What: An interactive guide to the time travel in Avengers: Endgame.
Who: Electronics engineer and apparent Marvel lover Oren Bell.
Why we care: Time travel factors heavily into Avengers: Endgame, and if that counts as a spoiler, consider traveling back six weeks to the opening of Avengers: Endgame when it would’ve been acceptable to be miffed about spoilers. The movie opens just after Thanos’s notorious, world-warping Snap, which wiped out half of the world’s population, including some of your favorite Marvel heroes. In response, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) has what in this wacky universe seems like a perfectly reasonable idea: invent a time machine and go back to the events of previous Marvel films to stop Thanos from acquiring all the Infinity Stones. What follows is a form of time travel that, as my colleague KC Ifeanyi points out, is known as the Many Worlds Theory:
“Instead of changing something in the past that would alter the present, a change in the past would create a whole new universe. So the game plan for the Avengers is to return the Infinity Stones to their exact locations once they use them to fix their present with the intention of not spinning out a spiderweb of multiverses.”
Did you get all that? It’s not much easier to digest in the movie itself, but the ambition behind filmmakers the Russo Brothers’ “time heist,” and the pyrotechnics with which they carry it off, make the medicine go down smooth. Audiences can just shut their brains off and have a perfectly enjoyable time watching small subgroups of Avengers pull off an audacious masterstroke.
One person who definitely did not turn his brain off, however, is Oren Bell, an electronics engineer and blogger who has created a handy interactive guide to all the time-travel shenanigans in Endgame. The graphic starts off as a single, linear timeline with 10 Marvel superheroes to choose from (represented by adorably childlike avatars). Click any of these characters and you’re off to the races. Bell traces where each action by the Avengers creates a new version of the past, branching off into its own separate timeline, and even speculates on what happens next.
“When the tessaract is returned to this timeline,” Bell writes, late into the timeline, “events play out the same way they would’ve in prime reality. Thus this reality has its own snap, its own time travel, and its own branched timelines. These branches have their own branches on and on into infinite fractals.”
This timeline not only clarifies the events of the movie, but it helps readers takes in the significance of the newfound Marvel multiverse–and its endless possibilities. Have a romp through the temporal playground here.