Ever since Avengers: Infinity War, audiences have been speculating which characters will meet their final end in the fourth Avengers movie. And as Avengers: Endgame began its marketing and we started to get a sense of the film’s tone, those death bets have only increased. My colleague Josh Wigler has been revisiting the Avengers greatest hits, failures and predictions for their futures in his Avengers: Endgame Final Path series.
There’s a sense that a number of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 1 characters will be either killed or taken off the board in order to put the spotlight on more recent additions like Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Plus, there are the ever-present contract discussions, with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans openly revealing that Endgame could be the end of the road for them. But contracts can be renewed, and if comics have taught us anything it’s that death and disappearance is not the end. Looking at the most likely candidates to make their exits — Iron Man, Captain America and Thor — we’ll enter the realm of Marvel’s “What If?” What if the ‘Avengers Trinity’ were to stick around in the MCU after Endgame?
Let’s take a look at the possibilities.
Most of us are expecting Iron Man to die. But, as Wigler highlighted, it’s possible that he gets to live happily ever after with Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), has a wedding and retires, leaving the future of the Avengers in new hands. So if Tony lives, will we still feel his presence in the MCU? Tony’s arc as Iron Man feels complete … well, almost. He created Iron Man to take responsibility for his role in warfare, only to see himself unintentionally leading Earth into its greatest war yet. There’s a fitting sense of kismet in Tony facing off against Thanos (Josh Brolin), who sees wielding the Infinity Gauntlet as his own form of taking responsibility. Given the fact that Thanos first debuted in the pages of The Invincible Iron Man, it’s almost too perfect to imagine these characters being each other’s end. But if Tony walks away, then it’s possible for him to serve as a kind of mentor, amping up his role for Spider-Man (Tom Holland), offering training for younger heroes and designing new armored suits. And if Rhodey (Don Cheadle) sticks around as War Machine, then it’s easy to imagine Tony pulling a Jarvis (Paul Bettany) and being his voice in the suit.
If Tony does die, then there’s still a way for Robert Downey Jr. to stick around in a limited capacity. Recently in the comics, in the aftermath of Civil War II, Tony was beaten into a coma by Captain Marvel (it’s a whole thing) and he uploaded his consciousness and became an A.I. This A.I Tony was able to project himself via a holograph and move around as a human while being what was effectively dubbed as “techno-ghost.” While a holographic Tony may strip away a sense of finality for the character, should Marvel Studios still want to call on the irreplaceable talents of RDJ, then this is certainly a plausible option.
Like Iron Man, Captain America is expected by many to die in Endgame. His death, punctuated by a ghostly reunion with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in Valhalla, would certainly be enough to turn on the waterworks for any crowd. While it’s possible to imagine Downey lured back for a small role, Evans speaks with a level of finality that suggests that he’s putting Steve Rogers behind him for good and moving on to other ventures, possibly returning to directing. With a Falcon & Winter Soldier series planned for streaming service Disney+, I imagine that the mantle of Captain America will be picked up again eventually. But what if Rogers lives? Could he turn away from a fight if called upon, and how will the character manage without Evans?
In 2014, Marvel Comics neutralized Steve Rogers’ super-soldier serum, turning him into a 90-year-old man. No longer able to hold his own in a fight, Rogers became mission coordinator for the Avengers. Before that, Rogers also oversaw SHIELD. It’s possible we could see an elderly version of Rogers, performed by a new, and much older actor, overseeing a reconstructed SHIELD. This would be a tough sell to audiences though, and it’s one that I wouldn’t want to see myself. Marvel Studios doesn’t seem desperate enough to go in this direction, but it does seem like an interesting “What If?” scenario that serves as an episode of Marvel’s ‘What If?’ animated series for Disney+. But I think we all know that Rogers deserves to be reunited with Peggy, even if the only path to that happy ending is death.
Out of the three characters most likely to exit the MCU, Thor seems the most likely to stay. Though he’s starred in three of his own solo movies, Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017), his mythos feels like it’s barely been tapped. More than any other of Marvel’s solo franchises, the Thor films have faced the biggest learning curves in terms of finding their voice. Arguably, fans didn’t really get a balanced version of Thor that captured the comics and made full use of Chris Hemsworth’s talents for both comedy and pathos until recently. Hemsworth also seems less inclined to move on from Marvel than Downey or Evans. As the youngest of the trio, and the one whose filmography is most geared towards action- and spectacle-driven films, I wouldn’t be surprised if Thor returns, even if Hemsworth takes a break from the role to pursue other projects for a while.
The actor has spoken about how Ragnarok and director Taika Waititi reignited his enthusiasm for the character, and it’s easy to imagine them re-teaming in the future. There’s also that fact that Thor is currently on a hot streak in Marvel Comics, courtesy of Jason Aaron. Overseeing both Thor since 2012 and the recently relaunched Avengers, Aaron has positioned Thor at the forefront of the Marvel Universe once again. His stories are leading the way for galactic conflicts and are culminating in Marvel’s current event series, The War of Realms, which brings together nearly every Marvel character in a battle across the ten realms. The thought of a Thor series that never tapped into Jason Aaron’s stellar run from the God Butcher to the War of the Realms is too much to bear, especially since Marvel now has access to the Shi-Ar, Galactus and other cosmic characters. And on the subject of cosmic characters, it just seems fitting that Thor would interact with his godlike counterparts, The Eternals, eventually. I can see why Tony Stark and Steve Rogers’ franchises have concluded, but there’s simply too much Thor for Endgame to really be the end for our Prince of Asgard.
Whatever the Russo Bros. have planned for these three characters in Avengers: Endgame, we’re certain to be surprised. But, there’s less certainty that all of them will be gone from the MCU for good. There’s a lot more years of the MCU planned, maybe even decades, so when it comes to seeing these familiar faces again, we’ll never say never.