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Endgame Directors Explain the Old Captain America Time Travel Ending
In the process of wrapping up decades of movies and making a few billion dollars, Avengers: Endgame introduces a number of time travel conundrums that us humans are not equipped to understand. One of these is near the end of the film when Captain America uses Pym Particles to travel back in time to restore the Infinity Stones to their original locations so they don’t fuck up the time continuum. Bucky and Sam Wilson are waiting for Captain America to return, but instead, they find an old version of Steve Rogers sitting on a bench nearby.
We learn that Steve stayed in the past and lived out his life in peace with Peggy Carter before ending up back at that exact spot as an old man. But, this scene introduced one of the biggest questions in the entire film: How did Steve get there, when this entire scene contradicts what the movie establishes as the rules of time travel?
Earlier in the film Bruce Banner dismisses the pop culture version of time travel like in Back to the Future by saying, “if you travel to the past, that past becomes your future and your former present becomes the past, which can’t now be changed by your new future.” Later when talking with the Ancient One, she tells him “The Infinity Stones create what you experience as the flow of time. Remove one of the stones and that flow splits.”
Bruce suggests they can do this if they “return each one to its own timeline at the moment it was taken so chronologically, in that reality, it never left.”
But, if Steve lived out his life with Peggy, his sheer existence in the past would have created an entire new timeline. So, Old Cap couldn’t have possibly been sitting on a bench in their timeline. This scene suggests that he lived out his life in their own timeline. The other explanation would have been that Cap lived out his life then traveled forward in time to the right moment.
In a new Reddit AMA with Joe and Anthony Russo, a fan asks the Endgame directors to explain this exact situation. The fan asks: “Banner said that when you go back in time you make a separate time line, so it doesn’t effect the past, but if Captain America was in a different time line when he returned the stones, how did he back to the main time line without the use of the quantum suits”
To which they respond:
“You are correct in that he would have had to have worn the quantum suit, using a pym particle to make the jump. He’s not wearing the suit on the bench, because that is not the exact moment to which he returned.”
It … kind of makes sense. They seem to be saying that Cap returned sometime before this scene. Maybe in the middle of that apocalyptic battle? Then removed his suit and just sat on that random bench and waited?
Sure, why the hell not, it’s a kid’s movie.
Matt is the Culture Editor at Esquire where he covers music, movies, books, and TV—with an emphasis on all things Star Wars, Marvel, and Game of Thrones.