From the TVA to the Quantum Realm: The Many Ways to Time Travel in the MCU

Thứ sáu - 17/05/2024 22:24
With Loki back for Season 2, we're taking a look at the different ways we've seen characters travel through time in the MCU so far.
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Though some of the non-Marvel Studios TV shows with Marvel characters were dabbling in it previously, it took a decade of movies before the MCU firmly established time travel in Avengers: Endgame. Since then, it seems like traveling through time is rapidly increasing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially in Loki, which is now back for a second season. During Season 1 of that series, Loki was forcibly recruited to join the Time Variance Authority because they needed his insights to catch his female variant, Sylvie.

Now that Loki Season 2 is here, let’s take a look back at all of the known ways to time travel in the MCU. So far, there are several primary options that leap to mind, plus a couple of TV shows with more uncertain canon status that may also shed some light on how to go back in time or journey to the future in one small step.

The Quantum Realm

The Quantum Realm had been right in front of us since Ant-Man, but it wasn’t until Scott Lang was trapped there at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp that the time travel implications came to the forefront. When Scott made his escape five years later during Avengers: Endgame, he realized that time travel was possible in the Quantum Realm. It just took Tony Stark to figure out a way to make it a reality.

This particular way to time travel has limits, and each member of the Avengers were dependent on Pym Particles to shrink down to the Quantum Realm for the journey and for the return trip. There wasn’t a lot of margin for error, which is why the Time Heist was briefly derailed when Loki stole the Tesseract.

The last known person to travel through time using Stark’s method was Steve Rogers at the conclusion of Endgame. The details are fuzzy about how much time Rogers spent in the past or if his marriage to Peggy Carter was a separate timeline that branched off from the primary MCU. We just know that Cap kept his promise to return the Infinity Stones and Mjölnir to their proper places in history.

Kang’s Time Sphere

Stark’s method of time travel through the Quantum Realm was perhaps generations ahead of its time. Still, Kang’s Time Sphere in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was far beyond that and made Stark’s method look crude by comparison. The Time Sphere is a thought-controlled vessel that can go anywhere in time, space, and even the multiverse. The only apparent drawback is that the Time Sphere needs a Multiversal Engine Core to function. Without that, Kang was effectively trapped in the Quantum Realm.

Kang indicated that this was intentional, since his rival counterparts from across the multiverse banished him to the Quantum Realm, presumably because they wanted him out of the way. But if one Kang had access to this technology, it stands to reason that his variants do as well.

TVA Timedoor

The Time Variance Authority’s Timedoor is one of the most efficient methods of time travel that we’ve seen so far in the MCU. It doesn’t even need to cut through the Quantum Realm to get to its destination. Instead, the Timedoor appears to be able to reach any time and place with little effort.

It’s also worth noting that the Timedoor allows the TVA agents to visit the branching timelines before they destroy them. In flashback, it was revealed that the TVA had used a Timedoor to kidnap Sylvie as a child. And there were countless other Loki variants in the Void who met a similar fate.

TVA Time Stick and Reset Charges

At first glance, the TVA’s standard issue Time Stick was a lethal weapon that appeared to disintegrate its victims. It wasn’t until the device was used on Loki that viewers learned that it wasn’t an instrument of murder. Instead, it’s a one-way ticket to the Void at the end of time. Several Lokis had managed to survive in that Hellscape, but they were likely not the only victims to fall prey to the device or the even more grimly effective Reset Charge used to “prune” entire branched timelines, also sending the inhabitants (plus everything else in that timeline) to the Void.

Calling these time travel devices may be a reach, but we’re considering it close enough, given it sends you from any possible time to the actual end of time, so it’s on the list. So far, we don’t know if the TVA Batons or Reset Charges can be reprogrammed to send victims to anywhere else besides the Void. But if they can, the Batons at least could be useful for a fast exit, even if the journey appears to be painful.

Time Stone

Doctor Strange established that the Eye of Agamotto was powered by the Time Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones. And skilled magic users like Stephen Strange had the ability to use the Time Stone to briefly turn time backwards or forward. Strange even used the Time Stone to create a time loop in the Dark Dimension to force Dormammu to abandon his invasion of Earth. Thanos also used the Time Stone in Avengers: Infinity War to restore Vision to life only so he could kill him again and claim the Soul Stone. Unfortunately, Thanos subsequently destroyed all of the Infinity Stones and they no longer exist in the primary MCU timeline.

However, What If…? showed fans that the Time Stone can be used to actually send its user back in time. In an alternate world, Stephen Strange used the Time Stone in an attempt to save Dr. Christine Palmer from her preordained death. But because Palmer’s death was such an important part of Strange’s past, he couldn’t change that fixed point in time without breaking the universe. And that’s exactly what he did. But once the universe was torn asunder, not even the Time Stone could fix that.

Ms. Marvel’s Bangle

In Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan’s bangle was once owned by her great-grandmother, Aisha, who hailed from the Noor dimension. It activated Kamala’s latent mutation and let her create hard light constructs. There was no indication that it had time travel abilities as well, but when Kamala was attacked by Najma, the bangle somehow sent Kamala decades back in time to the Partition of India.

This appears to have been a causal loop in Kamala’s personal timeline. Kamala had to go back in time to guide her grandmother, Sana, to the train because she always went back in time to ensure the survival of her family and herself. If Kamala hadn’t made the trip back in time, then she wouldn’t have closed the loop and her very existence would be in question.

We don’t know if the Bangle can repeat that trip back in time. But the fact that it happened at least once suggests that Kamala is barely scratching the surface of what it can do.

Time Di’Alla

Now we’re getting into several different modes of time travel introduced on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Marvel Studios has always been cagey about whether this show — or any others made in the years before Kevin Feige took control of all Marvel TV productions — is canon or not. But assuming, until proven otherwise, that it is MCU continuity, the Time Di’Allas were three Monoliths that were created in the Fear Dimension. They could send anyone and anything through time. Enoch used one of the Di’Allas to send Phil Coulson and the S.H.I.E.L.D. team to the alternate future where the Kree ruled over the remnants of humanity.

When the Di’Allas were destroyed in the fifth season, they opened a rift to the Fear Dimension. Once that was dealt with, only a fragment of the Di’Allas remained.

Zephyr One

Without the fragment of the Time Di’Alla, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons wouldn’t have been able to turn the S.H.I.E.L.D. team’s Zephyr One mobile command plane into a vehicle that could travel through time. This allowed the team to pursue the alien Chronicoms anywhere in history to prevent them from eradicating S.H.I.E.L.D. from existence.

Chronicom Time Ship
and Time Stream

The semi-robotic, advanced Chronicoms had their own vehicle allowing them to move through time, simply called the Time Ship. Aiding all their decisions, the Chronicoms also had a device called the Time Stream, allowing a time traveler to better manipulate the shape of history by predicting which changes needed to be made for the desired outcome and to calculate the risk involved. In this case, the Chronicoms were trying to erase all traces of S.H.I.E.L.D. from history.

Victor Stein’s Time Machine

Much like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Runaways’ place in the MCU canon is unclear. But within the show, PRIDE’s resident mad scientist, Victor Stein, created a time machine that didn’t actually travel through time. Instead, it could receive messages from the future. At first, the messages were from Victor himself, though he eventually got a message from his son, Chase, who attempted to change history by warning his parents not to take the Fistigons.

Chase Stein’s Time Machine

Unlike his father, Chase Stein was able to make a time machine in the classic sense, allowing him to travel back in time. He may have had a better motivation to do so, since it was the only way to save his girlfriend, Gert, from an untimely death. Future Chase achieved his goal, but at the cost of his own life. This changed the future for all of the Runaways and seemingly changed the past without creating a branching timeline.

We’ll see if Loki Season 2 introduces new methods of time travel when it premieres this week.

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