Anticipation is at a fever pitch for Avengers: Infinity War, set to hit theaters in the United States on May 3, 2018. The third installment of the Avengers movies marks Marvel’s 18th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans have seen teases of Thanos, the bad guy who first appeared in a post-credit scene for The Avengers, several times. Finally, we’ll see Earth’s mightiest heroes going toe-to-toe with the most powerful villain in the universe!
But that won’t be the end of the madness. Avengers 4, which currently has no title, will come out in May 2019 and finish the Thanos storyline. According to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, that will also mark the end of the road for several popular characters.
Let’s take a look at the characters who will likely be retiring from the big screen, as well as some who probably won’t retire anytime soon.
It was 2008’s Iron Man that kicked off the MCU as we know it. At the time, nobody — even those pulling the strings — had a clue just how big this thing would get. The origin story, featuring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, was a critical success, prompting two more Iron Man movies and many more appearances by Downey in MCU movies.
In total, Tony Stark will have appeared in eight films heading into Infinity War (if you count the post-credit scene in The Incredible Hulk). His story arc has been clear, taking Stark from the immature playboy turning a blind eye to his own weapons-dealing to a character who is actually introspective about how he can create a better world and become a better man.
Downey is currently only scheduled to appear in the next two Avengers movies, and there are rumors he won’t even make it that far.
In truth, it sort of feels like Captain America’s story has already been written from beginning to end. Chris Evans first appeared on the big screen as Steve Rogers back in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. We saw Cap take down the evil Hydra and Red Skull while making the ultimate sacrifice, crashing into a glacier and becoming frozen in ice for nearly 70 years. At the end of the movie, Rogers wakes up in the modern day, confused and with plenty of questions.
Rogers goes from a symbol of the United States military, the ultimate soldier, to completely losing his trust in the government. He loses the love of his life, Peggy Carter, when he crashes in 1942, only to find she is still alive in 2011.
In Captain America: Civil War, Peggy dies and Rogers finishes going rogue, even turning his back on several of his friends. We know that he’ll appear in Infinity War, but fans should be on notice that Captain America may be a casualty.
Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, has now made some sort of appearance in five movies if you include the post-credit scene following Iron Man 3. Originally played by Edward Norton in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Marvel recast the role with Mark Ruffalo in 2012 for The Avengers. Ruffalo’s Banner has been mostly absent, due to strange rules about how the studio can use the character. He has appeared in both Avengers movies and recently popped up again in one of Marvel’s biggest triumphs to date, Thor: Ragnarok.
Ruffalo has implied that Ragnarok and the two upcoming Avengers movies will serve as a pseudo-trilogy for the Hulk, who we have learned has developed a stronger ability to communicate and could be slowly taking over in the constant battle between the two alter egos.
Like with Stark and Rogers, it seems likely that Bruce Banner and the Hulk’s story will have been told in detail by the end of Avengers 4. Will Banner get his life back, or will he meet his demise?
It’s possible that Avengers 4 won’t be the last appearance in the MCU for Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow. Fans have called for a solo film for Scarlett Johansson’s popular character (only technically scheduled to appear in Infinity War as of this moment). The next Avengers movie will be her seventh appearance in the MCU, starting with her role in Iron Man 2 back in 2010.
It’s a safe bet that Johansson will indeed be back for Avengers 4, which has already begun filming. But will she appear again in a Black Widow movie down the road? Marvel has movies planned out to 2020, but it’s possible that they could sneak a Black Widow movie into the schedule as early as May of that year.
Johansson will be 35 at the time, which shouldn’t be an issue, but movie studios are famously ageist when it comes to female roles. Another option they could look at is an origin story set in Natasha’s earlier years.
Chris Hemsworth first appeared as Thor back in 2011’s movie of the same name. The God of Thunder has appeared in six total films so far, counting the Thor trilogy, the two previous Avengers films, and a post-credit scene in Doctor Strange pulled straight from Ragnarok. We know that Hemsworth’s Thor and his mischievous adopted brother Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) both appear in Infinity War, considering the end of Ragnarok pretty much leads directly into it.
Like so many other characters, Thor’s story has been told in a way that is satisfying to the viewer. In the first Thor movie, he was immature and unworthy of the throne. By the end of Ragnarok, Thor made tough decisions and symbolically took up leadership of the Asgardians from his father, Odin.
The character certainly has a role to play in the battle against Thanos, but that should probably be the end of Thor on the big screen.
Like Black Widow, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye (also known as Clint Barton) has not had his own solo movie yet. But unlike with Johansson’s popular character, not too many fans are calling for Hawkeye to have his own standalone. He first appeared in a small role in Thor, returning to play a serious role in The Avengers before moving into retirement at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Barton came out of retirement in Civil War to fight alongside Captain America, and his current whereabouts are unknown. What we do know is that Marvel credits his appearances in both Infinity War and Avengers 4, but the character has no scheduled appearances beyond the fourth Avengers installment.
Hawkeye is a cool superhero as a member of an ensemble, but he doesn’t hold up well on his own. Considering that Barton now has a wife and three small kids, we’re hoping he survives and can peacefully slip back into retirement.
Although we could be seeing the final appearances of the heroes from the original Avengers film, the newest Avenger — OK, he’s not technically an Avenger yet — will definitely be returning to the big screen after Avengers 4.
Tom Holland first appeared as Peter Parker (Spider-Man) in Civil War, excitedly working alongside Iron Man, Black Widow, Vision, and War Machine. 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming was a major success, leading the young Parker directly into his involvement in Infinity War.
Marvel has a Spidey trilogy planned, with Spider-Man 2 currently scheduled to release on July 5, 2019 — following Avengers 4 by two months. Spider-Man 3 will be on the way shortly after but doesn’t have a release date as of yet. Otherwise, Captain Marvel (in theaters in March 2019) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2020) are the only films confirmed for Marvel’s next phase.
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So who else will survive into the next era of the Marvel universe? Well, Black Panther living is a pretty safe bet. He just recently tore up the box office with his solo movie, and Marvel has set him up to be a crucial player going forward. Chadwick Boseman has also signed up for five films, meaning he’d still have one left after Avengers 4.
Doctor Strange likely won’t die, either. He’s still got a lot of story left in him, including a conflict with Mordo, which presumably will not resolve itself in these Avengers movies and is a setup for Doctor Strange 2. Feige has also said that the studio would like to make a Doctor Strange sequel.
Ant-Man, too, will probably live. Ant-Man and the Wasp is coming out this summer, and Michael Pena recently implied there will be a third one. Black Panther 2, Doctor Strange 2, and Ant-Man 3 haven’t technically been confirmed yet, probably because doing so would spoil who lives and who dies. But in Phase 1, every single Marvel hero who received a solo movie got at least two more, with the exception of Hulk.
Additional reporting by Brendan Morrow.
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