Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe begins now. Its first chapter, Captain America: Civil War, has already opened in theaters across various international locations and tonight its preview screenings begin in North America. And even though it's years away, Civil War's directors (Anthony and Joe Russo) and writers (Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus) are already at work on the end of Phase 3 with the first complete scripts coming in for Avengers: Infinity War.
Infinity War was announced in 2014 as a two-part event movie of sorts debuting in May 2018 and May 2019 but since then the Russos have described the films as "very different" separate stories, revealing that the titles using "part 1" and "part 2" is actually misleading. That's why Avengers: Infinity War's two parts are going to be re-titled.
Given the history of movies shot back-to-back tending not to not always be great (Matrix 2 and 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3, The Hobbit, etc. are a few of the rough examples) using a title that says each movie isn't really complete on its own isn't smart marketing. It tells audiences that in May 2018 they aren't getting a full movie experience, so the Russos revealed this week while promoting Captain America 3 that the projects will be re-titled. Whether that was a change in plans after the announcement, or whether the real titles were intentionally kept secret from the beginning remains to be seen.
Without knowing specific plot details on how Marvel will tell their largest Avengers stories yet and use them to conclude not only Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but to put an end to an entire "saga" and start a new one, we can at least talk to some of the larger core pillars of these movies that are obvious. Avengers 3 & 4 will aim to deliver the big payoff to the franchise's ultimate villain, one who's been teased in each Phase so far and one who poses the greatest threat to the Avengers and the entire universe as we will know it in 2018 when Avengers - Part 1 debuts.
What We Know About Avengers 3 & 4
Digging a little deeper, however, we already know from snippets of information offered by McFeely, Markus, the Russos, and Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige that Thanos won't be the only villain of Infinity War. We could see other returning antagonists (i.e. Loki) and we'll even meet some entirely new ones.
If rumors and the occasional trade report can be trusted, Avengers 3 (currently referred to as Infinity War - Part 1) may focus on "secondary" Avengers characters, paving the way for Avengers 4 which could include everyone. We don't quite yet know for sure if Marvel TV characters will make an appearance, but everyone in the MCU film side should play a role - even the directors admit that much.
We also know Thanos will finally get to shine in the spotlight as a lead character for once. He's only had seconds of screen time in the 13 MCU movies to date and we know from writer-director James Gunn that Thanos will not appear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 so it's a safe bet Thanos will be a main character of Avengers 3, if not the main character. After all, everything in the long-form story of the MCU so far has been building towards this movie, introducing the Infinity Stones and Infinity Gauntlet - the ultimate plot MacGuffin that Thanos will acquire, assemble, and use against the Avengers.
That's where the initial "Infinity War" title came from and it's been obvious for years that the destination point of Marvel's movies has for a long time been an adaptation of writer Jim Starlin's classic cosmic stories involving Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet. So, with the basics already known, let's quickly discuss what titles Marvel may use for Avengers 3 and 4 instead.
What Should Avengers 3 & 4 Be Re-Titled To?
Avengers 3 needs to see all of the six Infinity Stones unveiled at the very least, and it's a safe bet they'll be collected and assembled. A good conclusion to that movie could simply be Thanos putting on the fully functional Infinity Gauntlet. That would be both a conclusion and the ultimate cliffhanger for what the heroes of the MCU must face in Avengers 4.
That's also roughly how it played out in the source material with The Thanos Quest storyline seeing the Mad Titan collect the six stones (referred to as gems in the comics). Here are the easy and recognizable titles Avengers 3 could go with if so:
- Avengers: Thanos Quest
- Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet
Keep in mind, the movies will absolutely 100% keep "Avengers" in the title. It's essential branding. As for Part 2, where everyone (who remains standing) must stand against Thanos, one of the other followup miniseries titles from the comics could similarly be used.
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Avengers: Infinity Crusade
- New Avengers
The last one in the list is more a fun idea for an idea for the future than a legitimate title. It won't be that, but the idea of "New Avengers" is straight from the books when unexpected heroes formed the new team of Earth's Mightiest, and that could happen in Phase 4 if characters like Netflix's Defenders are brought to the big screen. The most realistic titles, at this point anyway, might simply be Infinity Gauntlet and then Infinity War. It fits what we know, follows the comics, and defines what we can expect from each movie - keeping them connected be distinct.
However, even if an obviously applicable and recognizable title from Marvel Comics is used it of course doesn't mean the movies will or should adapt that specific story from the comics exactly. The "Age of Ultron" subtitle for Avengers 2 certainly didn't have much to down with the same-named 2013 crossover event from the source material.
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.
Infinity Gauntlet logo by Joe Steiner.