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Why Avengers 4 Will Blow You Away

Even in the context of the blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Infinity War posted some of the most truly eye-popping box office numbers in film history. Clearly, Marvel fans around the world were anxious to see how, after ten years and 18 films, the studio would start to wrap up the long saga of the Avengers, Thanos, and the Infinity Stones — and audiences were left utterly shocked by the dozen or so gut punches the film packed into its final act.

When it debuts on April 26, 2019, Avengers: Endgame will be tasked with accomplishing an unprecedented feat in cinematic storytelling, tying up a sprawling saga connected to numerous interwoven film franchises — and all signs point to the certainty that it will pull it off in style. From the stuff we've already seen to clues regarding what's to come, here's a look at all the reasons Avengers: Endgame will blow you away.

A cosmic culmination

Infinity War took the saga of the Avengers to new heights, dramatically raising the stakes of the conflict with Thanos by having the Mad Titan actually succeed in wiping out half of all life in the universe — including Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and every Guardian of the Galaxy except Rocket. But Avengers: Endgame will give us something that, for all its storytelling innovations, the MCU hasn't had to face until now: a conclusion.

According to Marvel Studios mastermind Kevin Feige, Endgame — which will be the 22nd entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — will completely wrap up the decade-plus of story that started unfolding with 2008's Iron Man. Speaking with Uproxx before the release of Infinity War, Feige said, "Characters like Spider-Man or Batman or James Bond or Iron Man, who have been around for so long and are always refreshed in comic books or novels or movies, you don't necessarily get that kind of an endpoint... and we wanted to do that, which is what these next two Avengers films are."

Uncharted territory

Seasoned fans of the MCU know that the studio has never directly adapted a story from the comics, but rather used Marvel's decades of print storylines for inspiration. The most obvious example of this is Captain America: Civil War, which took its title from a famous story arc, but which shares only a few basic plot points with its namesake. Infinity War is a loose adaptation of the Infinity Gauntlet limited series, but for Endgame, Marvel isn't dipping into its back catalog — according to directors Joe and Anthony Russo, it will be a totally original story.

"I don't think there are any comics that correlate to it," said Joe Russo, speaking with ComicBook.com. "I think we're in pretty fresh territory with [Endgame]... I have no interest as a director in telling a story that's already been told or in seeing one that's already been told. If I know all the events of the story as they're going to happen, then what's the point of going to the film?" A good point, and one which means that fans looking to Marvel comics for clues to the conflict's outcome probably aren't going to find them.

Time after time

A production as large-scale as Avengers: Endgame can never keep its secrets completely under wraps, and some leaked set photos may provide interesting plot details. In particular, it appears that the remaining Avengers — consisting of the original team of Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye — may be looking for clues as to how to reverse their greatest defeat by revisiting their first victory, the Battle of New York, via some kind of time travel. This also bodes well for Tony Stark's eventual return to Earth, as the first trailer for Endgame saw him stranded in space with dwindling resources, resigned to his impending death.

These photos have shown a recreated scene from the famous battle, with the original Avengers sporting their Phase One attire — and Ant-Man along for the ride. With the Time Stone currently residing in Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet, it's likely that this will be achieved through purely scientific means — or it may be simply a recreation, accomplished with Tony Stark's B.A.R.F. technology from Civil War. Joe Russo has hinted that this might be the case, saying, "Certainly, there is a five-minute sequence in Civil War around a piece of technology that was laid in for a very specific reason. So if you go back and look at that film, you may get a hint as to a direction." Of course, this may be misdirection on Russo's part — but one way or another, our heroes will have to look to the past to save the future.

Back from the great beyond

In case you doubt that the Russos would use devious tactics to keep us guessing, remember that they've gone out of their way to suggest that Endgame won't be the hard reset some think it might be, and that the deaths depicted in Infinity War's final act may be permanent. Marvel has kept the speculative fires burning by not showing any of the "snapped" characters in action in the Endgame trailer — but if set photos and comments made by the MCU's stars are any indication, the Russos are almost certainly fibbing their rear ends off.

Speaking to The Independent, Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes) described a scene in which "everyone was there" — including Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet Van Dyne), neither of which appeared in Infinity War, and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), who turned to dust in Infinity War's post-credits sequence. Set photos have revealed the presence of Chadwick Boseman in full Black Panther attire, and it was reported that Tom Holland suffered a broken nose on the set, confirming the involvement of Spider-Man as well. But Dave Bautista (Drax) poked the biggest hole in the Russos' threat. Speaking with Collider, he said, "I got a lot of texts saying, 'I can't believe you're dead, your character is dead.' They were really like heartbroken and I was like 'I'm gonna be in [Avengers: Endgame]. I'm gonna be in Guardians 3.'"

Small but mighty

The fact that an Ant-Man adventure was one of two films sandwiched between Infinity War and Endgame had fans speculating early on that Scott Lang could play a key role in Thanos' eventual defeat. That speculation only intensified when Lang appeared at the conclusion of Endgame's trailer, having somehow extracted himself from the Quantum Realm, where he was seemingly stranded at the conclusion of Ant-Man and the Wasp. The set photos from Endgame featuring Lang alongside the Avengers at the Battle of New York lent further credence to this notion — along with Joe Russo's comments confirming a fan theory regarding the Soul Stone.

At a Q&A, Russo revealed that the Soul Stone-colored world in which Thanos visits a young Gamora after his fateful snap is indeed the Stone itself, implying that those wiped out by the Mad Titan may very well be trapped inside the Stone. We all know that Ant-Man's ability can get him into some very tiny spaces, especially when he screws with the regulator, providing one possible means by which our heroes could be rescued. His ability to navigate the Quantum Realm — "a reality where all concepts of time and space become irrelevant" — might also help provide the scientific basis for the Avengers to achieve true time travel. One way or another, it seems all but certain that the tiniest Avenger (or biggest, depending on the situation) will play a crucial role in our heroes' ultimate victory.

Rocket's liftoff

Ant-Man leading the charge in Avengers: Endgame would be in perfect keeping with Marvel's habit of giving rich, emotional story arcs to characters that may have once been seen as mere comic relief. For a perfect example, look no further than Rocket, who provided comic relief in James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy before revealing surprising depths of emotion over the death of his friend Groot near that film's end. Rocket was further developed through his touching relationship with Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and by the end of Infinity War, he'd lost everyone dear to him — potentially setting the stage for him to fully realize his destiny as a hero alongside the Avengers.

Much like Ant-Man, Rocket was introduced as a petty criminal hiding a heart of gold who's forced to grow while learning tough lessons about trust, friendship and sacrifice. Leaving him as the only Guardian standing at the conclusion of Infinity War was certainly not a random choice — and it would be just like Marvel to write a pivotal arc around a fan favorite character who, on paper, never should have worked in the first place.

Back on target... and on edge

He's often been the Avenger most maligned by fans, so the amount of flak the Russo brothers caught for excluding Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) from Infinity War was somewhat surprising. Renner told USA Today that while it was a nice feeling to be missed, "I think the Russo brothers got way too many death threats. I'm like, 'Wow, dude, that's intense. I'm sorry!'" This may or may not be hyperbole, but fans concerned over Hawkeye's absence are in store for a payoff — one which involves him morphing into a new persona comics fans will recognize immediately.

"We did not forget... Jeremy Renner," Joe Russo said in an interview leading up to Infinity War's release. "We cooked up a story for him that is a little bit of a long play. Not a short play." Renner himself had teased the Avenging archer's triumphant return in Endgame, implying that big things were in store for the character — and when we finally got the first trailer for Endgame, it became a little clearer what he meant. Barton is seen in all-black garb wielding not a bow and arrow, but a pair of swords, having apparently taken on the Ronin persona which the comic book Barton adopted at one point. Barton as Ronin is typically a great deal darker than as Hawkeye, and Renner certainly looks grave in the trailer — enough so to make some observers wonder what fate befell his beloved family in the wake of Thanos' snap.

Bucky's journey

The Russo brothers made their MCU debut with 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which we learned that Cap's best friend Bucky Barnes had narrowly escaped what seemed like certain doom near the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, and instead been molded by H.Y.D.R.A. into the brainwashed cyborg assassin Winter Soldier. Through the rest of his MCU appearances, Bucky has undergone a painful character arc, struggling to break free of his programming and regain his identity while acting as an ally of — and an occasional threat to — the Star-Spangled Avenger.

In an interview with London radio station Spin 1038, the Russos revealed that understanding Bucky's arc is the key to understanding their entire approach to the MCU and filmmaking in general, saying, "For us, this was the challenge of telling the story but also completing the personal journey that we started as storytellers in Winter Soldier. So the story that began in Winter Soldier and that ends in [Avengers: Endgame]... there's a very personal arc there for us. I think you'll understand our point of view as filmmakers and who we are as people when you watch all four of those movies together."

The Mad Titan meets his match?

The opening moments of Avengers: Infinity War made it clear that Thanos is by far the most formidable opponent the Avengers have faced. After murdering Loki and Heimdall and slapping the Hulk around like a rag doll, he proceeded to follow through with every diabolical aspect of his plan, which even the combined efforts of Earth's Mightiest Heroes fell woefully short of preventing. However, if Kevin Feige is to be believed, Thanos isn't the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — that would be Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), who's been set on a collision course with the Mad Titan in Avengers: Endgame.

Feige left no room for doubt in an interview with Vulture, saying, "Her powers are off the charts, and when she's introduced, she will be by far the strongest character we've ever had." The second trailer for Captain Marvel confirmed this in breathtakingly awesome fashion, as the cosmic hero is seen effortlessly dispatching a room full of bad guys all at once with an energy attack — and then, at the spot's conclusion, single-handedly taking down multiple invading alien vessels in a matter of seconds. Since Captain Marvel is an origin story taking place in the '90s, it stands to reason that she'll be significantly more seasoned and powerful when she appears in Avengers: Endgame — which could spell a whole heap of trouble for Thanos.

Prepare to enter the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse

As was to be expected, the Russos have remained coy when asked about all the shocking deaths resulting from Thanos' Infinity Stone-powered finger snap. But at least one response to the question of how all those characters might return has prompted some intense speculation from fans. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Anthony Russo said, "I think it's important to remember anything is possible in the MCU... people become accustomed to time moving linearly in the MCU. That doesn't necessarily have to be the case. There's a lot of very inventive ways of where the story can go from here."

Of course, Marvel fans know that the comics don't take place in just one universe, but in dozens or even hundreds of them (known as the Marvel Multiverse), allowing for different iterations of beloved characters and a dizzying array of storytelling possibilities. Russo's comment may hint at the fact that we could see the same device employed in the MCU's future beyond Avengers: Endgame, a development Doctor Strange star Benedict Cumberbatch seems to think is a real possibility. 

"What we've seen happen within the Marvel Cinematic Universe is this ever-expanding couture of superheroes," he said, speaking with CinemaBlend"And I think now we're at the stage where this universe, even within our world, has gotten quite crowded and it's just about to explode into other dimensions." Of course, this may all be more misdirection — or we may be about to witness the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse.

Tony's last stand

Considering that Nick Fury's immediate reaction to seeing his partner turn to dust was to activate his space pager, and that the '90s-set Captain Marvel is the final MCU film before Avengers 4, the majority of the speculation over who could possibly be the key to defeating the Mad Titan has understandably centered on Carol Danvers. While this very well may be the case, fan theories and comments made by the Russo brothers have heavily implied that the good Captain won't necessarily be a magic bullet — and that, indeed, the biggest threat to Thanos may be none other than Iron Man, with whom Thanos was shown to be strangely familiar in Infinity War.

In the commentary track on that film's digital release, Joe Russo had this to say: "[Thanos is] aware of Stark from the original Battle of New York as the person who undid the plan... almost no one ends up being a threat to the agenda except for Tony who I think [Thanos] feels has a sort of existential connection to [him]." It's also been suggested by fans that the apparent time travel elements involved in Avengers 4 may mean that Thanos could have encountered Stark during the Avengers' journey to the past to attempt to undo the events of Infinity War. Whether or not this is correct, it makes sense that Stark — who kicked off the entire MCU — will be forced into a final showdown with Thanos, which almost certainly will not end well for him.

Expiring contracts

Not only would an Iron Man/Thanos clash in which Stark meets his demise make narrative and thematic sense, it would also make business sense. Whether or not fans like to acknowledge it (and we don't), Robert Downey Jr.'s contract with Marvel will be completed with Avengers: Endgame, and — now in his 50s — Downey simply can't go on playing Stark forever. Unfortunately, if we're using expiring contracts as a metric for which Avengers are likely to survive Phase 3's final film, we can draw the conclusion that few of our beloved original team members are safe.

In addition to Downey, Endgame will complete the contracts of Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye). The status of Mark Ruffalo's (Bruce Banner/Hulk) deal is unknown, and even though Scarlett Johansson is on board for a Black Widow solo feature, there's no guarantee that that film will take place in the post-Endgame timeline. Others known to be returning through confirmed Phase 4 solo projects are Tom Holland (Spider-Man), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), as well as Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), whom Kevin Feige has stated will be the new face of the MCU going forward.

End of the Guardians?

The Guardians of the Galaxy series quickly became one of the MCU's most cherished thanks to its singular tone and outlandish yet relatable characters such as the gun-toting Rocket and the hyper-literal warrior Drax. Their crossover with the Avengers in Infinity War was long-awaited, and even though they were all dust in the wind by the end of that film (except Rocket), Dave Bautista has confirmed the team's appearance in Avengers: Endgame. However, Disney's firing of James Gunn and subsequent decision to put Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 on hold has thrown the entire future of the team into question — and it's even been speculated that Endgame might have been reworked during reshoots to phase out Gunn's iteration of the team permanently. 

Bautista, for one, has let it be known that he's not too keen on continuing to work for Disney in light of their treatment of Gunn, and the rest of the cast has also thrown their support behind the director in an open letter. Even with this pushback, the House of Mouse — which briefly considered reinstating Gunn — has been firm in their decision, despite conceding that they still intend to use his completed script. But this assumes the film will actually get made, which is in no way a sure thing. It's always possible that future installments could feature a different Guardians lineup, but the current version benefited greatly from Gunn's singular vision — and with him gone, the team may follow.

Returning favorites

At Infinity War's conclusion, most of our heroes were reduced to dust while the original Avengers team were still standing — but the fates of more than a few popular characters remained up in the air. While it was undoubtedly Marvel's intention to drive fans nuts with speculation for a year, many of their actors have a notoriously hard time keeping their mouths shut, and it's for this reason that we know of a few significant characters who survived Thanos' Snap of Doom.

In an interview with ScreenRant during the promotion cycle for Mission: Impossible: Fallout, Angela Bassett let slip that not only did her character Ramonda, Queen Mother of Wakanda, survive — but so did her genius daughter Shuri (Letitia Wright), one of the breakout stars of Black Panther. Instagram detectives were also able to all but confirm that Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), absent from the events of Infinity War, will make an appearance in the next installment — but no sleuthing was required to determine the fate of Wong (Benedict Wong), the trusted companion of Doctor Strange. Wong just went ahead and posted a photo of himself on set, apparently getting all of the skin removed from his head (cracking "the cleaning of spoilers is a bit much," in a post constituting a huge spoiler). His return will be welcomed, but that skull-peeling photo has prompted wild speculation from fans that Wong just might be a Skrull, one of the shape-shifting alien baddies we'll be introduced to in Captain Marvel.

Thor speaks

If you're looking for general reassurance that Avengers: Endgame will blow your mind just as hard as Infinity War (and if you weren't, you probably wouldn't be reading this), look no further than the words of Thor Odinson himself, Chris Hemsworth. "Point Break" sat down with Esquire to discuss a number of his career highlights and dispense advice for up and coming actors, and he couldn't resist dropping a few tidbits about the most anticipated film of... well, maybe ever. 

"If you were shocked by [Infinity War]," he said, "I think the second one is even more shocking, for other reasons entirely... The second one I'm probably even more excited about. Just for people to see. I just think it's another step again. Each step we seem to take with these films, I've loved the fact that there's been growth and evolution and it continues to surprise people... For me, this whole experience has been incredible. In particular the last one." That's all we really needed to know, and now, let the wild speculation continue until April 26, 2019... at least, until Mark Ruffalo opens his mouth and spoils the entire thing for us.