Theories abound about every facet of Avengers: Endgame, with fans taking to the internet to engage excitedly with each other when they come up with another hidden meaning behind some part of it. Most recently, Kevin Smith has offered an alternate take on the pivotal moment in the final battle where Doctor Strange raises a single finger to Tony Stark.
The generally accepted meaning is the sorcerer reminding the scientist that only one outcome in fourteen million possibilities results in Thanos’ defeat, tacitly suggesting that a singular act of sacrifice is required to enact it, resulting in Stark grabbing the Stones from Thanos and using them himself to destroy the Mad Titan and his army, at the cost of his own life. Smith, however, looks at it slightly differently.
One of the best moments I ever saw across a then 48 years of watching (and even making) movies. Love that Tony snapped AT Thanos. But Strange holding up one finger: I take it to mean “And THAT was our one chance” – hence Tony’s sacrifice. Anyone else have a different read on it? https://t.co/zh7a7fUDaM
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) April 26, 2020
His interpretation is that they lost the key moment, and that Strange then realized Stark’s sacrifice could be used to redress the slip. Smith doesn’t elaborate on exactly what “THAT” was, but the shot comes right after Captain Marvel goes one-on-one with Thanos, and likely would have taken him down had he not had the rather ingenious idea of removing the Power Stone from the gauntlet to vastly augment his strength and knock her out. Perhaps Smith’s reasoning is that it would have taken someone as powerful as Carol to defeat Thanos, and she wouldn’t have returned to Earth and become involved in the affairs of the Avengers had the Snap not been enacted.
Retrospectively, this means that when the disparate heroes faced Thanos in the ruins of Titan during Avengers: Infinity War, Strange giving Thanos the Time Stone wasn’t to save Stark’s life, but to ensure Thanos’ temporary victory. It also ties in with the brief look of panic on Strange’s face right before he gravely meets Stark’s eyes.
Of course, most people will still go for the most generally accepted interpretation of the climactic moment, but theorizing about the meaning behind characters’ actions and decisions is part of what makes discussing movies so much fun, and with the vast scope of Avengers: Endgame and everything that led up to it, this will be far from the last piece of conjecture put forward.