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How Avengers: Infinity War is unlike any other Marvel movie

Marvel Studios has released some big movies over the past decade, but none will be bigger than the next Avengers sequel. Infinity War is one of the most ambitious superhero movies — and movies in general — ever attempted, bringing together dozens of heroes with a story that literally has the fate of the universe hanging in the balance.

It's massive, it's huge, and there are a whole lot of reasons it's set-up to be a game-changer. So why is Avengers: Infinity War unlike any other Marvel movie?

It's all been leading to this

Going all the way back to Iron Man in 2008 — and especially 2012's The Avengers — Marvel Studios has been setting up an eventual clash with the Mad Titan Thanos for a very long time. Marvel has been seeding parts of this story in around a dozen films, introducing the Infinity Stones one-by-one as ultra-powerful McGuffins, then making Thanos a distant menace, causing trouble from atop his literal space throne. 

Infinity War co-director Joe Russo said as much, noting the biggest challenge is finally bringing all these disparate story threads and characters together into one monster of a film. It's one thing to literally spend a decade setting up a story, but actually pulling it off when you reach the end point? That's the real challenge. 

As Russo noted, the hardest part of his job is "melding all of that together." Fans have been clamoring for this film ever since that post-credit scene in The Avengers. If Marvel pulls it off, it'll set a bar that will be hard for even the house that Iron Man built to ever top.

The cast is mind-bogglingly huge

Thanks to its bevy of solo franchises, Marvel Studios has turned guys like Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans (Captain America), Tom Holland (Spider-Man), and Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) into A-list action stars in their own rights. With a project like Infinity War, they're cramming all those movie stars — and their on-screen super-counterparts — into one film. 

That was hard enough with the first couple of super team-ups in The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, but the list of heroes is a whole lot longer for Infinity War. Just to name a few: Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man), Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Chris Pratt (Star-Lord), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Paul Bettany (The Vision), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Vin Diesel (Groot), Dave Bautista (Drax), Bradley Cooper (Rocket Raccoon), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Tom Holland (Spider-Man), Anthony Mackie (The Falcon), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), and Don Cheadle (War Machine). That's only naming the "big" characters. 

It's literally taken 16 movies (18 by the time Infinity War opens) to introduce all these characters, and now Marvel will be putting them all into the same story. There's no way to overstate how ambitious an undertaking that will be.

It finally brings together the two sides of the MCU

Up until Guardians of the Galaxy, pretty much all of Marvel's superhero stories took place on Earth (except for when Thor popped out to Asgard, of course). That all changed with Guardians, which introduced viewers to a huge, massive universe of heroes, villains, and intergalactic players (i.e., the Nova Corps, the Ravagers, and the Kree, just to name a few). 

To this point, that world has been largely separate from the stories being told with folks like Spider-Man, Ant-Man, and Iron Man, but it all comes together with Infinity War. The debut trailer for Infinity War shown at San Diego Comic-Con made that clear, with Thor literally crashing into the windshield of the Guardians' ship the Milano like a bug on a windshield. 

The footage went on to show galactic heroes like Star-Lord fighting alongside Doctor Strange and Spider-Man — a melding of worlds fans have been waiting to see ever since Star-Lord stole an Infinity Stone (and our collective hearts) in the opening scene of Guardians of the Galaxy.

We'll finally get some intel on the Infinity Stones

Some fans didn't even realize it back when Marvel was still in Phase 1, but the Infinity Stones are the engine that has been driving the Marvel Cinematic Universe since it began. Many of the films have focused on baddies trying to attain or harness these powerful artifacts (i.e., the Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, Ultron in Age of Ultron, Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy), and the onus falls on Infinity War to finally explain what these things are and how they work. 

Russo told Screen Rant they're up to the challenge, noting they have "put a lot of thought into how [they] would represent those powers so it was clear to the audience." Much like in the comics, each stone will have its own unique power set, and Russo said that's something they plan to convey in the film in a "really specific" way, hopefully with more detail than the "It makes big energy blasts" explanation we've seen from the stones up until this point.

Captain America's rogue team returns

It wasn't a straight-up Avengers film in its own right, but Captain America: Civil War shook up the Marvel Cinematic Universe in massive ways like we typically only see in the flagship stories. The film focused on an ideological clash between Captain America and Iron Man, which ended with Cap and a small team of heroes escaping prison and going rogue by the time the screen faded to black. 

Captain America, along with the Falcon, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, and Scarlet Witch are basically a rogue team of Avengers — something made clear by the brief look we get at Captain America in the Infinity War poster released at San Diego Comic-Con. We see Cap now sporting a beard, and a suit that is noticeably missing his usual U.S. and Avengers insignia. Considering things were left so raw at the end of Civil War, it'll be interesting to see how quickly the hatchets are buried when Thanos decides to finally make his presence known.

We might lose a few Avengers along the way

Aside from folks like Quicksilver and Agent Coulson (his small screen resurrection not withstanding), we haven't lost a ton of heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe up to this point — but all that could change when the Infinity War begins. 

Russo made it clear the stakes will be climbing considerably for the biggest Avengers film yet. He recently said fans should be "prepared for some very intense surprises in these movies," noting that he and his brother/fellow director Anthony Russo "believe in stakes." 

Forebodingly, Russo teased that "everything has to come to an end at some point, in order for it to have value." With a roster full of several actors on the end of their contracts (or already going movie-to-movie on extensions), that means Infinity War could be the platform to reset the board by killing some old heroes, and pushing some newer ones into larger prominence. Could it be the end for stalwarts like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, or Hulk?

Spider-Man gets a brand new look

The main action in Spider-Man: Homecoming already featured two suits for Peter Parker, via his original homemade gear and the Tony Stark upgrade — but the end of the film introduced a brief look at a third costume, which we sadly never get to see in action when Peter declines the invite to join the Avengers (at least for now). 

Lucky for the folks at San Diego Comic-Con, they did get to see that suit going face-to-face with Thanos in the exclusive trailer, as Spidey apparently gets an upgrade for Infinity War. It's only a brief shot of footage, but the costume definitely looks to have some elements of the Iron Spider costume featured in the comics, which was a variation on the Spider-Man suit designed by Tony Stark (though in the comics, it was almost like a hybrid Spider-Man and Iron Man suit at times). With Thanos on the prowl, Peter Parker will likely need all the bells and whistles he can fit under the hood.

Loki returns (but why?)

That San Diego Comic-Con teaser for Infinity War also revealed the return of fan favorite Tom Hiddleston as Loki, as he can be seen stalking around and at one point picking up what appears to be the Tesseract (or perhaps a different Infinity Stone). 

Despite Loki apparently redeeming himself and working with Thor in recent years (and seemingly in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok, as well), the scene makes one wonder if Loki might be too tempted by the power in his hands to just hand it back over to the good guys. Whatever role he'll play, it's a coup for Marvel to have Hiddleston back on the roster. He's one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most nuanced characters, and with Marvel making its biggest movie yet, it makes sense to include arguably its best character.

We get the Scarlet Witch and Vision story comic fans have been waiting for

After introducing the Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel has been slowly teasing a potential romance between the resident synthezoid and Scarlet Witch, and it sounds like that will finally pay off in Infinity War

Some leaked set pics show Vision and Scarlet Witch pretty much making out while standing at a window, and after those shots leaked, star Elizabeth Olsen confirmed it's exactly what it looks like. She said the film will allow them to "explore that part of the comic book" while "[introducing] and really [exploring] their relationship." As anyone who has read the comics likely knows, that relationship doesn't really end all that well, so it'll be interesting to see which direction they take it on the big screen.

It brings the action to Earth

We've seen Thanos a few times up to this point, but never outside the context of his deep space stomping grounds — but that all changes in Infinity War. Russo told Cinema Blend that "a good amount" of the film will take place on Earth, with "a lot of different narratives" all coming together (we'd imagine at least part of that means the world of the Guardians driving toward Earth). 

Russo did hedge that there's also "a good mix" of space-based action, too. Which makes sense, considering Thanos comes from the galactic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

We'll finally get to see Thanos in all his glory

A wider audience obviously still hasn't gotten to see that Infinity War trailer (excluding some low-quality leaks, of course), though there's one thing made abundantly clear in the footage that has been screened — Thanos is finally getting his hands dirty in battle. 

The footage shows Thanos taking on Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and grabbing hold of Thor's head and preparing to pop it like a melon. The money shot of the trailer finds Thanos seemingly grabbing a moon (the moon?) and bringing it down on the Avengers like gigantic, jagged shrapnel. Marvel's heroes have faced a whole to of challenges, but they've never seen anything like the sheer force of nature that the Mad Titan represents.

Thanos is bringing the Black Order

More than just Thanos, the Mad Titan is even bringing his posse along for the ride. Thanos' frequent comic collaborators Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Black Dwarf, and Ebony Maw are all expected to show up alongside the Mad Titan. 

They're all extremely powerful players in their own right, and will make Thanos even more formidable. We don't know much about how they'll be reimagined on the big screen, though Marvel has teased they will be the "children of Thanos." Whether or not that is to be taken literal, we don't quite know yet, though it seems clear they'll be his acolytes in trying to put together a fully assembled Infinity Gauntlet to wreak havoc on Earth and reality itself.