What The 'Avengers: Infinity War' Ending Means For 'Avengers 4' And The Future Of The MCU

Holy crap, the ending of Avengers: Infinity War is insane. We had been told that the film would dramatically change the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I don't think anyone expected THIS. Join me as I explore what the Infinity War ending might mean for Avengers 4 and the future of the MCU.

Warning: Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War follow.

Avengers Infinity War Trailer Breakdown - Thanos

What Happened in the Avengers: Infinity War Ending

One snap from the completed Infinity Gauntlet and half of the living things in the galaxy have disappeared from existence, turning into piles of dirt. And while the ending is very powerful and dramatic, it's hard to walk out of the theater not recalling that Black Panther, Spider-Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy all have announced sequels from Marvel. And while not announced, Marvel has strongly hinted that a Doctor Strange sequel is in the works too. How is this possible if they have all been erased from the MCU? Well, Avengers: Infinity War was always meant to be the first part of a two-film series.

The formerly titled Avengers: Infinity War Part II, now untitled, is set to hit theaters next year, on May 3, 2019. So it is expected that the events of that film will somehow restore at least part of the living universe that Thanos erased at the end of Infinity War.

Kevin Feige

Kevin Feige Suggests the Deaths Are Permanent

But there's one small problem with that theory – Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, in advance of Infinity War, gave an interview promising that the deaths in the third Avengers film would not be retconned:

One criticism you've gotten is when somebody dies in a Marvel movie, they tend to come back in some way. If it happens, will it be for real this time? 

Yes. I mean, I could always list off the characters that we've killed in our movies that haven't come back, but the big ones, which I know they're looking at ...? [Pause.] I would just say, yes. People need to be careful what they wish for.

That "yes" seems pretty definitive, but don't let that worry you too much. I'm not sure the heroes who turned to dust are "dead," but instead "erased from existance." I think this loophole would allow for Feige's answer to be truthful. But this does mean that other deaths we saw on screen were probably permanant.

Thor Ragnarok - Tom Hiddleston as Loki

So Who Is Really Dead?

The film opens with Thanos' attack on the ships holding all of the remaining Asgardian people and the bloodbath continues:

  • Tom Hiddleston's Loki is visibly killed by Thanos during the opening sequence.
  • As is Idris Elba's Heimdall as he sends Banner to Earth as an early warning for what's to come. I think it's pretty safe to assume these two deaths are for real. Even Thanos comments that this time there will be no resurrection of Loki.
  • Zoe Saldana's Gamora is thrown off a cliff on Vormir in an effort for Thanos to get the Soul Stone. While it's not 100% confirmed that Gamora is dead, she looked pretty dead laying on the bottom of the cavern. At very least, Thanos believes that she was killed.
  • Paul Bettany's Vision met his end not once, but twice. First in the loving sacrifice by Wanda in an effort to destroy the Mind Stone, and moments later when Thanos used the Time Stone to reverse time and brutally extract the gem from Vision himself.
  • Ebony Maw, Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight and Cull Obsidian all meet their ends in their encounters with the Avengers. Heck, their only purpose in this movie was really to offer a big fight and a a little success for our heroes before their ultimate loss.

Who Might Actually Be Still Alive Offscreen?

But what about all the other Asgardian people? What about Korg, Meek, and Valkryie (Tessa Thompson)? It's hard to hear in the opening to this movie, but it's apparently said in the distress signal that some of the Asgardians had escaped the slaughter. I've been told that secondhand by a good source, but haven't heard the actual line in the movie itself. So it's possible that they may have escaped Thanos' destruction.

On Knowhere, we see Benicio Del Toro's The Collector before realizing that Thanos was creating a previous reality and the whole collection had been destroyed. It's safe to assume that Taneleer Tivan did not survive this encounter.

There is also the possibility that Shuri was able to back up Vision's data in an effort to bring him back at a later time.

Black Panther highest grossing

Who Was Shown to Disappear? And Why Were the Original Avengers Left Alive?

During the final sequence and end credits scene, we see Bucky, Black Panther, Groot, Wanda, Falcon, Mantis, Drax, Star-Lord, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Maria Hill, and Nick Fury turn into ash as half the universe is wiped from existence. Remember, this doesn't mean they are dead, but...perhaps they're in a different world, dimension or time?

One thing many fans have noticed is that the original core team of The Avengers survived the ending of Infinity War. This includes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). It seems as if the next Avengers film will center on this core crew, and the additions of Don Cheadle's War Machine, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Nebula (Karen Gillan). Also, remember that Wong (Benedict Wong) was last seen alive guarding the Sanctum Sanctorum, and Okoye (Danai Gurira), Shuri (Letitia Wright), M'Baku (Winston Duke) are all holding down the fort in Wakanda.

Will The Avengers Use Time Travel to Defeat Thanos and Restore the Erased Heroes?

We've seen some set photos from the production of Avengers 4 that seem to be set during the original battle of New York from the first Avengers film. This initially led some fans to believe that Avengers 4 would involve time travel. However, director Joe Russo recently spoke out about the set photos, possibly offering an explaination:

"It's interesting because photos always leak, and there's lots of conjecture about what those photos mean. Certainly, there is a five minute sequence in Civil War around a piece of technology that was laid in for a very specific reason. If you go back and look at that film, you may get a hint as to the direction."

Russo is most likely pointing to Tony Stark's "B.A.R.F." technology, which stands for Binary Augmented Retro-Framing. The technology was introduced at the beginning of Captain America: Civil War, where it allowed Tony to re-experience his memories in vivid detail. Fans and websites took Russo's comment as an official debunks of the time-travel theory, but I'm not sure it debunks it at all.

Avengers Infinity War

"It Was The Only Way"

Doctor Strange uses the Time Stone to explore millions of possible outcomes of their confrontation with Thanos and tells Tony Stark that only one of the possible consequences allows The Avengers to be victorious. We all assume that we ended up in a one of the 14 million failed outcomes, but what if the ending we saw at the conclusion of Infinity War was actually the one in 14 million which leads to the Avengers being victorious?

Remember, when our heroes are on their way to Titan, Doctor Strange warns Tony Stark that if it comes down to saving one of their lives and protecting the Time Stone, he will choose to preserve the Time Stone and save the universe. At the end of the movie, Strange offers the Time Stone to Thanos in exchange for Stark's life. Has Strange really become attached to Stark in the time since landing on Titan, or is this part of a larger plan? Remember, as Stephen Strange explains to Tony as he fades away: "It was the only way."

Now, this line gets glossed over by most audiences, but I think this is the key to Avengers 4 and the future of the MCU. It is possible that the one in 14,000,604 scenarios involved Thor chopping off Thanos' arm with the Stormbreaker, but looking at this from a purely character-based standpoint, I don't see any reality where Thor would have done that. In Infinity War, Thor believes he's the star of his own revenge story. There is no end to that story where Thor considers the arm and Gaunlet instead of plunging the Stormbreaker into the chest of the being that murdered his brother.

quantum realm

Could Our Erased Heroes Actually be in a Different Time or Dimension?

My friend and colleague Mark Hughes theorized that maybe Doctor Strange put a spell on the Time Stone so that when Thanos used it in his Infinity Gauntlet to erase half of the universe, it would instead send those people to a different time or place. This might also explain some of those Avengers 4 set photos featuring our heroes in earlier time periods. It's also possible that such a spell sent them to another dimension or another realm. After all, we have seen Doctor Strange use the Time Stone in this way. It's a fun theory.

Our own managing editor Jacob Hall believes it's as simple as you see in the movie: that our heroes needed to lose horribly in order to win in the end. He cites the original Infinity Gauntlet comic book storyline, where Thanos wipes out half of the universe at the halfway point, and the rest of the series follows the survivors attempting to get the gauntlet from him to reverse it.

ant-man and the Wasp

How Will Ant-Man and The Wasp Deal With This Aftermath?

Disney is releasing two more Marvel films before the untitled fourth Avengers film hits theaters next summer.

The official plot synopsis for Ant-Man and The Wasp indicates that the story takes place in "the aftermath of Civil War," so it's likely that a lot of this story is a standalone tale set primarily before the events of Infinity War. When we talked to the Russo Brothers on the set of Infinity War, they said Ant-Man and The Wasp would have more connections to Infinity War than the upcoming Captain Marvel:

You mentioned that you guys read a bunch of the scripts for the other Marvel movies. Is there one before Infinity War that has the biggest lead-in that we can be expecting? Joe Russo: They all lead in in their own way, I think. As far as plot elements that actually drive towards the story, again, I think Marvel does a great job of segmenting the movies so that you can have your own experience in each film. I think from a plot standpoint, if there's any corollary, Ant-Man 2 probably has some elements that stitch in.

But that also makes me wonder why we didn't see Ant-Man or The Wasp in Infinity War. Why wouldn't someone call them to help out? Where could they possibly be? We know that the Ant-Man films are building up the idea of the Quantum Realm. which is described as:

...an alternate dimension only accessible through magical energy, mystical transportation using a Sling Ring, or by tremendous subatomic shrinking caused by the Pym Particles. In the Quantum Realm, space and time are believed to be irrelevant.

Could this maybe be where our heroes are? Other fans seem to think that the ending of Ant-Man and the Wasp will somehow tie into Infinity War. If Scott and Hope are going to go into the quantum realm to rescue Janet, maybe they will come out after the end of Infinity War and be in for a huge surprise as the world has dramatically changed.

At the very least, we know that Ant-Man and the Wasp are both confirmed to be in Avengers 4.

Captain Marvel Details

How Will Captain Marvel Connect With Infinity War?

The end credits scene for Infinity War shows Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill learning about the spaceships over Wakanda and witnessing the Leftovers-style disappearance of half of the world. Fury calls for a code red and scrambles for a device to put out the call to someone. The big reveal at the end of the sequence is a Captain Marvel-style logo on the screen. This is an exciting end credits sequence and one of Marvel's best to date. It may lead some fans to believe that Captain Marvel will have a lot to do with the future of this story, but that might not be the case at all. In fact, this end credits scene was a reshoot. Originally, Marvel was going to release Infinity War with no end credits scene at all – which would have been extremely bold.

Remember, Captain Marvel is a period film set in the 1990's co-starring Jackson as Fury as a younger man without his eyepatch (perhaps we see how he loses the eye?). The story follows Brie Larsen as Carol Danvers, who "becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races." One of the races is the Skrulls, a group who can disguise themselves as other characters within the Marvel Universe. In the comics, there is a significant event series called Secret Invasion, which involves the earth's mightest heroes taking on this group. Some fans believed that this would be the title of Avengers 4, but the Infinity War cliffhanger seems to suggest otherwise.

It does seem odd that Nick Fury showed up at the end of the original Iron Man to inform Tony Stark that there were more superpowered heroes like him out there. If there was a significant Earth-at-stakes battle in the '90s, you'd think Stark would have heard about it and known about Captain Marvel.

Which also leads us to the other question: Where has Captain Marvel been? We've seen 19 films now (18 of which take place after her origin story), and she's supposedly existing somewhere in this universe, yet she has not made a public appearance. There must be a reason for this.

Regardless, it does seem like Captain Marvel will be a big part of the fourth Avengers film. Kevin Feige has been boasting about her powers and it's clear they will be needed to win this war against Thanos.

avengers 4

What Will Avengers 4 Be Titled?

The filmmakers have said that the reason why the Avengers 4 title has not been announced is that it's a spoiler for Infinity War. Now that we've finally seen the film, what do you think the title might be? Here are some guesses from our team:

  • Avengers: Disassembled: This has been a favorite pick of ours for over a year now. We always thought Thanos might win, but not in this devastating way. Initially, we believed the Avengers would be split up into different times and dimensions. We don't know that's not the case, but this title, which comes directly from the comics (remember, Marvel Studios loves to use comic titles for their movies) is very fitting.
  • Avengers: Reassembled: On the other side of the coin, maybe Disassembled is too much of a downer title coming off of that dramatic ending. Perhaps the opposite would be more optimistic.
  • Avengers: Endgame: a title that comes directly out of dialogue in Infinity War.
  • Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet: some people seem to think they might take this title from the comic, although it doesn't make much sense as the Infinity War storyline pretty much follows the Gauntlet story. At one point, Zoe Saldana casually mentioned that Avengers 4 would be titled Infinity Gauntlet, but that title was later debunked by James Gunn.
  • Avengers: The Infinity Crusade: another title from the comics, which was the sequel to Infinity War/Infinity Gauntlet.
  • Avengers: Resurrection: Maybe a bit too on the nose?