Hulk-size spoiler alert: Do not read on if you have not seen “Avengers: Endgame.”
“Avengers: Endgame” dropped a hammer on box office history, grossing a record-eviscerating $356 million in North America and setting a new benchmark for a global opening weekend at $1.2 billion.
But if we’ve taken any lessons from Marvel and its cinematic universe, it’s that the most important adventure is always the one ahead. “Avengers: Endgame” addresses key development points for the future of the super-team, as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy and various stand-alone costumed do-gooders. It also inspires questions about when and where we might see our heroes next. “Endgame” was a conclusion 10 years in the making, the second half of which was fraught with rumors about the fictional futures and contractual obligations of its marquee stars: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans (Captain America) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye).
Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely told Variety their sprawling work “demanded resolution” for those curious about which characters would thrive and which would represent a tremendous loss For a year, fans have waited to see who might remain to tangle with Thanos, who wiped out half of all life in the universe with a snap of his fingers in “Avengers: Infinity War,” the previous installment in the franchise. While the Russo Brothers, the directing team behind “Endgame,” have worked tirelessly to conceal the fate of these heroes, the movie stars who inhabit them have been more talkative.
Evans has spoken at length about his desire to engage in independent fare, bemoaning the laborious production schedule of special-effects films that only shoot about two script pages a day. Downey Jr., the first and arguably biggest star of the MCU, has been hinting that he is ready to hang up Iron Man’s suit. His co-star Gwyneth Paltrow told Variety in March that she would soon be retiring as Pepper Potts, further fueling rumors that Tony Stark was prepared to fly off into the sunset. The conclusion of “Avengers: Endgame” provides answers for fans guessing at the roles these actors will play in subsequent Marvel films, but it also raises an intriguing new set of narrative possibilities. Here are the burning questions.
1. What’s next for Captain America?
The fate of the most patriotic member of the Avengers was sealed at the end of “Endgame,” when Evans passed his vibranium shield to Anthony Mackie, who has previously played Cap’s sidekick, Falcon. It was a sweet and decisive moment that answered a lingering query; many fans speculated that the Captain America moniker would transfer to Sebastian Stan, who has played Evans’ cohort Bucky “Winter Soldier” Barnes in several titles. Should Marvel place Mackie in a significant role or a stand-alone vehicle, it would be the second such landmark for an African American leading man — after “Black Panther” — at the Disney-owned shop. ¶ The rub? Both Mackie and Stan are on board for a Disney Plus streaming series, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” slated to hit in 2020, though it’s uncertain if Mackie will rock his new shield or if the series will take place before the events of ”Endgame.”
2. Primed for ‘Black Panther 2’
“Black Panther 2” was greenlit almost immediately after the first film racked up a massive $1.3 billion worldwide. It should be no surprise, then, that Chadwick Boseman’s King T’Challa springs back to life in “Endgame” after having been presumably killed off in “Infinity War.”
He’s joined in the film by the rest of Wakanda’s royal family — Angela Bassett’s Ramonda and Letitia Wright’s Shuri. Scene-stealing Winston Duke and powerhouse Danai Gurira also appear in “Endgame.” Suspiciously missing is Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia, though many speculated the actress’s demanding role in Jordan Peele’s “Us” kept her from showing up to the “Endgame” set.
The “Black Panther” sequel is undated, but that could change soon. After all, Comic-Con and Marvel owner Disney’s D23 expo are upcoming.
3. Will the ‘Black Widow’ film be a prequel?
Johansson’s Black Widow is getting a stand-alone movie as part of Marvel’s next phase. However, the deadly assassin has clearly seen better days at the conclusion of the latest Avengers movie. Use your imagination, but the events of “Endgame” would suggest we’ll see Romanoff well before she ever took on Thanos.
4. Hulk need job
“My brother and sister Avengers, I love you so much and I can’t wait to do the next movie with you,” Ruffalo said at the Los Angeles premiere of “Endgame.” Yet no such movie or streaming project has materialized for Ruffalo’s Hulk. In “Endgame,” brainiac scientist Bruce Banner and his giant raging alter ego find a way to coexist in the same body. But when will he next pop up? No new Avengers films have been announced, and it appears unlikely that Hulk will cameo in “Shang-Chi” or “The Eternals,” two upcoming Marvel movies. We may have a five-film stretch before we see green again.
5. Does Thor have an identity crisis?
Hemsworth’s Thor has always played in a trippier, more fantasy-based sandbox than the rest of his squad. He’s been compelling through multiple stories thanks to the supporting characters that Marvel throws at him, as with his last solo go in “Thor: Ragnarok,” co-starring Ruffalo and the luminous Tessa Thompson. Instead of setting up Thor for a fourth outing, “Endgame” makes it plain he’s headed to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” That film will apparently reunite Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista and a resurrected Zoe Saldana.
6. Is Hawkeye here to stay?
After a curious absence from “Infinity War,” Renner’s Clint Barton returns with one of the darkest storylines of “Endgame.” Hawkeye has always been an outlier in the core Avengers team — something Disney Plus will explore in an untitled 2020 streaming series starring Renner that reportedly will reveal more about the archer’s origins.
7. Are you there, Carol Danvers?
Larson’s Captain Marvel, civilian name Carol Danvers, lives up to her reputation as the most powerful superhero in the Marvel constellation. Though she lends a hand at a key moment, she keeps reminding the Avengers that she’s needed elsewhere in the universe. Given how much money “Captain Marvel” made, it’s hard to picture Larson’s galaxy-spanning adventures not being fodder for more stand-alone exploits.