Avengers 4

So ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ ended on one hell of a cliffhanger.

“Duh,” right? But a statement is no less true for being breathtakingly obvious.

But the same, it seems, will not be the case when ‘Avengers 4’ arrives next year. While there is very little that we can say with any confidence about the film, one point that Marvel has hammered home for some time now is that it will serve as a finale of sorts to the current era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s still not entirely clear what that means, except that – as was the case with ‘Infinity War’ – it will see long-simmering plot threads finally brought to a boil and that several established stars are now at the end of their original contracts. And while some might stick around, that likely won’t be the case across the board.

But whatever precisely it might entail, we do know that the ‘Avengers 4’ will have what Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige describes as a “definitive ending,” not just for the story of Thanos and the Infinity Stones, but to the current era of the MCU. As Feige explained to the Toronto Sun:

“But, storylines can come to an end. The best stories do come to an end. ‘Return of the Jedi’ was an ending for a long time, and as a ten year old in 1983 that carried me through thirty years until there was a sequel. That hasn’t happened before in the superhero genre. A new actor comes in and a new storyline starts right away. We wanted to do it this way because we think that the best stories have a definitive ending to a storyline. That’s certainly what’s going to happen next year with ‘Avengers 4’.”

As Feige notes, this is an unusual approach to storytelling in superhero films. More typically, they pass the torch to new actors and/or creative teams (as was the case between ‘Batman Returns’ and ‘Batman Forever’), or keep making movies until diminishing returns of quality or profitability necessitates a fresh start (think ‘Spider-Man 3’ or ‘Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer’). While ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ might be the go-to example of a definitive ending in superhero cinema, even that isn’t exactly a precedent for what Marvel is attempting with ‘Avengers 4’. After all, while that film may represent a closure point of sorts for any number of characters and plotlines, the MCU itself isn’t going anywhere for at least the foreseeable future.

Directed by the Russo brothers from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, ‘Avengers 4’ continues the story that began in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ earlier this year. The film, which counts Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan, Paul Rudd, Chadwick Boseman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olson, Sebastian Stan, and three gentlemen named “Chris” among its gargantuan cast will arrive in theaters on May 3, 2019.