The endgame has finally arrived.
Marvel Studios' Avengers: Endgame, a monumental cinematic event that will wrap up 21 movies worth of storytelling and resolve that massive Infinity War cliffhanger, is here. Disney's restrained marketing has kept us almost completely in the dark about one of the most anticipated films in history, but before the veil on the mysterious final chapter is lifted, let's run through some of the key burning questions one last time.
1. How does Tony Stark make it home from space?
It's only recently that the marketing for Endgame has even acknowledged that Tony Stark doesn't die while stranded in space. So how does he make it back to Earth after being trapped on a ship with no food or water? Expect an innovative solution that calls back to the way this series began in Iron Man: a trapped Tony saving himself by building something incredible with limited resources.
2. How will Captain Marvel fare against Thanos?
Captain Marvel introduced Marvel's new most powerful hero, and the thinking was that Carol Danvers would play a major role in defeating Thanos in Endgame. But in a clip released by Marvel, she's so confident in the mission to take him out, which apparently happens near the beginning of the three-hour film, that the Russo Brothers could be setting the Avengers up for a crushing defeat early on. With Carol's origin being tied into one of the Infinity Stones, might Thanos be able to strip away her powers or easily counter her abilities, subverting our expectations that beating him would be a cinch with Captain Marvel on board?
3. How long of a time jump will there be?
Black Widow's changing hairstyle in the Endgame trailers suggests the film will jump forward in time, perhaps after the Avengers are unsuccessful in this initial battle against Thanos. So just how much time will pass as the world grapples with the fact that 50 percent of its population is gone forever? Are we talking months? Years? The answer may determine just how bleak this summer blockbuster is willing to get.
4. What will the reunion of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers look like?
Tony Stark and Steve Rogers will cross paths in Endgame for the first time since their devastating falling out, which occurred after the Avengers split apart over the Sokovia Accords and after Tony discovered Steve knew the truth about his parents' death. Captain America: Civil War's last scene made clear that Tony still has a place in his heart for Steve, and the franchise has been building up to the long-awaited moment when all is forgiven. But how easily accomplished will that be?
5. What will become of the Sokovia Accords?
It's easy to forget amid all this Thanos business that those controversial Sokovia Accords, which require the Avengers to operate under the supervision of a United Nations panel, are still in effect. The threat in Infinity War was big enough for this to mostly be ignored, but once the dust settles, will the Sokovia Accords be abolished?
6. Where are Jane, Betty, and Sharon?
Despite being the love interest of two Thor movies, Natalie Portman's character, Jane Foster, disappeared in Thor: Ragnarok, which only briefly referenced an off-screen breakup. That's way too unceremonious an end for such a crucial character, so perhaps Endgame will provide her with a more satisfying sendoff as it attempts to wrap up loose ends.
Similarly, maybe we can finally get an update on Betty Ross, Liv Tyler's character who was a major focus of The Incredible Hulk but has never been seen again. And while we're on love interests, what about Sharon Carter, the great niece of Peggy who Steve kissed in Civil War? What's the status of their relationship, and did she survive Thanos' snap?
7. Can Bruce Banner and the Hulk work together again?
Bruce Banner heads into Endgame unable to Hulk out, with his alter ego refusing to emerge when needed. Mark Ruffalo has teased that Marvel mapped out an arc for Bruce beginning in Thor: Ragnarok — in which Bruce for a while had the opposite problem of being stuck as Hulk — and concluding in Endgame. So what's the resolution? Will Bruce finally be able to achieve balance?
8. What's the status of Hawkeye's family?
Clint Barton has spent most of the past few years in retirement, and last we heard, he was with his family and under house arrest. He's back in Endgame, though, and in the trailers sure looks like a guy who has experienced a lot of loss. Could his wife and kids have perished in the snap? And how might Endgame set up his upcoming Disney+ series?
9. Where are the rest of the Asgardians, and will they find a home?
The hopeful ending of Thor: Ragnarok, in which Thor prepared to lead the Asgardians to Earth in search of a new home, was quickly deflated in Infinity War when Thanos brutally murdered them in the opening scene. But some of the Asgardians survived that encounter, including Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie. So where are they now? How many of them made it through the snap? And will they finally find a home after this is all over?
10. Is there still anything between Bruce and Natasha?
A romance between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff was a crucial plot point in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But in Infinity War, they only shared a brief moment after not having seen each other for years. Was that because Infinity War was simply too busy for anything more substantial? Or has this romantic subplot been abandoned?
11. How will Thanos' snap be undone?
Thanos' decimation of half of all life in the universe will obviously be undone. The central mystery of Endgame is not whether this will happen but how, exactly, it will. The prevailing theory is that it will involve a time travel adventure, which could be kicked off when Ant-Man emerges into the future from a Quantum Realm time vortex, as hinted at in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
What's the plan at that point? Whatever it is, a recent ad involving the Avengers splitting up into teams with separate missions suggests there will be more to it than simply going back and killing Thanos during Infinity War.
12. Does Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet still work?
Traveling through time would be a pretty complicated solution when the Avengers could simply fight Thanos and steal his gauntlet, using it to reverse the snap. But that's the plan the Avengers describe in that early scene released by Marvel, and the fact that there's evidently a time jump afterward (see Black Widow's hair) suggests this can't be accomplished. Why?
Maybe it's because Thanos is simply too difficult to defeat, but it's possible his gauntlet doesn't actually work anymore. It looked quite damaged at the end of Infinity War, and footage from one Endgame ad shows Thanos appearing to use his ship to warp down to a planet. Why would he be doing that when he has a magical gauntlet that can teleport him anywhere he wants? Maybe because it's busted, requiring the Avengers to come up with a more creative way to save the fallen.
13. Which characters will return from the dead?
Once the snap is reversed, everyone who died in it, from Black Panther to Spider-Man, will return. What's less clear is the fate of the characters who died normal deaths prior to the snap like Gamora, Loki, and Vision. Will they return as well?
That's seeming likely, especially as several pieces of recent marketing have grouped all of those who died throughout Infinity War together, suggesting the Avengers are looking to save everyone and not just the snap victims. Besides, Loki and Vision both have Disney+ shows in the works (although the former may be a prequel), and James Gunn has said Gamora will have a significant role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which is confirmed to take place after Infinity War.
14. Will the fallen heroes return before or after Thanos is dealt with?
Although it's obvious the snap will be undone, it remains unclear when in the film this will happen. Will it be at the very end after Thanos has been defeated? Or will it happen earlier, allowing every single character in the Marvel universe, including the previously dusted heroes, to come together in one final stand? Seeing as there was no such scene with every character working together in Infinity War, the latter certainly has its appeal.
15. Is Captain America a goner?
We were promised real stakes in this two-part saga, so how will the undoing of every single Infinity War death not feel cheap? There's one way: if it doesn't come without tremendous cost. A key Avenger needs to die for real, and at this point, it would be downright shocking if it wasn't Captain America. That's not just because Chris Evans has been heavily implying he's done playing the character, but also because as the man who has repeatedly shown his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good, his death makes by far the most sense. Whether he allows Tony Stark to kill him in order to unlock the Soul Stone, dies while undoing the snap, or is killed holding off Thanos, expect Endgame to be the end of the line for our friend from Brooklyn.
16. Can Tony Stark finally find peace?
On the other hand, Tony Stark's death seems less probable. For one, would the Russo Brothers fake us out with a near-death scene for Tony in Infinity War if he was going to actually die in the very next movie? Besides, Tony's arc since Iron Man 3 has been that of a tortured man haunted by the fallout of the original Avengers and his mistakes since, unable to find peace and achieve a normal life with Pepper Potts. Does that sound like an arc that ends in Tony's tragic death?
It would be more fitting for Tony to finally earn his happy ending and for Steve to be the one to sacrifice everything. Infinity War went out of its way to squeeze in a rare quiet scene of Tony and Pepper discussing having a child together, so expect that to happen in Endgame and for their much-discussed wedding to take place.
17. Was Tony's vision from Age of Ultron prophetic?
Tony's actions in Avengers: Age of Ultron were informed by a horrifying vision in which Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye all die. While fretting over the future of the Avengers, Tony referred to the threat from space, i.e. Thanos, as "the endgame." So now that the endgame is here, will that vision turn out to be significant? Or was it meant to foreshadow the ending of Infinity War, even if none of those characters actually died in Thanos' snap?
18. What other deaths or retirements will there be?
Anthony Russo told Vanity Fair in 2017 that the fourth Avengers is "the end for some of these characters," so don't expect Captain America to be the only one we have to say goodbye to. But that might just mean a few characters will retire, including Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, and potentially Natasha Romanoff if her spin-off film is to be a prequel. If there are to be other deaths, perhaps Rhodey and Nebula won't make it, but everyone else feels fairly safe. Then again, maybe that's just what the Russos want us to think.
19. Who will become the next Captain America?
If Steve Rogers dies, Marvel will almost certainly pass the Captain America mantle on to a new character at some point. So who will that be? The two biggest candidates are Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, but what complicates this is the fact that Marvel has announced a spin-off TV series about these characters called Falcon & Winter Soldier. The title referring to Sam and Bucky by their current superhero identities suggests this question might go unresolved in Endgame. But we could at least get a hint.
20. How does Captain Marvel get her name?
Carol Danvers is never referred to as Captain Marvel in her eponymous film, so will Endgame explain where she gets that name from? If it does, fans have speculated it could tie directly into Steve Rogers' likely death, with Carol taking it as a tribute both to Captain America and her mentor, Mar-Vell.
21. What will Stan Lee's final cameo be?
Stan Lee is expected to make his very last cameo in Endgame, as the Russo Brothers have said he did not shoot an appearance in Spider-Man: Far From Home prior to his death. Let's hope whatever it is, it serves as a suitable farewell, even if it wasn't originally intended as one.
22. What's next?
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building to this conclusion for nearly its entire existence. So after it's over, what's next? Will there be another big bad on his way? Will Marvel start building up to a specific event, like Secret Wars or Secret Invasion? Or will it go back to more self-contained films for a while?
Marvel in the past has tended to announce its movies many years in advance, but they haven't even officially told us what they're releasing next year, and the films rumored to be on their slate like Black Widow and Doctor Strange 2 provide no clues about an overarching storyline. Given that Thanos appeared in the mid-credits scene of the original Avengers, teasing an encounter that wouldn't take place for another six years, a credits scene of Endgame could provide a small hint at what a post-Infinity Saga Marvel universe will look like as a new phase is set to begin.