It’s all been leading to this, or so Avengers: Infinity War’s tagline has suggested.
The culmination of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU) will see the Mad Titan Thanos take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes when Infinity War is released this week, and many fans all over the globe on eagerly anticipating the third installment of the Avengers arc.
Lots are also crossing all of their digits in the hope that their favourite superhero won’t perish at Thanos’ hand, with the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Vision.
Much has been written about who is expected to give their life to defend Earth, but what about those who should – and almost certainly will – survive to fight another day?
Let’s take a look at the contenders who are pretty much nailed on to take residence in the post-Infinity War MCU:
[NB: Potential spoilers follow on from this point!]
Marvel’s biggest money maker after it raked in more cash at the worldwide box office than the first Avengers film, Black Panther – aka King T’Challa – will definitely live.
Chadwick Boseman’s awesome portrayal of the King of fictional African nation Wakanda, and subsequent triumph of the overall film, means a sequel or two are destined to be on Marvel’s Phase 4 and 5 list.
One who should have no worries about making it through.
Plenty have become a fan of Holland’s Peter Parker in his two MCU outings to date but, judging by footage in one of the trailers, he could come up a cropper against Thanos.
Holland’s Spider Man, though, is another big hit for Marvel and has a six-film deal. Miles Morales’ iteration of the character won’t be too far away from hitting the big screen, but for now expect Spider Man to live to tell the tale.
Labelled the ‘White Wolf’ after seemingly being cured of his Winter Soldier indoctrination at the end of Black Panther, Bucky Barnes should have a big role to play in Infinity War.
Actor Sebastian Stan penned a ludicrous nine-film contract when he signed on for the first Cap film, and has only featured in three flicks to date.
With Avengers 3 and 4 only taking him up to five, he’s a dead cert to make it out alive.
The Guardians of the Galaxy
You could expect Marvel to finish off one of their cinematic original Guardians – Star Lord, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Gamora and Mantis – in Infinity War, but there’s not really a reason to do so.
With a third film already slated for release in Phase 4 of the MCU, and with all of the Guardians’ actors and actresses signed on for a couple more films, there’s no reason to suspect they won’t survive and jet off to do some more galaxy defending.
Bruce Banner/The Hulk
With almost all of the original Avengers lineup’s contracts ending after Avengers 4, not many are expected to help usher in Phase 4 of the MCU.
One who should be in line to feature, however, is Mark Ruffalo. The actor has a six-film contract with Marvel and would have one film left to feature in post-Avengers 4, so he must surely fight on.
He’s nowhere to be seen in any of the Infinity War trailers, but directors Joe and Anthony Russo have claimed that all will be revealed about Jeremy Renner’s character during the movie.
Renner apparently has a Hawkeye standalone film in his Marvel contract too and, while it’s highly unlikely that’ll ever happen, the fact that it’s there gives leeway to him remaining part of the MCU moving forward.
War Machine & Falcon
The lieutenants of Iron Man and Captain America respectively, James Rhodes and Sam Wilson may be surprise inclusions on this list.
With neither being a full-scale Avenger, it could be easy for Marvel to kill them off without too much backlash – but spots may open up for them in the Avengers lineup after Infinity War.
If Tony Stark or Steve Rogers make it – extremely likely at this point – then the duo could be in line for the mantles of Iron Man or Cap, providing the latter isn’t given to Bucky Barnes.
Alternatively, they just remain as characters in the MCU to help aid the newcomers moving forward.
A bit of a given due to Ant-Man and the Wasp being the next Marvel film to be released.
Like Hawkeye he’s been absent from any Infinity War promotional material, but with the sequel to the first Ant-Man set to release in the summer it’s obvious that Scott Lang will feature in some capacity past Avengers 3.
It’s unclear where Ant-Man’s sequel lies in relation to Infinity War, but we can expect to see Paul Rudd play some part in Avengers 4.
Quite a lot of the main Avengers and supporting cast are up for the chopping block from Infinity War onwards with a number of A-listers’ contracts set to end after Avengers 4.
Who might be back after that? Black Widow – who may perish – could be brought back if a standalone movie is green-lit, Shuri and Okoye must be dead certs with Black Panther sequels in the works, Dr. Strange if a second film is quietly in the works and Scarlet Witch could be if she doesn’t lose it if/when Vision bites the dust.
Every other bit hitter though? It might be best to have a box of tissues at the ready.
Avengers: Infinity War opens in UK cinemas at midnight on Thursday 26th April