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crashin' the party ;; guess they lost my invitation
|Did Loki survive Avengers: Infinity War after all, by hiding in plain sight, disguised as Bruce Banner? Marvel's Kevin Feige teased that the deaths in Infinity War may be permanent, and the film's opening sequence went one step further, with Thanos assuring viewers, "No resurrections this time." The Mad Titan might as well have given a nod and a wink to the viewers as he said it, promising that this time Marvel would break their tradition of fake deaths. But, by the end of the film, it was clear the stakes weren't quite so high as promised. Thanos's finger-snap killed off half the life in universe, but the most notable victims were all characters who have confirmed sequels. No doubt there will be long-term consequences from Thanos's atrocity, but some of these were fake deaths.|
If that's the case, any death in Infinity War is open to question. Including, of course, as always, the death of Loki. The death of the God of Mischief was hardly unexpected; he was known to possess the Tesseract, and that meant he was standing in Thanos's firing line. Killing off Loki in the first scene was a shock tactic, a way of making the film seem powerful and evocative, and it truly worked. But was Loki actually tricking, not only Thanos, but the viewers themselves? Former entertainment journalist Josh Dickey has an interesting theory that Loki was really fooling everyone the whole time. Again. And is alive and well posing as Banner.
It's a surprising theory, but taking it a step deeper reveals there's quite a strong flow of argument to it. Let's take a look at the evidence:
Bruce Banner Is Suspiciously Out Of Character
There's something not quite right about the scenes on Earth involving Bruce Banner. He seems ever-so-slightly out of character, rushing from one situation to the next with an air of bemused desperation. When Banner is finally reunited with Black Widow, the two trade an awkward smile and then avoid any personal talk at all. The Russos have suggested that's because two years have passed, and both characters have moved on; that doesn't quite work for Banner, though, who spent the last two years as the Hulk. To Banner, the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron were only a few days ago. It also doesn't explain quite why filming a reunion scene left Scarlett Johansson "so devastated" - perhaps she's actually referring to a reunion scene that we haven't seen yet.
Bruce Banner's "performance issues" compound the problem. The film shows him struggling to transform into the Hulk. It was an unexpected plot twist, and not an altogether satisfying one. The fundamental problem was that viewers couldn't understand why the Hulk wouldn't come out and play during the Battle of Wakanda. The common view is that the Hulk was afraid, shocked after being beaten down so easily by Thanos. The Russos themselves have seemed surprised by this interpretation, instead proposing that the Hulk is tired of being brought out just to fight. He hates Banner with a passion, and hates being his weapon. Is it possible, though, that in reality these "performance issues" were essentially just a bit of acting and illusion on Loki's part?
The final point here is that Bruce Banner knows far too much about Infinity Stones - more than he has any right to. He also seems to remember everything the Hulk experienced on the Asgardian vessel, and that's just odd; previous films have established that Banner can remember nothing from his time as the Hulk. Something about this just doesn't add up.
Loki Knows Doctor Strange Is The Key
The opening scenes of Avengers: Infinity War are rather odd, not least because of Heimdall's strange decision to send the Hulk directly to the Sanctum Sanctorum. That particular plot is lifted straight from Jim Starlin's Infinity Gauntlet miniseries, which saw the Silver Surfer crashland in the Sanctum Sanctorum in a similar manner. But in the context of Infinity War's own plot, it doesn't quite make sense. How did Heimdall know to send Bruce Banner there?
One possible solution is that this entire chain of events is masterminded by Loki. He and Thor are the only two people on that Asgardian vessel who should really know about the Sanctum Sanctorum. What's more, while his brother may be able to sit opposite an Infinity Stone without recognizing it, Loki has far more experience with these ancient relics. It's hardly inconceivable that he recognized the Time Stone around Doctor Strange's neck when he briefly encountered the sorcerer in Thor: Ragnarok. So Strange, a man who wields an Infinity Stone and may well understand the dangers posed by Thanos, is the one man Loki would wish to go to.
But here's the catch; Loki knows full well that Strange has no reason to trust him. He already had trouble dealing with Strange in Ragnarok. If he enters the Sanctum Sanctorum as himself, Loki will only be met with hostility and distrust. It's a far wiser move to go in disguise, to pretend to be someone else. The problem is, he if he goes as one of the Avengers currently on Earth, he runs a higher chance of getting found out, and his warnings about Thanos could be rejected.
Banner Is Neutral After Captain America: Civil War
It's not clear if Loki has any way to be aware of the full details of the events of Captain America: Civil War, so this could just be dumb luck, but Banner was the perfect disguise since he's one of the only Avengers not caught up in the Avengers schism. When Loki arrives, Iron Man is reluctant to give Steve Rogers a call. Loki knows he needs to quickly rally Earth's protectors to fight against Thanos and his Black Order. The Avengers aren't going to assemble on their own, and the end of the universe is rapidly approaching.
One of the only ways to get the heroes to unite is for Loki to take on a familiar form, one who could not have been involved in the superhero civil war. Thus the guise of Bruce Banner becomes a logical one. There's certainly an element of humor to the idea of Loki actively trying to reassemble the Avengers. Surprisingly, though, it's not without comic book precedent; in Dan Slott's Mighty Avengers run, Loki disguised himself as Scarlet Witch in order to persuade Hank Pym to put together a team.
Does This Explain Why Hulk's Arc Was Changed?
This may well explain why Marvel changed the Hulk's plot in Infinity War. Tie-in merchandise has teased that Marvel originally planned to have the Hulk explode out of the Hulkbuster armor during the Battle of Wakanda. The Russo brothers have suggested that this merchandise was linked to an earlier draft of the script, and the poor quality of the CGI in some of the Banner / Hulk scenes suggests the change was made late in the day. Certainly the final arc doesn't seem to have communicated itself well to viewers; the Russos really do seem to have been rather surprised that audiences thought the Hulk was afraid of Thanos.
But if this is all a misdirection, a clever trick played not only upon the Avengers but upon the viewers themselves, it would actually all make sense. This theory argues that the Russos decided, late in the day, that the Bruce Banner on Earth was actually Loki, God of Mischief. Naturally, Loki cannot transform into the Hulk, explaining why the Hulkbuster scene didn't actually happen in the end. That raises one difficult question to answer, though...
Where Is The Hulk?
If this theory is correct, the Hulk doesn't actually appear in the film after the opening sequence (if even then). Everything else is just one of Loki's tricks, an illusion played out upon those around him. So what actually happened to Bruce Banner?
Banner isn't actually the only character missing from the film. Viewers have noted three other mysterious absence on the Asgardian refugee vessel; Valkyrie, Korg, and Miek. The Russos have confirmed that Valkyrie made it off the ship before it exploded, but haven't commented about Korg and Miek. Wherever the real Bruce Banner is, perhaps he's with these Asgardian survivors?
Here's the interesting thing; Tessa Thompson was seen filming scenes for either Infinity War or Avengers 4 in Edinburgh. Given the Russos have confirmed there were few deleted scenes in Infinity War, it looks likely that Valkyrie and the Asgardian survivors will appear in Avengers 4. Thor was taking the refugees to Earth, and they may well continue their journey, with Valkyrie arriving to bolster the heroes' depleted numbers. If Bruce Banner is indeed with them, then Loki's deception will soon be exposed.
At first glance, this just seems like another amusing fan theory. In reality, there's actually a fairly strong case for it; not only does it fit rather well with the narrative of Avengers: Infinity War, actually solving some of the movie's more awkward plot points, but it also has some basis in the original comics. It would mean that, far from opening with the death of Loki, Infinity War kicked off with yet another fake; but frankly, audiences are already expecting Thanos's promise of "no resurrections" to be forgotten by Avengers 4. The simple truth is that death and resurrection is an established part of the comic book genre, and for Loki, that typically means he's faking it.
So.. can't decide if we're at the denial stage.... or if they just cracked everything wide open?