We're still coming to terms with the climax of Avengers: Infinity War, in which one finger snap obliterated half of all life in the universe – and a significant proportion of our favourite Marvel heroes.
Following the triumph of dreaded super-villain Thanos (Josh Brolin), the storyline of next year's Avengers 4 has been subject to much scrutiny. Directed by the Russo brothers, it's poised to change the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) forever, as it initiates the mysterious Phase 4 – but what exactly is going to happen?
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At the end of Infinity War, Thanos amassed all of the Infinity Stones needed to bring about the end of days. However, his gauntlet exploded after the deed – so why does a leaked piece of concept art point towards it working again?
Rumours are now swirling that some kind of time jump will be involved in Avengers 4 – but before we get to that, certain online bloggers indicate the film will begin five years after the events of Infinity War.
This correlates with a statement from Pepper Potts actress Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), who let slip that her character has a child with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Given we're yet to witness that within the MCU (although it was hinted at during an Infinity War dream sequence), it's an indication that Stark, who survived the finger snap, has gone on to enjoy some kind of settled family life with Pepper.
"Pepper and Tony have had a real long journey together," Paltrow told Avengers: Infinity War magazine (via comicbook.com). "She obviously starts as his dutiful assistant, and then the relationship evolves, and now this decade later they’re married, and they have a child. Their relationship has evolved in all of the ways that great romances evolve."
Further supporting the theory is the casting of 16-year-old actress Emma Fuhrmann, who purportedly plays Scott Lang/Ant-Man's (Paul Rudd) now grown-up daughter Cassie. Given the character was played by the younger Abby Ryder Fortson in the stand-alone Ant-Man movies (she was 10 when this year's Ant-Man and The Wasp was released), it points towards the storyline having advanced somewhat. Screenrant broke the casting news (via The Hashtag Show) back in April, although Fuhrmann is yet to be added to the IMDB cast list.
As for Lang himself, the Ant-Man and The Wasp post-credits scene revealed him to be lost in the Quantum Realm. If the storyline has indeed advanced five years, Scott's mind will no doubt have been thoroughly scrambled, given that all concepts of time and space cease to exist within that particular multi-verse. It does also mean that Lang survived Thanos' finger snap, and he may well emerge as one of the secret weapons (along with Captain Marvel) in the ongoing fight against the Mad Titan.
So how will Thanos' reign of terror be unwritten? This brings us back to the earlier time jump theory. MCU Cosmic Podcast founder Jeremy Conrad sums up the disparate Tony Stark and Scott Lang storylines with the following tweet, pointing towards more tragedy and sacrifice in the former's life. (He's already had to witness the 'death' of protege Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, so we dread to think what else Stark will have to go through.)
Whatever happens, we can expect major changes within the superhero franchise. Chris Evans recently tweeted about how he'd finished filming on Avengers 4, strongly hinting at the end of Captain America. And with the contracts for both Downey Jr. and Thor actor Chris Hemsworth coming to an end with Avengers 4, we're imagining some heart-wrenching plot twists on the way to the movie's conclusion.
The movie is released on 26th April 2019. Keep your eyes peeled on the blog for the reveal of the title and the first trailer. And don't forget to check out our essential guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.