Infinity War Is Just Part 1 Of The Story
When it was first announced, Infinity War was a clearly-titled two-parter; in October 2014, Marvel announced their entire Phase 3 slate, with Infinity War Part 1 in May 2018 and Part 2 a year after. That changed about two years later, with the first simply Infinity War and Avengers 4 now untitled, with all involved coy about how they connect; they were still shooting back-to-back and seemingly part of the same story, yet the PR line was that they were clearly delineated. This led many to believe Avengers 3 was about the Infinity Gauntlet, with the fouth telling another story (Secret Invasion was a popular pick after the Skrulls were confirmed for Captain Marvel).
However, based on the ending of Infinity War, it doesn't look like much actually did change beyond the names (done presumably because "Part 1" isn't the best sell): Thanos winning is surely the originally envisioned break point, with only less pivotal story specifics (like the prominence of the Guardians and presence of Spider-Man) shifting majorly. And thus what we have is just one half of the story.
Half is right too, because while the next two movies between now and Avengers 4 are definitely going to link into this finale, they're both in the past: Ant-Man & The Wasp takes place in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, coming out of Scott Lang under house arrest; Captain Marvel is set in the 1990s with a pre-eyepatch Nick Fury, with the biggest question being how she'll transition into the future.
Beyond the impending arrival of Captain Marvel, established in the end-credits scene, when it comes to saying what we can expect from Avengers 4, things are tricky. The film never got a title after losing that Part 2, and it sounds like that won't be rectified any time soon. That said, Infinity War still provides a big clue to how the Avengers can still win the day.
Doctor Strange's Endgame Plan
The most confusing moment in the end stretch of Avengers: Infinity War is Thanos acquiring the Time Stone. He spends most of the movie trying to get it off Doctor Strange, who has sworn an oath to protect the Orb of Agamotto with his life and previously said he wouldn't hesitate in sacrificing Iron Man or Spider-Man to keep it out of the Mad Titan's hands. And yet when Tony gets stabbed and Thanos is about to deliver the killing blow, Strange interjects and gives up the Stone willingly, a move that allows the villain to subsequently get the Mind Stone and win.
While it's played plainly as Strange gaining compassion and valuing Tony, that's not really what's going on. As he says before vanishing, "there was no other way". Earlier, he saw 14,000,605 possible futures and only one where they won out: giving up the Time Stone - and allowing Quill to stop the earlier attempt at stopping Thanos - was Strange trying to ensure that single outcome, that 0.000007% possibility, comes to pass. When he says we're entering the "endgame", he doesn't mean the movie's final act, rather the MCU's, with that surrender essential in ultimate victory.
Now, it's likely that Stark has to remain alive for this to come to pass and so there is a measured element to Doctor Strange's decision coming when it does. However, given the nature of the villain's victory - the amount it cost him and the loss of purpose it leads to - it also seems that, on a grander scale, the only way to ultimately stop Thanos is for him to first win. Only when Thanos is devoid of all drive is he weak, and only when truly desperate can the Avengers win out. The future Strange has seen is torturous, even leading to his own death, but he fades away knowing that he's set the survivors on the path to victory.
Avengers: Infinity War may end on an incredible down-note of a cliffhanger, with half the cast dead and all hope lost, but this isn't true victory for Thanos. He has lost so much and the heroes are emboldened. The Avengers will fight back against Thanos, and they will win. Because if they can't protect the universe, you can be damn well sure they'll avenge it.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019