The fourth Avengers movie has a lot riding on its shoulders. Over a decade of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have been building to this moment, the final time we will likely see Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, Thor, Natasha Romanova et al on screen together. From the moment Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark announced to the world that he was Iron Man and Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury first mentioned the Avengers initiative back in 2008, expectations were high. And for the most part it hasn’t disappointed. We’ve had a decade of good to great movies; from the mighty Thor: Ragnarok, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Black Panther and of course the first Avengers movie. Even the less popular movies like Thor: The Dark World and The Incredible Hulk have still had much going for them. Is it too bold to say there hasn’t been a bad superhero movie in the bunch? Probably not.
But as fun as it has been to see many beloved superheroes translated from comics to the big screen in their own stories – all under the masterful direction of producer Kevin Feige – it’s also been a delight to see them come together in the big Avengers team up (and Avengers 2.5 Captain America: Civil War). 2018’s The Avengers: Infinity War was the biggest movie yet, as Josh Brolin’s terrific villain Thanos finally stepped out of the shadows after numerous teases to wreak havoc on the universe. And wreak havoc he did. Not only was he responsible for killing beloved characters like Loki, Hemidall and Gamora, he also finally managed to gain all the infinity stones and wipe out half the universe, along with many of our favourite superheroes.
Avengers 4 has so much to wrap up. It needs to find a way to satisfactorily resolve that almighty cliffhanger, because – SPOILER! – this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, who will all be back to make Disney masses of money in their respective second films, and because that act of wiping out half the universe was so catastrophic that there’s no way the Marvel Cinematic Universe would continue after that. And it also needs to give many of the original superheroes a fitting send-off. Like it or not, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth, three of the franchise’s biggest stars, have all come to the end of their contracts. And having played Tony, Steve and Thor for a decade, they’ll understandably want to move on. Could Iron Man, Captain America and Thor all die in a blaze of glory in 2019? The chances are high (though I’m sure we’d all happily see Hemsworth and Taika Waititi reteam for a fourth Thor after the critical success of Ragnarok).
Whatever the top-secret plot, the fourth Avengers movie is going to be something of a last hurrah for the original team. It’s notable that Thanos’ finger snapped wiped out most of the new heroes from Phase 2 onwards, leaving the original cast from phase 1 relatively intact (a few exceptions aside). Together with Ant Man (SPOILER – he’ll presumably be rescued from Quantum Realm after the end credit sting from Ant Man And The Wasp) and Captain Marvel (due to make her debut ahead of Avengers 4), this may be the last time Black Widow, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor fight side by side (assuming that there’s also time for the suspiciously absent Hawkeye to join the team too). As much as the movie will presumably set up phase 4 and beyond (which Feige promises will be very different to what has come before), this will also serve as the closing chapter on everything that came before it.
In essence, Avengers 4 is the final chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we’ve known it. This film needs to be bigger and bolder than ever, offering moments that will top everything that has come before. And it needs an ending, no matter how bittersweet that might be. This isn’t just one character’s journey coming to an end but multiple character journeys, all of which need to deliver a satisfying conclusion on all their appearances in stand-alone and team-up movies. How do you end the tale of Tony Stark or Steve Rogers? I am sure there are plenty of comic book inspirations to draw from. Though unlike those comic origins, when they stay dead, retired, or whatever end the Russo Brothers give them, they won’t be back for a surprise resurrection a year or two down the line.
But what do we know about the movie? Very little. We haven’t had a title yet, though of course the internet is rife with rumours of what that might be. From ‘leaked’ costumes, toy ranges and on set photos, time travel seems a likely component of the movie, perhaps traversing through past movies as some form of a greatest hits final hurrah. Will nostalgia be part of the magic? Absolutely. Somehow the damage Thanos has caused must be undone so that we can see the semi to officially confirmed Spider-Man 2, Black Panther 2 and Doctor Strange 2 come to light.
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It will also have spectacle, the likes of which we’ve probably not seen on screen before, and perhaps more heroes on screen at the same time together than any past film has dared. We had a whole host of heroes in Wakanda for the final battle of the last Avengers movie, but the next one will surely top that as it brings the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe to a virtual close. Of course, we also know very little about it, not even the title. And that says something about the movie, how careful Marvel are being in keeping the plot under wraps ready to astonish its audience next year.
Will the fourth Avengers movie be a 100% satisfying conclusion to everything that has come before it. We’d like to think so, but few finales on TV or film achieve that and what is satisfying to one person might be different to another. But it is sure to be a rollicking good send off. And I can’t wait to lay my eyes on it when April 2019 rolls by…