December 11-12, 2021
Written by Kieron Byatt
The 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Infinity War, has already earned a worldwide box office gross of more than $1 billion.
It has smashed the record for the biggest opening weekend of all time, beating The Force Awakens. Not content with being a commercial gargantuan, the movie’s scope and impact are just as powerful as the left hand of Thanos. While movie-goers the world over sob their way out of their local cinema (before re-joining the cinema queue for their next viewing) one resounding question booms throughout their skulls: What next?
WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for Avengers: Infinity War.
As comic book readers suspected, and Mark Ruffalo hinted/spoiled last year, the Avengers and Guardians teaming up to take on the Mad Titan did not end well. But considering the third instalment of Avengers was announced a two-part sequel back in 2014, (and this is a superhero movie, come on) we can all breathe a sigh of relief that our beloved heroes aren’t down for the count… yet. As we should all be well aware, not only does Avengers: Infinity War mark the most ambitious crossover to date in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it also sees the beginning of the end of Phase 3. Twist endings aside, Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther all have sequels on the horizon, so we know it’s not as bad as things may seem.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that the untitled Infinity War sequel will be the last time some of our beloved characters will suit up, with Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr. all being quite public that they’re heading beyond the hill. Regardless of the original line-up’s fate, what Phase 4 signifies is a universal wide game changer for the MCU, and with that in mind, here are our five biggest questions concerning what’s next for the franchise.
Who will stay dead?
The body count in Avengers: Infinity War was straight out of a George R.R. Martin playbook: Half of Asgard, including Heimdall and Loki (no word on Korg and Valkyrie) are slaughtered in the opening minutes; the entire planet of Xandar, and presumably the Nova Corps, is dispatched off-screen; Gamora is sacrificed by her adopted war-lord father for the Soul Stone, where her essence appears to be trapped; Vision had the Mind Stone plucked from his head before his lifeless android body was cast aside like a shelled lobster; Thanos’ children, the Black Order, were all defeated in brutal fashion by the Avengers throughout the film; and of course, when Thanos completed the gauntlet with all six Infinity Stones and snapped his fingers… *holds breath and fights back tears* Bucky, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Groot, Drax, Peter Quill, Mantis, Doctor Strange, Nick Fury and Maria Hill all disintegrated into dust.
But if Han Solo and Gandalf can return from seemingly certain doom, you can be pretty confident that Marvel won’t permanently kill off the majority of their franchise. It was also a particularly clever move to have the only surviving members be the 2012’s original Avengers line-up. What better way to reunite the team that Civil War fractured than half of the sentient life in the universe coming to an end. But with Evans, Downey Jr. and Hemsworth’s contracts near termination, don’t think we’re out of the woods just yet… Some characters may return, but others may be yet to meet that glowing beam in the sky…
Will there be a change of the guard?
The biggest question looming over the Marvel Cinematic Universe is sustainability. Like Doctor Who and James Bond, unfortunately, there is no Time Stone of Agamotto in real life to dial back the clocks and keep the same cast for eternity.
If you thought the number of comic book movies each year was increasing at a commensurate rate, the sheer volume of comic books churned out in a mere month is bigger than Thanos’ chin. The comic book industry sees the depictions of our beloved characters change from writer to writer, artist to artist, issue to issue. And just like when, say, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on Batman ended, you need to adapt to a new version of your favourite hero or villain every few years. One concern for Marvel is this: is the broader non-comic-reading public ready for a change of this magnitude? There have been cries of superhero movie fatigue for years, and when Phase 3 comes to an end and the cycle either starts all over again or is rebooted, will the audience decide to throw the superhero era on-top of the forgotten dominant genres of yesteryear?
Will there be a reboot?
What the Marvel Cinematic Universe has pulled off for 10 years and counting, has redefined the movie-making business for better or worse. Shared universes are everywhere at the moment, the question is will the events of Infinity War continue the universe as we know it or will there be a reset?
As discussed above, if the general public isn’t keen on seeing their beloved Iron Man, Captain America or Thor recast, what’s a way of placating the general public? Well, since the Disney acquisition of 21st Century Fox, many comic book and movie fanatics alike have been frothing at the prospect of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four joining the MCU.
If the core Avengers were being recast, a universe-wide reboot which includes the former Fox properties could be a formidable consolation prize. Or in order to avoid sullying the previous films in the MCU, could we see a new timeline or perhaps a different Earth in the Marvel multiverse?
Will there be new faces?
Courtesy of a ‘90s/space-age beeper, we already know that Captain Marvel is en-route to join the Avengers in the Infinity War sequel, after her solo movie in 2019. But the events of Infinity War, as well as the burgeoning Phase 4, opens up the possibility of both new characters and old characters taking up the mantle of some of our beloved heroes. In the recent comics, Marvel has seen some pivotal changes for their flagship characters, so one wonders if these will translate to the films: Will the next team be called New Avengers? Will Falcon or Bucky become the new Captain America? Will Riri Williams replace Tony Stark as Iron Man? Will we see a new Thor in Jane Foster or Beta Ray Bill? Will Shuri take up the mantle as Black Panther?
Then there’s the question, with Nova Corp presumably toast, will we now never see Nova’s debut!? Did Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 set-up Warlock as a villain? Will we finally see Namor? That’s a lot of questions, and not a lot of predictions, but it’s safe to presume with Phase 4 saying goodbye to the old, there will definitely be some fresh blood taking over the reins.
Wait a minute, where were…
The instant the trailers and posters for Avengers: Infinity War started rolling in; fans immediately noticed the absence of Hawkeye, Ant-Man, and the Wasp. Their omission from the film was explained away in a line of dialogue from Black Widow, something about a post Civil War deal involving house-arrest; and you can see Scott wearing an ankle bracelet in the first Ant-Man and the Wasp trailer.
It won’t be long until we get a better of idea of where Hank Pym and company were during Infinity War, with Ant-Man and the Wasp hitting cinemas in July, but the biggest question is whether or not they appear in the next battle with Thanos. Have the events of Infinity War impacted them? It will be interesting to see if Ant-Man, Wasp, Hawkeye, or any of their families have dissolved into dust like the unlucky half of the universe. Either way, we’ll keep shedding tears for all of them, but nothing stops the hype train.