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Featuring superheroes from every Marvel movie to date, there are literally dozens of characters in Infinity War. Some will just have background roles (Ant-Man? Hawkeye?), but it’s still hard to see how the filmmakers can balance such a massive cast. Particularly since they have to combine action scenes and the main Thanos storyline with ongoing arcs from earlier movies.
Looking over the last few Marvel movies, there are a few threads that seemingly must be resolved. But will they? Here’s a rundown of the highlights.
Iron Man vs. Captain America
Since the last Avengers team-up was actually about splitting the team, Infinity War needs to resolve the fallout from Civil War. The trailers avoid showing Cap and Iron Man together, keeping Steve Rogers in Wakanda with Bucky and Black Widow, and partnering Tony Stark with the Guardians of the Galaxy. They’ll join forces against a common enemy, but will they actually be friends and teammates again?
Steve and Tony’s relationship is one thread we definitely expect to see resolved. The wider worldbuilding is a different question, though. Civil War ended with Steve breaking his allies out of the Raft prison, and the Infinity War trailers show T’Challa giving him a new shield—hinting at a Nomad-like role as a stateless hero.
Thanks to the prequel comic Avengers: Infinity War Prelude, we know what the other Avengers have been doing. Clint (Hawkeye) retires to be with his family, Wanda and Vision move in together in Europe, and Steve stays active in a team with Black Widow and the Falcon. But what about the Sokovia Accords? Are superheroes still required to register with an international authority? Are half the characters still on the run from the law?
Bucky Barnes in Wakanda
Infinity War will obviously have to explain how Shuri helped Bucky recover from his HYDRA brainwashing. Black Panther also hinted that Bucky will adopt a new superhero code name, the White Wolf. However, it’s hard to imagine Bucky’s emotional arc getting much screentime alongside the epic conflict with Thanos.
This is a familiar bugbear for a lot of Marvel fans, because Civil War arguably sidelined Bucky’s arc after Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He has a complicated emotional journey following his escape from HYDRA, and Infinity War may be our last chance to see him and Cap resolve decades of trauma. After all, this movie is rumored to include some major character deaths.
Star-Lord’s return to Earth
In Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill’s entire schtick is about being a lone human among aliens. He’s shaped by nostalgic pop-culture references and memories of his childhood on Earth, but he hasn’t returned since then. Infinity War seemingly drops him onto Earth circa 2018, but he’ll return to his spacefaring adventures in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Will Infinity War have time to unpack those issues between quips and action scenes? Probably not.
Loki and Thanos
There’s a popular fan theory that in The Avengers, Loki was mind-controlled by Thanos. Loki obviously needs no encouragement to cause mayhem, but the whole “conquering Earth with a Chitauri army” thing was a direct partnership with Thanos. The new trailer shows him captured by Thanos’ Black Order, so we may finally learn more about this six-year-old plot point.
Bruce and Natasha
Bruce and Natasha’s romance was the most controversial element of Avengers: Age of Ultron. The relationship came out of nowhere and saddled Natasha with a dubious neurosis about her own fertility, which didn’t sit well with a lot of fans. Civil War sidestepped the issue, but since Thor: Ragnarok went out of its way to include a Bruce/Natasha nod, we can expect more in Infinity War.
Most of the other characters have ongoing arcs, but these are the ones that really feel like loose ends. The question is, how much character-based screentime will they actually get? The Infinity War trailers suggest an action-heavy tone, and with this many headline characters, there simply isn’t time for everyone. This echoes a similar problem in crossover event comics, which often ignore or interrupt storylines from solo comics. So if you’re hoping for a meaty resolution to Bucky’s recovery arc or Bruce and Natasha’s romance, it may be time to rein in your expectations.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor