone. Perhaps the rules of time travel wouldn’t have allowed for a fight between Infinity War-era Thanos and Endgame-era Avengers, because it would have created too many branching realities.
But this, too, is easily explained. Just as the Avengers avoided creating new realities by sending Steve Rogers/Captain America back through time to return the Stones, they could have easily done the same with the Infinity Gauntlet. (Plus, timelines break all the time, as we’ll see in Loki.)
The Inverse Analysis – It’s not the most glamorous answer, but the most likely reason Endgame’s writers didn’t go this easier route in resolving the Avengers’ conflict with Thanos is exactly that: it would have been too easy. Endgame was always going to be an epic finale event for the MCU, and an epic story necessitates epic challenges. What could be better-equipped to achieve that goal than a three-destination, five-part tour of the Avengers’ greatest hits?
If Endgame’s decision to take the long way around to victory was purely to benefit the storytelling, then this plot hole remains unresolved. Perhaps a future Marvel project will acknowledge this weird, missed opportunity. Considering the upcoming premiere of Loki – an entire series about characters resolving the MCU’s complicated-at-best, nonsensical-at-worst time travel – in just two weeks, we could get an answer to this lingering question sooner than expected.
Avengers: Endgame is now streaming on Disney+.