After 10 years, we're finally on the cusp of what's set to be the biggest and most anticipated superhero showdown that's ever hit the big screen: Avengers: Infinity War.
Although Infinity War isn't the conclusion of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it's set to bring dire consequences for the heroes we've grown to love during the last decade.
Nevertheless, this is far from the end of the MCU as we know it. In fact Vanity Fair has quoted Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios, as saying: "we've got 20 movies on the docket that are completely different than anything that's come before". He adds: "There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after."
However, he also told Comicbook.com that there wouldn't be any official announcement about Phase Four of the MCU until after the release of Avengers 4 in May 2019, so we've still got a long wait until we get anything concrete.
With a huge turning point ahead of us within the MCU, what could we possibly expect to see happening after Infinity War?
Be prepared to say goodbye to some of your favourite heroes
Infinity War is set to be a full-scale battle between Thanos (Josh Brolin) and the massed ranks of the Avengers, including the Guardians of the Galaxy. So there's bound to be some casualties – in a film with high stakes like this, no one is safe.
If we had to take a guess about who'll be biting the proverbial bullet, we'd have to say it's most likely to be Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Not only are each of their Marvel contracts due to expire after Avengers 4, they're three of the longest-serving bedrocks of the entire MCU, and seeing them exterminated will make Infinity War all the more devastating.
Tony, for example, is no longer just the quip-happy billionaire but embraced his paternal mentor role in last year's Spider-Man: Homecoming. As for Rogers, his super-strength and moral decency have made him one of the most valuable members of the Avengers team, so to see him meet his demise would also prove upsetting.
However, given that Scarlett Johansson is to reappear in a Black Widow film after her contract was scheduled to expire, too, it's entirely possible that the others might appear again.
Get ready to welcome (a lot of) new characters
As the saying goes, out with the old and in with the new. We may be saying farewell to some key players soon, but we'll also be getting to meet many more characters in the MCU's new era.
According to the aforementioned article by Vanity Fair, Disney (who own Marvel Studios) own the rights to a staggering 7,000 Marvel characters, and they intend to use them. Just how they plan to introduce this many new players into the next batch of films is anyone's guess at the moment, but, if true, we could see a lot more villains, side characters and heroes from across the comics come to the forefront.
We already know Captain Marvel (played by Brie Larson) will be joining the ranks in the film of the same name, released in March 2019. Then there's The Wasp (played by Evangeline Lilly), who'll feature in Ant-Man and The Wasp later this year.
There could be a brand new Avengers line-up
In recent years we've had a batch of new Avengers recruits, including Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). As a result, rumours of a new Avengers line-up are looking valid.
In the comics, there's been numerous Avengers members, so it makes sense to expand and evolve the pre-existing characters rather than rebooting the franchise, as some have already speculated.
Moreover, Bucky Barnes actor Sebastian Stan revealed to Nerdist that his character may go on to become the new Captain America. Not only would this mean Evans is leaving the series, but it would also confirm our theory about getting a new Avengers team.
We'll need a new main villain
The conclusion of the Infinity War storyline in 2019's Avengers 4 will also see the end of Phase Three of the MCU. Given Thanos actor Josh Brolin is playing Cable in the upcoming Deadpool 2 (and presumably in more films to come), it may be safe to assume that Thanos will be meeting his end.
But who could possibly follow a big bad as huge as Thanos? We obviously have no idea who Feige has in mind to take Thanos' place, but one suggestion is The Beyonder. This dreaded figure is perhaps the most powerful villain within Marvel's roster who plays a major role within an important comic-book arc (more on that in a second).
If there's a villain we'd want to see replace Thanos, it'd be The Beyonder. Of course, this may be wishful thinking and Feige could already have something bigger and better in store.
We'll see the start of a new story arc
Phase Four of the MCU needs to have another epic overarching narrative if it's to match what's come before. Again, we've got no idea what Feige is planning, but it's bound to be huge. If we're speculating The Beyonder will take Thanos' place, then it's likely we'd see the MCU cover The Secret Wars series, which would fit perfectly with where the series is at right now.
This arc would involve every Marvel character in an even bigger battle royale, and would eventually see Spidey acquire his black suit with the introduction of Venom following soon after. That's a story we want to see. (It's not clear how likely this is, given the Sony-owned Venom movie, due for release this October, is, according to Comicbook.com, outside the MCU.)
Andy Murray is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.