Warning: This article contains spoilers for both Avengers: Infinity War and the trailer for Avengers: Endgame. (Wikimedia Commons)
“Is this thing on?”
These words, spoken by Tony Stark in what seems to be a final message to Pepper Potts, are accompanied by an image of a shattered Iron Man helmet. The cinematography is telling: what follows, however, is even more bone-chilling than the symbolism.
“Part of the journey is the end.”
Along with being spoken in the trailer, this is what accompanies the trailer tweeted out on Friday, December 7. The dramatic reveal comes nearly nine months after the release of Infinity War, Marvel’s biggest release yet. The new film, slated to appear in theaters on April 26, 2019, directly follows the events of the former. With Tony Stark trapped in space alone, Steve Rogers back on earth, and fifty percent of the population disintegrated, Avengers 4 will likely be as dark as its precursor, if not darker.
The film is titled Avengers: Endgame, and within twenty-four hours became the most viewed movie trailer in history.
The trailer lets on more about the film than one might expect, given Marvel’s tendency to keep its audience in suspense. However, little else is known about the film other than fan theories, slyly captured on-set images, and of which is revealed by the comic series itself.
Avengers: Endgame will commence Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The “phases” are a popular way of organizing the films: each phase begins with a film that expresses the central theme of the subsequent movies and ends with the resolution of said theme. Phase One began with The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and ended with The Avengers. It sets up the “Core Six” and establishes them as a team of superheroes in New York. Phase Two deals with the introduction of new characters and how the Avengers function as a team; Phase Three, conversely, sees the team split up with the release of Civil War.
Endgame will be the fourth Avengers film and the final installation of Phase 3. Because much of this section of the MCU timeline has dealt with the Civil War schism, popular theories say that the Avengers will take on a new form at the genesis of Phase 4. This could fit with the theme of Infinity War: Thanos disintegrated half of all life in the universe (along with one member of notable pairs such as Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, or Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes), so some say that three out of the original six Avengers will be phased out to make way for a new generation.
Many believe that two of the characters we will be saying goodbye to are Captain America and Iron Man (played by Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., respectively). Their contracts are up with the company and have yet to be renewed. Beyond this, the comics reinforce that other characters take up the mantle of the two heroes in later versions. Supposing this is correct, that leaves one spot left for Thor, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanoff or Clint Barton. Popular opinion leans towards Thor or Bruce Banner. Both Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff have yet to receive a real plotline in the films.
The Avengers: Endgame trailer reveals little in terms of these specific theories, but one thing is certain: Clint Barton, a previously overlooked character, will finally get his own arc. His appearance in the sneak peek confirms leaked photos that displayed him as Ronin, his lone-wolf vigilante alter ego. Beyond this, Scott Lang (back from the Quantum Realm he was trapped in at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp) appears to offer his help to Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff, both of whom are focused on fixing the problems arisen from Infinity War. Interestingly, the trailer makes no mention of Captain Marvel, the hero debuting in a solo film in early 2019. This is surprising considering that she defeats Thanos in the comics.
Some scenes in the trailer seem to contradict comic plot. Thanos is shown only in brief clips. His hand brushes through a field of crops, and his empty suit of armor stands as a scarecrow of sorts. These scenes directly mimic panels from Infinity Gauntlet, the brief series that inspired the most recent films. The comics, however, depict these scenes as being from after Thanos’s defeat rather than the victory he accomplished on the cinematic side of things.
More unconfirmed theories abound: trickster god Loki is alive and well after his supposed death in Infinity War, Katherine Langford is appearing as the comic-originated heroine Kate Bishop, Bucky Barnes (formerly the Winter Soldier) will return and take over as Captain America. Although these are all somewhat plausible, we won’t know which are spot-on for nearly another four months.
Following the recent death of Marvel creator Stan Lee, many wondered if the future of the company would remain intact. Avengers: Endgame should ease these worries; as long as the characters Stan Lee wrote into existence are alive and well, his vision will live on. If the trailer is anything to go off of, it will most definitely hold with Lee’s interpretation of his own characters as complex, lifelike heroes.
Despite the success of its past films, Marvel will need to deliver in a big way for the end of Phase 3. It is still the most successful film franchise of all time. Because of this, Endgame is, no doubt, highly anticipated. If the company follows through with the characters and themes fans suspect–Ronin, Captain Marvel, other comic heroes, possible time travel–they will have a difficult time making a more anticipated announcement in the future. In any case, Marvel will certainly keep as much as possible under wraps for the time being in order to make the reveal that much more impactful.