The title of Avengers 4 remains one of Marvel's most closely-guarded secrets - but could the film actually be called Avengers: Divide and Conquer? Marvel originally claimed they were holding the title back because it would somehow spoil the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. That film released back in April, though, so the title would long since have ceased to have that kind of effect. It's now looking as though Marvel's reticence is, at heart, a smart marketing ploy.

The last few months have seen a frenzy of speculation as to possible titles. Right now, the most popular are Endgame and Annihilation; both carry the same sense of finality and foreboding, and both would arguably serve as potential spoilers. "Annihilation" in particular would be a strong hint that Thanos would triumph in Infinity War, succeeding in his insane goal of erasing half the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. At this stage, though, neither of these titles can truly be said to be proven, and absolutely anything is possible.

Related: All The Evidence Avengers 4's Title Is Annihilation

The latest theory - from Screen Rant reader Christopher Yin - is that the title could be Avengers: Divide and Conquer. Where has this title suggestion come from, and what evidence supports it?

The Origin of Avengers: Divide and Conquer

Avengers: Divide and Conquer uses a proposed title lifted straight from dialogue in the first Avengers movie. There's a key scene towards the end of the second act in which the Avengers have apparently been broken. Loki is preparing for an even grander victory, setting up his base on Stark Tower in New York in order to open up a portal to bring the Chitauri to Earth. But the God of Mischief has made a crucial mistake; he's killed Agent Phil Coulson, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent's death serves to motivate the Avengers to come back together. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark finally get over their differences after the Avengers have been scattered and determine to re-assemble and stop Loki:

Tony Stark: He made it personal.

Steve Rogers: That's not the point.

Tony Stark: That IS the point. That's Loki's point! He hit us all right where we live. Why?

Steve Rogers: To tear us apart.

Tony Stark: Yeah, divide and conquer is great, but he knows he has to take us out to win, right? THAT'S what he wants. He wants to beat us, he wants to be seen doing it. He wants an audience.

If you treat Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 as a single continuous story, that's exactly where the narrative is right now. The surviving Avengers are divided and demoralized; Rogers and his allies are in Wakanda, reeling in horror, while a grieving Tony Stark is on Titan. Had they just chosen to work together - had Stark picked up that phone and given Rogers a call - then things could well have played out very differently. It's not hard to imagine a scenario where the assembled Avengers triumphed against Thanos on Titan or even in Wakanda; but they were divided, and so they were defeated. All the universe paid the price for that division.

There's also a subtle comic book connection. The Russo brothers have taken loose inspiration from Jim Starlin's seminal comic book event miniseries, such as Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War. The title "Divide and Conquer" was emblazoned on the cover of 1992's Infinity War miniseries, a story that saw Thanos forced to work alongside the Avengers against a dark force that was attempting to rewrite reality itself. It's quite rare to see the comics treat Thanos as a hero, still less as a universal savior - which is what the MCU version believes himself to be, of course.

Page 2 of 2: Why "Divide And Conquer" Would Make Sense For The MCU

Why "Divide And Conquer" Would Make Sense For The MCU

For all the excitement there may be over the title of Avengers 4, it's important to remember that it's really only a placeholder. In fact, Kevin Feige himself has suggested this secretive tactic has backfired, drawing too much attention to the title. "It's gotten entirely out of hand," he observed, "and now will have no chance of living up to any expectations of what it's gonna be." So the title isn't going to be as deep and meaningful as many fans are expecting; it's not going to be a massive commentary on the overarching direction of the Avengers franchise.

That said, Divide and Conquer does meet a lot of the most important criteria. It would indeed serve as a spoiler for Avengers: Infinity War; attentive Marvel fans would have noted how it fits with the narrative structure of the first Avengers film. They could easily have deduced that Thanos would win, a plot twist that Marvel went to desperate lengths to keep secret in the buildup to Avengers: Infinity War. Meanwhile, Joe Russo has said that the film title wasn't spoken in its direct predecessor, ruling out Endgame and No Time At All. But he was answering a very specific question, and many fans have assumed that means the title could have been spoken in another Avengers movie.

Related: What Is Hulk's Future In The MCU After Avengers 4?

Meanwhile, it's interesting to note that Avengers: Infinity War ended with Thanos settling down on his homeworld of Titan, staring into the horizon and contemplating what he has done with his life. That's exactly where Starlin's Infinity War comic began, a detail that perhaps suggests a slightly deeper narrative link between the films and these particular comics. It's doubtful the Infinity War comic will go any further when it comes to providing inspiration for Avengers 4, though; it was a heady, complex plot that involves a lot of characters and concepts Marvel don't (currently) own the film rights to.

This is certainly a fascinating new theory, and frankly there is more evidence supporting it than for a lot of the rumored Avengers 4 titles. At the same time, though, it's still a long-shot. The most important point against it is that this title only works if there's a tremendously close relationship between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 - to the extent that they should essentially be treated as Parts I and II. There's currently no evidence supporting that kind of close narrative tie. In fact, if rumors of a five-year time-jump at the beginning of Avengers 4 are correct, they'll be entirely different stories. "They’re clearly connected," writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have confirmed, "but they are definitely two different movies."

Whatever the truth of the Avengers 4 title may be, it can't be long before it goes public. Kevin Feige has promised that the trailer will drop before the end of the year; the title will probably be revealed shortly before that. Avengers: Divide and Conquer is another exciting possibility to add to the long list of prospective titles, but soon we'll be able to say for certain what the movie is really called.

More: Avengers 4 Probably Won't Be The Only MCU Trailer in December

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