Thanos’ victory in Avengers: Infinity War wasn’t the result of any one decision (although Star-Lord certainly challenges that), but had Iron Man done one thing differently early on in the film, it’s possible that half the universe could have been saved. That decision? Tony Stark, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man should have returned to Earth instead of continuing on to Titan.
After the attack on New York City by the Black Order, Iron Man and Spider-Man stowed away on Ebony Maw’s ship as it escaped Earth. The Maw had kidnapped Doctor Strange and planned to torture him until he surrendered the Time Stone. After Iron Man and Spider-Man blew Ebony Maw out into space, Stark and Strange then argued about the best course of action: Strange wanted to return to Earth to keep the Time Stone away from Thanos, while the billionaire futurist, haunted by Thanos, decided to continue onwards to Titan and take Thanos by surprise. But what if Doctor Strange was right and Stark made the wrong decision? Avengers: Infinity War could have turned out very differently.
Now, directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus obviously made their story choices for specific reasons, writing Avengers: Infinity War to give Thanos ultimate victory, and the Titan move makes sense within that. But, taking inspiration from Marvel’s “What If?” comics, how would a different Tony Stark decision in Act I have altered the movie?
- This Page: The Avengers Would Have Been At Full Strength Against Thanos
- Page 2: How The Avengers Could Have Won In Wakanda
The Entire Avengers Team Would Have Assembled In Wakanda
The most immediate change to Avengers: Infinity War had Tony Stark, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man returned to Earth would have been the Avengers being at full power. Stark would have had to swallow his pride and reunite with Steve Rogers, but that’s a minor hurdle; by the time he returned, Rogers, Black Widow, and the Falcon would have still saved Scarlet Witch and Vision from Corvus Glave and Proxima Midnight in Scotland and gone “home“. It’s likely Stark’s group and Rogers’ Secret Avengers would have reunited there, regardless of what Secretary Ross feels.
If upon seeing each other again, Tony and Steve could get on the same page (and with the fate of the universe at stake, they would have gotten past their issues, at least for now), the Avengers would most likely have reached the same plan: take Vision to Wakanda to have Shuri attempt to remove the Mind Stone from his head. But the big difference here is that the Avengers and the Wakandan forces would be defending two Infinity Stones: the Mind Stone and the Time Stone. It’s also possible that Tony would have used his political influence over the Sokovia Accords to get Clint Barton out of house arrest and into the fight, which would have brought Hawkeye into the movie. The same could have happened with Ant-Man as well, but Barton would have been a more likely call-up in order to assemble all of the Avengers.
Along with cool moments like Tony Stark meeting Shuri (and Peter Parker meeting Shuri), the Avengers would have been in a much stronger position to fight the Black Order’s army with Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man (and also Hawkeye) on the field.
Thanos Would Have Only Had Four Infinity Stones Going Into Wakanda
Meanwhile, Thanos’ adventures in outer space would have continued unabated: he would still have bested the Guardians on Knowhere to take the Reality Stone from the Collector and kidnapped Gamora. Father and daughter would have still traveled to Vormir, encountered the Red Skull, and Thanos would have still sacrificed Gamora’s life to capture the Soul Stone. But without another Stone on Titan, Thanos would have only had four before coming to Earth – and that makes a big difference.
In the film, Thanos nearly lost the Infinity Gauntlet thanks to a coordinated plan executed to near-perfection by Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Drax, Mantis, and Star-Lord. This group of heroes did manage to subdue Thanos and almost removed the Gauntlet until Peter Quill lost his cool because he found out Gamora is dead. Remove Star-Lord from the picture and things turn out very differently. If that ragtag team came so close to beating Thanos, who had four Infinity Stones in his Gauntlet, it’s reasonable to believe that the Avengers at full-strength could have done even better against the Mad Titan in Wakanda.
Page 2 of 2: How The Avengers Could Have Won In Wakanda
The Guardians Could Have Met The Avengers on Earth
The Guardians of the Galaxy would still likely meet the Avengers in this alternative Infinity War, though under different circumstances. The comedic interactions between Star-Lord and Iron Man wouldn’t have occurred (and Drax would not have uttered his immortal question “Why is Gamora?”), but the Guardians could have instead distinguished themselves as late cavalry rescue team for the Avengers.
Ultimately, Nebula would have still escaped being tortured on Thanos’ ship Sanctuary II and contacted Mantis to rendezvous on Titan. It’s likely Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis, and Nebula would have still fought the purple conqueror (without Stark, Strange, and Spider-Man) and they would have lost against Thanos’ might. But Thanos likely wouldn’t have killed them; the Guardians would have been no more than an irritation to Thanos at his heightened power levels, plus he admitted he “likes” Peter Quill. Besides, anything happening on Titan is now against Thanos’ main goal: he needs to get to Earth. And, assuming survival, Nebula and the Guardians would have surely followed.
One of the key changes under this scenario is that Peter Quill wouldn’t have been placed in a position to behave at his worst (albeit because of understandable anger over Gamora’s death) and in turn jeopardize the fate of the universe.
Thor Would Have Made The Save – And The Avengers Could Have Won
Meanwhile, Thor’s quest to Nidavellir to get the Stormbreaker axe would have continued exactly as is it did in the Avengers: Infinity War we know. With Rocket and Groot’s help, the God of Thunder would have still met Etri the Dwarf, re-ignited a star, and gained his new, Thanos-killing weapon. The Pirate Angel, Rabbit, and Tree would have then used the Bifrost to arrive in Wakanda at the exact same moment fans saw, still turning the tide for the heroes by wiping out the Black Order’s machines and Outrider forces.
Since there was no Battle of Titan, or at least not the one that involved Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man, it’s likely when Thor arrived, Thanos would already be in Wakanda and possibly the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy. All of the players would have been on the same stage, but with the Mighty Thor completing the Avengers’ roster, Thanos’ chances of victory would lessen significantly.
It may be possible that the greater defenses would mean Shuri could have had enough time to remove the Mind Stone from Vision’s head, but even if she couldn’t, the android would likely have still urged Wanda Maximoff to destroy the Mind Stone as soon as Thanos arrived. And here’s the key: unless Thanos somehow captured the Time Stone from Doctor Strange, he can’t turn back time to undo his own defeat. If the Mind Stone were then destroyed and the Time Stone kept from Thanos, there would have been no finger snap. Thor could have still driven Stormbreaker into Thanos and even though he probably still wouldn’t have aimed for the head, the Mad Titan would have no gloating final line.
Under this scenario, it’s hard to see the Avengers not winning. They would have foiled Thanos’ master plan and saved half of all life in the universe. The Mad Titan would still have four Infinity Stones in his possession, sure, so he remains a cosmic threat, but there’s no mass death or grinding defeat.
Among all this, it must be stated that Thanos’ power could have beaten all of the Avengers and the Mad Titan still would have won. In that case, to echo Stark and Rogers’ dialogue in Avengers: Age of Ultron, at least the Avengers would have lost together.
The 14,000,604 futures where Thanos inevitably won were seen by Doctor Strange after Tony Stark made the call to go on to Titan instead of assembling the Avengers on Earth. What would those futures have looked like if Stark had turned Ebony Maw’s ship around and how many of those futures would have been altered so that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes won Avengers: Infinity War? Fans can only wonder and ask “What if?”