Avengers: Infinity War has been setting itself up as the epic culmination of everything that has come before in the already-expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the third and fourth acts of the Avengers movies, Infinity War needs to deliver on having Earth's mightiest heroes face the highest stakes yet.
The team will have to face off against Thanos, the villain who has been teased since the first Avengers movie in 2012. Wielding the power of the Infinity Gauntlet (introduced way back in Thor) -- which has been seen along with four of the six infinity stones -- Thanos can do serious damage to the entire Marvel Universe. Will it take heroes from both Earth and the rest of the galaxy to defeat him? Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has yet to answer that question.
However, Infinity War directors Joe & Anthony Russo discussed the films with ComicBook.com:
"That is another one that we would have to reserve as a surprise, but we will say this: People will not be disappointed in the amount of characters in the movie. The concept of Infinity War is that the Marvel universe unites to battle the greatest threat to the world and universe that you’ve ever seen, and we’re going to honor that concept."
There's no doubt the film will deliver with a massive roster. Marvel is not shy about using every single actor/character they have in one film, as evidenced by both Avengers films and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. But will they really go all the way and give us mega space battles that bend reality? We've seen some of that in Thor and Guardians, but even the non extra-terrestrial movies have been whetting audience appetites for stranger fare.
Marvel movies have slowly started to test the boundaries of the genre since Ant-Man rolled into theaters this past summer. And one of Marvel's Phase 3 films, Doctor Strange, is being promoted as an introduction to the surreal, psychedelic, and mystical side of the MCU. In addition to possibly revealing yet another infinity stone, Doctor Strange may also pave the way for the type of film Infinity War will be. When asked about how these films would differ from the grounded nature of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the upcoming Civil War Joe Russo said:
"Anything that you could think of that has to do with fantasy or sci-fi or superheroes was in our universe. We're just going to approach the cosmic side with the same fervor that we did the earthbound work we've been doing. We also are going to work really hard to bring a psychological realism. We obviously can't bring a naturalism to it because it doesn't really exist outside of science fiction, but we can bring that psychological realism to it, to the characters, and that's going to be our focus."
So, Infinity War may really delve deeper into sci-fi and fantasy territory than previous Marvel films. Yet, psychological grounding being the 'normalizing' factor isn't new. Even though Winter Soldier did have a gritty, realistic, spy thriller feel, at the end of the day, it still exists in the superhero genre. Having characters with realistic motivations and emotions -- even in the most over-the-top situations -- has always been the most grounded aspect of Marvel's films. Even if Infinity War and Doctor Strange are significantly different in look and concept -- following grounded characters into that fantastic territory isn't something new to Marvel's audience.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 is scheduled to be released in movie theaters on May 4, 2018 with Infinity War Part 2 in theaters on May 3, 2019.