The always-secretive Marvel Studios is being even more tight-lipped than usual in the wake of Avengers: Infinity War. The companyâwhich built its multi-billion-dollar brand on not only announcing ambitious movie slates, but actually executing themâhas yet to reveal even the title of a single film beyond 2019âs Avengers 4. And the studio thatâs famous for its showstopping presentations at both its own bi-annual expo called D23 and at San Diego Comic-Conâs massive Hall H has said that it will present and announce *nothing* between now and the sequel to Infinity War. Having learned a lesson, perhaps, from the two years or so that the Game of Thrones cast had to lie to fans and the press about the fate of Jon Snow, Marvel is affording its cast and crew as little opportunity as possible to have to decline comment or, heaven forbid, accidentally spoil something about who is staying dead and who is returning for Avengers 4.
That being said, in revisiting some of the quotes the cast and creatives gave Vanity Fair last fall for our cover story about 10 years of Marvel Studios, some compelling information about Avengers 4 comes into focus. Combine that with popular theories and other comments from less guarded Marvel players, and thereâs plenty of speculative fun to be had. There are no concrete spoilers hereâno set photos or ill-gotten leaksâbut there is possibly more out there about the next installment in the Avengers franchise than you might suspect. Letâs dive in, shall we?
The âwhenâ is the easiest to answer: May 3, 2019. Marvel just needs to keep a lid on everything for another year. As for what to call it, I think Avengers 4 is simplest. Marvel chief Kevin Feige prefers the cumbersome Untitled Avengers in May â19.
Guardians of the Galaxy star Zoe Saldana referred to it as Gauntlet last year, prompting some to think the movie is called Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet, and is based on a comic-book story line of the same name. Feige has since insisted thatâs âdefinitely notâ the case, and recently told Collider that the whole name debate has been blown out of proportion: âIt will just be a name, and the reason to hold it back was to keep the attention on Infinity War. That backfired a little bit, because now everyone thinks, âWhatâs the name of the next one gonna be?ââ Either way, Marvel has to name the movie at some point . . . doesnât it?
But even if Saldana did misspeak, we can expect some of the comic-book story line from Infinity GauntletâwhereÂ all the bad stuff that Thanos does with his bejeweled power glove gets undone by the storyâs endâto show up in Avengers 4.
One might logically assume that Avengers 4 will deal with our surviving heroes frantically trying to bring their ashen brethren back from the dead. Maybe there are time jumps involved. Maybe not. But there is also, potentially, a far more tantalizing prospectâand the key to that may lie in Ant-Man and the Wasp, which comes out this July. Letâs break it down.
First of all, we know, according to its official Disney description, that Ant-Man and the Wasp begins âin the aftermath of [2016âs] Captain America: Civil War.â That means itâs either entirely a prequel to Infinity War or, even more intriguingly, it runs at least somewhat concurrently with those apocalyptic events. In a promo this week, Marvel stars teasingly wondered where Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lillyâs characters Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne were during Infinity War. And itâs clear from the zippy tone of the new trailer itself that the duo isnât grappling with a world mourning half of its inhabitants.
But this movie might still be very important to Avengers 4, thanks to an Ant-Man concept your average Marvel moviegoer might not be entirely familiar with yet: the Quantum Realm. Wait! Donât let your eyes glaze over. Last year, Disney chief Bob Iger underlined how important âdifferent realmsâÂ would be for the future of Marvel. He said: âThey can be separate geographically, or separate in timeânot just in place, but in time. So thereâs almostâitâs not quite infinite, but the directions we could go are extraordinary.â
We saw some of that in 2016âs Doctor Strange, when Benedict Cumberbatchâs character traveled to other dimensions. In 2015âs Ant-Man, Michael Douglasâs Hank Pym described the Quantum Realmâa place Scott goes when he gets really tinyâas a place where âtime has no meaning.âÂ Michelle Pfeifferâs character, Janet van Dyne (i.e. Hopeâs mom), will be introduced in Ant-Man and the Wasp, and sheâs been stuck or âlostâ in the Quantum Realm since 1987. We saw a third alternate dimension at the end of Infinity War, when Thanos had a glimpse of tiny Gamora just after everything went sideways. In the comics, the Soul Stone traps souls inside it in a place call the Soul World; the book version of Gamora spent some quality time there. Thatâs probably where baby Gamora/Gamoraâs soul is, and why you should expect sheâll likely be rescued and resurrected before all of this is over.
Heck, that may be where all the ashen people wind up while weâre waiting for them to come back by the end of Avengers 4. Point being, Marvel is getting really into these other dimensions.
O.K., still with me? Letâs recap. A) We can assume Scott and Hope will travel to the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man and the Wasp for who knows how long, since time has no meaning there, and that theyâll come out of the other side with Pfeifferâs Janet. (We know already that the character is in Avengers 4.) Thatâs perhaps why the other Avengers couldnât raise Scott to join them in Wakanda. Lilly told Vanity Fair last year:
Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne are experts in the Quantum Realm. In Ant-
Man and the Wasp, they are trying everything in their power to safely
enter the Quantum Realm and return back from it, because they have
evidence from the first film that Scott Lang was able to do that, and
if he can do that, why canât we? If we do succeed in Ant-Man and the
Wasp, then that does open a whole entire new multiverse to enter into
and play around in.
B) The time Scott and Hope spend in there could shield them from the effects of Thanosâs destruction. Maybe his snap doesnât reach the Quantum Realm. Maybe they emerge from a world they donât recognize. C) And maybe that world is not a world where half the population is dead, but a world where half the population never existed. In other words, will all of Avengers 4 take place in an alternate timeline? And will it be up to Scott and Hope to help the Avengers remember their past?
Lilly actually hinted at exactly that when she spoke to Vanity Fair last fall. Fans of her breakthrough role in Lost will remember that in the back third of that show, the writers started really messing around with both time and alternate realities in plots that were nicknamed âflash-forwardsâ and âflash-sideways.âÂ When asked about the upcoming twists in both her own movie and the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, Lilly responded:
You want me to tell you about the flash-forwards and flashbacks and
flash-sideways? When I heard about Infinity War and the
direction that theyâre heading, I did have this moment of realizing,
oh wow, thereâs a bit of a dĂ©jĂ vu for me with the Lost franchise. We
are hitting that [Lost] Season 4 space where everythingâs about to shift, and
youâre about to lose the solid ground underneath you. And our film
[Ant-Man and the Wasp], of course, will play a part in that.
In the âflash-sidewaysâ plot of Lost, the characters that fans knew and loved wound up living out alternate scenarios. The show wondered what would have happened to these people if a few seminal eventsâincluding Lostâs very famous plane crashânever occurred. Thanos even hinted that this kind of reality shift might be coming when speaking to Tony Stark in Infinity War.
In the Lost flash-sideways, one by one the characters were âwoken upâ from their alternate reality to a memory of their life before. Itâs not hard to see how something similar could play out in Avengers 4. What would happen to all the remaining characters if some key playersâlike most of the Guardians, Bucky Barnes, TâChalla, etc.ânever existed at all? Who would they be? What would it take to wake them up to the reality that Marvel-movie fans have been watching for the past decade? Is that Scott and Hopeâs job?
Or maybe Brie Larsonâs new addition to the franchise Captain Marvel will have that honor. What if that original reality never returns at all?
Feige told Vanity Fair very firmly: âThere will be two distinct periods: everything before Untitled Avengers in May â19, and everything after. Weâre building it that way because itâs good storytelling, because itâs a good differentiator of how to continue to evolve and to grow. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting.â The majority of Marvel fans have been on the lookout for a massive extinction of the original Avengers, but almost no one has been looking out for a rebooted reality. Itâs a long shot, but that would be a very comic-book-y thing for Marvel to do.
One last note to throw a wrench in all this theorizing. While Rudd told us he was hopping back and forth almost daily between filming Ant-Man and the Wasp and Avengers 4, Lilly wasnât. âI am [shooting both],â she said, âbut a lot less so than Paul. My character is a lot less prominent in Avengers than his is. Iâve only done one day on Avengers thus far.âÂ Does that mean Hope will be joining the ash heap by the time Ant-Man and the Wasp is done?
None of the people audiences expected to dieâCaptain America, Iron Man, Thor, etc.âkicked the bucket in Infinity War. And itâs pretty clear, if you think about it, that almost all the people who did âdieâ will be returning. Yes, probably even Gamora. Saldana said sheâs coming back for Avengers 4âthough maybe she just filmed some Soul World stuff.
That said, it seems very likely that in order to eventually defeat Thanos and use the gauntlet to undo the events of Infinity War, our original heroes will have to make some true sacrifices. Lilly talked about losing âpillarsâ of the franchise. Guardians director James Gunn told me: â[Marvel has] to start allowing characters to die. They have to start having stakes really mean something if they want people to stay interested.âÂ In fact, we learned very specifically in Infinity War that whoever wants to wield the Soul Stone has to first sacrifice someone they love, as Thanos did with Gamora. This is where things may get tough.
In 2015âs Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony Stark had a vision of dead Avengers stacked high. True, this was partially a manifestation of his worst fearsâbut we shouldnât put it past Marvel to make this a harbinger of whatâs to come. In Infinity War, we find out that Tony Stark is so vital to the âendgameâ that Doctor Strange was willing to sacrifice the Time Stone to Thanos in order to protect him. And when Thanos met Tony, there was an odd moment of recognition. In other words, it feels likely that if someone other than Thanos is going to wind up wielding the gauntlet in Avengers 4 in order to undo all this mischief, it will be Tony. Like Thanos sacrificing Gamora, Tony may have to kill one or more of the original Avengers in order to have mastery over the Soul Stone. And if itâs only one Avenger that has to go, donât we already know which one that will probably be?
Once again, this is pure speculation, but: Captain American and Iron Man have been squabbling and warring for a few films, though always with an undercurrent of respect and love. The pair open Infinity War not on speaking terms, and Tonyâs trip to the planet Titan with Doctor Strange and Spider-Man means that by the time Infinity War is over, the two still havenât spoken. But Marvel house screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely teased that there was much more for Cap (and Black Widow) to do in the next film.
Audiences are expecting Captain America to die in Avengers 4 (Chris Evans has made it clear heâs done with the franchise), and nobody would be surprised if Cap were to go out with a big, noble sacrifice. But they might be surprised if Tony is the one who has to make that death happen. In other words: save your tears for Peter Parker, Bucky, Drax, TâChalla, etc., because youâre going to need them for Avengers 4.
O.K., what about those other dead Avengers in Tonyâs vision? We know Black Widow has another movie coming after Avengers 4âher own spin-offâbut thereâs a pretty popular rumor going around that that film will be a prequel set 15 years in the past. So sheâs not exactly safe. Hawkeye has a wife, kids, and a farm somewhere, and this is still a family-friendly Disney franchise, after all, so he might make it out of this one. (More on him in a bit.) Chris Hemsworth actually sounded pretty invigorated by the new direction Thor took in Ragnarok, so itâs possible heâll stick around even after the Infinity War is fought and won.
Scarlett Johansson told Vanity Fair that Brie Larsonâs Captain Marvel was filming some scenes with the Hulk (not Bruce Banner, the Hulk) for Avengers 4, and Mark Ruffalo has said in multiple interviews that Marvel has promised him a complete arc for his character to play out over Ragnarok, Infinity War, and Avengers 4. So both Bruce and his big, green alter ego may be done after that. By my tally, thatâs only two original AvengersâThor and Iron Manâwithout probable targets on their backs. So, waitâdoes Tony Stark survive this whole thing?
Remember that this isnât the dark and grim DC Comics film franchise weâre dealing with. Marvel Studios may have left fans with a deathly cliff-hanger after Infinity War, but I doubt very seriously this entire chapter will close on the bummer note that is Captain Americaâs (presumed) death. So, how do they lighten the mood before rolling the credits? I know it sounds like a stretch with half the M.C.U. currently in ashesâbut how about a party?
Before they were so rudely interrupted by Thanos, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Tony Stark were busy planning their wedding. Tony was teasing the idea of having kids. Pepper talked, as she has for multiple films, quite seriously about Tony quitting the superhero game once and for all. She dreamed of a day where his closet would be filled with shirts, not Iron Man suits. Their nuptials becomes a tiny bit of a running gag in the opening section of the film, with Tony shouting, âWong, youâre invited to the wedding!â after Benedict Wongâs character saves his life. So, is that where weâre headed: a big, fancy party with a toast to fallen friends, Tony actually retiring to spend more time with his family, and an optimistic look towards a happily ever after?
Here we have another popular trope in comic books, and one the Marvel Cinematic Universe has never taken advantage of. A superhero wedding means the potential for a packed gallery of superhero guests. This is something Marvel comics pulled off astonishingly well in a 2012 X-Men book. Sebastian Stan potentially hinted at a scene like this (or maybe it was a massive fight!) in a recent interview with The Independent, while confirming that some Ant-Man stars will appear in Avengers 4:
There was one scene, I think, we had where everybody was there. I
canât really talk about that scene, but I knew it took them three
months in planning this scene to have everyone there. You look around
and you just saw everyone from Samuel L. Jackson to Michael Douglas to
Michelle Pfeiffer. Everybody was there.
This might give us all a chance to dry our tears and walk out smiling at the thought of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has in store.
Speaking of brightening the mood, the Marvel(ish) film that comes out immediately after Avengers 4 is Tom Hollandâs next Spider-Man movie. Those are, tonally, aggressively fun films. Producer Amy Pascal revealed that this upcoming Spider-Man âwill start a few minutes after Avengers 4 wraps as a story.â Feige said the adventure will span âthe globe.â In other words, think happy thoughts. After that, Marvel is taking a breather for the rest of 2019, but will be back with a vengeanceâand, we have to imagine, a number of sequels for the Guardians, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, etc. Their slate is full, though we donât know yet which movie is going where:
May 1, 2020 – Untitled Marvel Movie
July 31, 2020 – Untitled Marvel Movie 2
November 6, 2020 – Untitled Marvel Movie 3
May 7, 2021 – Untitled Marvel Movie 4
July 30, 2021 – Untitled Marvel Movie 5
November 5, 2021 – Untitled Marvel Movie 6
February 18, 2022 – Untitled Marvel Movie 7
May 6, 2022 – Untitled Marvel Movie 8
July 29, 2022 – Untitled Marvel Movie 9
Feige told Vanity Fair: âWhat weâll continue to do post the next Avengers movies is dig into different kinds of characters, different aspects of current characters, to keep things as fresh as theyâve ever been. And thatâs whatâs exciting about the next decade or so that weâve planned out. Twenty-two movies in, and weâve got another 20 movies on the docket that are completely different than anything thatâs come before. Intentionally.â Different, of course, because they take place in an alternate reaâO.K., fine, weâll give it a rest.
At least one of the new characters in the M.C.U. is probably a hero called Nova, whose origin story may have taken place offscreen before Infinity War kicked off. At the beginning of the movie, Thanos showed up with one stone, the Power Stone, already on his glove. He got it by wiping out a planet called Xandar, which was featured in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. You may dimly recall itâGlenn Close and John C. Reilly were there.
James Gunn recently revealed that Nova, a.k.a. Richard Rider, is high on the list of characters the studio is planning to explore. In the comics, Nova gets his starts when a dying member of Xandarâs Nova Corps gives him the uniform and powers of a Nova Centurion. Yada yada superhero origin story youâve seen a million times. His powers are âstrength, flight, telekinesis, energy manipulation, and even the ability to open wormholes in space.â The Marvel Cinematic Universe is reportedly very interested in moving a lot of their stories into space.
We also should mention before we go that Ant-Man and the Wasp isnât the only Marvel movie out between now and Avengers 4. Thereâs also Captain Marvel, a 90s-set prequel which will introduce Larsonâs new superhero character. Crucially, it will also introduce a new kind of villain to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the Skrulls. Are your eyes glazing over again?! Please donât; Iâll be brief.
All you need to know for these purposes is that the Skrulls are shape-shifting aliens who can pass for humans. In a comic-book story line called Secret Invasion, the Skrulls actually posed as several well-known superheroes in order to infiltrate Earth. That introduces a potentially very chaotic element to Avengers 4, in that characters we havenât seen for a whileâlike, say, the missing Hawkeye?âcould show up as Skrulls in disguise. There has to be some reason Jeremy Rennerâs character is sporting a crazy mohawk in the pages of Vanity Fair. Maybe thatâs just alternate-reality Hawkeye. Maybe itâs grieving-his-entire-family-being-turned-to-ash Hawkeye. (How Leftovers of him.) Or maybe thatâs not Hawkeye at all.
On a slightly lighter note, director Joe Russo confirmed that Tessa Thompsonâs popular Ragnarok character, Valkyrie, did escape from Thorâs ship, along with exactly half the Asgardian refugees (Thanos is nothing if not consistent in his extermination practices) before the events of Infinity War kicked off. We may or may not see her again in Avengers 4.
In the comics, itâs a character named Adam Warlock who finally helps defeat Thanos and has the power to wield the Infinity Gauntlet. Though his arrival was teased at the end of Guardians 2, director James Gunn has said firmly that the character wonât appear until Guardians 3. Makes sense. It really doesnât feel like thereâs room for another new character in addition to Captain Marvel in Avengers 4.
Though it doesnât have a release date yet, we do know Guardians 3 both isnât a prequel to Infinity War and will feature at least Pom Klementieffâs Mantisâwho dissolved along with the rest of her crew in Infinity War. So, yeah, donât let that ash fool you: Gunn is getting the band back together at least one more time. The director told Vanity Fair: âGuardians Vol. 3 is a big part of the beginning of what comes after [Avengers 4]. Something Kevin has been really open to talking to me about is helping them decide where that goes . . . I donât even think Marvel had any ideas about where they would go after [Avengers 3 and 4]. Itâs not an end for all of these characters; itâs an end for some of these characters. So some of these characters will go on. So itâs more complicatedâthatâs why itâs not a clean ending.â