Spanning over twenty movies, the Infinity Saga as it is being called has crated, and coined the term “cinematic universe” Of course I’m referring to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It started back in 2008 with the big screen debut of Iron Man and continues to this day, and on the eve of what would have been the premier of “Black Widow”, I have found myself thinking about the preceding films.
I’m not afraid to admit that I have watched Endgame (more specially the last 39 minutes thereof) more times than most. Upon these repeated viewings a few things have become clear to me, the biggest of which is that Tony Stark killed absolutely nobody in his final scene.
Oh, and spoiler warnings ahead for the biggest movie in history, and if you haven’t seen it, frankly that surprises me.
But onto the evidence.
It all starts in Iron Man 3 (2012).
No, not yet, let’s not back up that far yet.
It all starts with the time jump in Endgame. Five years after Thanos has snapped out half of the population of the universe, Tony Stark has semi-retired with Pepper Potts in their upstate New York lake house. They are happily married and raising their young daughter Morgan. She is really the crux of this whole thing. When the rest of the Avengers come to him with the idea of a “time heist” Tony wants nothing to do with it. His love for Morgan is so great that despite what the world has become he won’t change anything in the past that might jeopardize the existence of his beloved daughter.
But the genius of Tony stark is not a force that can be contained, and he eventually solves the time travel equation with Morgan as a witness. And that delivers us the beautiful “I love you 3000” moment.
Tony then brings his solution to the time travel problem to the Avengers but makes Captain America promise that if it works they bring everyone back, and not change anything from the past five years.
Then they go on the Time Heist to grab the infinity stones out of history and back to the year 2023. They split into five teams to get the five infinity stones
Thor and Rocket get the Aether
War Machine and Nebula Go after the Orb
Hawkeye and Black Widow retrieve the Soul Stone
Hulk gets the Time Stone from the Ancient One
Ant Man Iron Man and Captain America go after the Mind and Space Stones.
But with any good story, something goes wrong and Loki makes off with the Space Stone (to set up his Disney+ series), and Nebula accidentally reveals the whole plan to Thanos in 2014 and is replaced with her evil counterpart.
Then something you may have overlooked happened, and you might chalk it up to lazy writing, plot convenience or you just went with it because you are completely invested in these moves.
But Tony tells Cap that he has a “vaguely exact idea” where they can get more Pymm Particles (time travel fuel) and the Tesseract.
How did Tony know to go back to the New Jersey military facility in 1970?
I’m getting to it, hold on.
Back in the year 2023, they finally have all five infinity stones. Tony fabricates a gauntlet using the same nanotech in his armor to hold them. The duty falls on Hulk to snap his fingers and bring everyone back. Tony again reminds Hulk to just bring everyone back, nothing changes from the past five years.
And that’s exactly what Hulk does.
However evil nebula uses the time machine to bring her father and his army to Earth so that we get an epic battle to end the movie.
And there’s a lot to break down in this battle too, but a few parts are what we need to focus on. First off; Nebula shoots herself. Well the good version of Nebula (from 2023) shoots herself (the version that came back from 2014) but surprisingly nothing happens to good Nebula. While the move goes out of its way to toung-and-cheek explain their rules of time travel, shooting your past self will most likely cause terrible damage to your present self.
But there’s an explanation for this that hasn’t happened in the movie… yet.
In the battle’s climax Tony grabs the Infinity Stones from Thanos because he and the gauntlet use the same nanotech so his Iron Man armor reconfigures itself to hold them. Then in an instant, Tony Stark, Earth’s most brilliant man (so far) has complete mastery of time and space. So what does he do with this power?
You probably are saying “He snaps his fingers erasing Thanos and his minions from reality thus putting the universe back in order”
You could say that but you’re wrong.
Because Tony didn’t, kill, dust, erase anyone. He just put them all back where they came from. Including Nebula who goes back to 2014, to relive the events that bring her to the point that she would shoot her past self.
If you compare Tony’s snap with Thanos’s snap in “Infinity War” people, but not things turn to dust.
But if you watch closely, Thanos’ crashed spaceship also fades to dust. Why would that need to happen?
Well it’s obvious, Tony didn’t want to change the past five years, or even the past nine years. Through the entire epic battle he was only trying to save Morgan, and he did.
And here’s how. With the five infinity stones in his possession and a brilliant mine to boot, Tony had complete control of the universe. So he did a few things. First he dropped himself a “vaguely specific” reminder of where to find those Pymm Particles and the Tesseract back in 1970.
But he didn’t stop there.
Just before the epic Battle he, Thor and Captain America see Thanos off the the distance. Cap asks where he came from and tony replies “When you mess with time, time tends to mess back. You’ll see”
Meaning maybe Captain America doesn’t get a simple “happily ever after” with Peggy Carter after all. We can only hope Chris Evans signs on for some more moves so we can find out.
And in my best Billy Mayes voice, “But there’s more”
Remember Infinity War? Remember Titan, I know we all cried when Spider-man got dusty, but before that Thanos addresses Tony by name.
Tony asks “You know who I am?”
Thanos replies “You are not the only one cursed with knowledge”
To What knowledge is Thanos referring? At the time we probably all thought it had something to do with Tony flying a nuclear missile through a wormhole during the battle of New York (2012). Well, Tony Stark is not without ego. He is the type to leave you a cryptic note just to keep you thinking about him. And we saw this in Iron Man 3 (told you we’d get here). He leaves a note for a woman that simply reads “You know who I am”
So with absolute control of the universe Tony sends Thanos, all his minions, alive and dead, back to 2014, where they can spend the next four years chasing Infinity Stones until 2018 only to have it undone five years laters with the simple reminder, “You know who I am”
I am Iron Man.