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So, here’s stupid theory for you, but one that doesn’t turn out to be so stupid in the end (in a meta sense). Short version: Ultron defeated the Avengers in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
He did so by imprisoning them in a virtual reality. That’s what we’ve seen played out over the course of the films since and including the first Ant-Man film. There are many issues with this theory, not the least of which is a lack of any hint that it occurred, which is why it’s stupid.
However, this is something that the Marvel elites should keep in their back pocket. One of these days, the MCU will have to be rebooted. When that happens, this gives them a decent way to do so without strictly invalidating what happened in the prior movies. Obviously, none of what we saw really happened, but it was what the heroes really experienced, and there’s at least some logic behind it. What they saw was their opportunity to pass the torch to the next generation so that they could retire in peace. Sure, there were some tragedies, but only enough to maintain the verisimilitude of the illusion (c.f., the Architect’s explanation of the Matrix). Of course, this isn’t as elegant a solution as the multiverse, but it works if you want to use the same actors to do the torch passing. That lessens the blow of rebooting for the crowd attached to those actors.
Still, some of those who saw these movies as kids, teenagers, or young adults would complain, “You’re ruining the MCU!” Yeah, yeah; we’ve seen this before with Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. fanbases. But much like me now, these people won’t matter at that point. It’s always the younger crowd that has the disposable income, and that’s for whom screenwriters, musicians, etc. create art. If you’re lucky, you’ll turn out like me (in this narrow regard) and just roll with the changes.
Try to remember, kids, that the old stuff (Star Trek: The Original Series for me) still exists, and you can watch it anytime you want. The new stuff doesn’t have to be the same (though sometimes it is). If it’s different but still likeable, watch it even if it violates canon. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it, and stick with the old stuff. After all, you will also be old at that point. It’s really that simple. Whether or not this theory is used to reboot the MCU after I’m dead, one way or the other you’ll be in my current position. Choose to be okay with it. This sort of thing isn’t your lawn.
Getting old sucks, and it’ll happen to you too.
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