2018 wrapped up what was another dominant year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther set domestic box office records and transcended the brand’s well-known mechanics to become a beloved modern classic. The studio looks to continue its reign atop the Hollywood blockbuster food chain with the release of the next Avengers movie, slated to drop on April 26th.

The film feels like it could be a major turning point in Marvel’s nearly two-decade-long run of excellence. Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine from the early 2000s was just the tip of the iceberg – these days, the MCU is an intricate, dense ecosystem that has consistently enthralled both casual moviegoers and hardcore fanboys alike. However, change might be on the horizon.

Superhero hitmaking legend Stan Lee is no longer with us. DC’s Aquaman was an eye-popping romp that proved that its rivalry with Marvel may not continue to feel as one-sided. That’s not to suggest that studio head Kevin Feige and the rest of Marvel’s creative team have lost a step but, after releasing more than 20 films, the times feel like they’re a-changing, if just slightly. In truth, Endgame represents what could be an MCU-altering final chapter to one of the most involving and, from a moneymaking standpoint, prolific action franchises of all time.

With public anticipation ramping up, the movie has, predictably, been blanketed with the utmost secrecy; in fact, before the official trailer dropped on YouTube, no one was sure what the film’s title was going to be. Couple that with some wild fan theories and you have an internet hype machine that is particularly difficult decode in this instance. Nevertheless, here’s a complete rundown of everything we know about Marvel’s next big-screen behemoth, Avengers: Endgame.

The Tone Will Be Somber

The official trailer for the upcoming flick was a YouTube record-breaker. It raked in 289 million views in its first 24 hours online, besting the previous high-water mark of 230 million set by (wait for it) the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer. If there’s one big takeaway from the first look at Endgame, it’s that the film’s tone is likely to be way more subdued and somber than its previous outings.

Opening with a sobering Tony Stark voice message, it’s also easy to see why this is the natural progression of all things Avengers – after all, they did witness the destruction of half of all living creatures at the hands of Thanos in the previous chapter of this saga. While the characters will likely still have ample opportunity to dish out the one-liners that have become a hallmark of the franchise, Endgame may go to even darker places than Infinity War took us.

Plot Details Are Still Unknown

As is typical with the folks over at Marvel Studios, plot details are still largely unknown at the time of this writing. However, that hasn't stopped MCU stans from speculating about different theories and, in some cases, which new characters could factor into Endgame's story arc.

Front and center is the notion that time travel and multiverse hoping will play a huge role in the upcoming film, especially when it comes to characters thought to be dead. This fan theory speaks specifically to the side rumor that Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, will be making his big screen return this spring. "I’ve seen plenty of Loki isn’t dead posts and have got pretty sick of them myself," wrote one Reddit user in the site's community devoted to fan theories, “but what if Loki did, in fact, die on the ship at the beginning of Infinity War and will come back in a different way?" 

In an interview with Mashable this past week, the aspect of time travel was confirmed by Samuel L. Jackson, although we'll still have to wait and see how exactly this superpower is manipulated. When discussing the odds against the Avengers, Samuel let it slip that Captain Marvel can time travel: "So now we know we need something that's as powerful as Thanos, and at some point, we'll find out how powerful she is and all the things that she's capable of. She's one of the few people in the Marvel universe that can time travel." 

Speculation surrounding the possible introduction of new characters has been even more intense. Leading this charge has been Jeremy Conrad, founder of MCU Cosmic, who tweeted out a cryptic teaser that seemed to suggest the hero Black Knight is a big part of Marvel's current and future cinematic plans.

The studio and the actors involved with the movies are keeping a tight lid on all plot details - so seriously, in fact, that Captain Marvel star Brie Larson "mentally deleted" key plot points to keep them from going public by accident. Talk about a Fort Knox operation.

Key Characters Will Be Returning

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Despite the sudden disappearance of several beloved superheroes in the franchise’s previous installment, the online cast list for Endgame should let Marvel diehards breathe a sigh of relief.

All the major players seem to be returning, including:

  • Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man;
  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America;
  • Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man;
  • Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa/Black Panther;
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow;
  • Chris Hemsworth as Thor;
  • Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk;
  • Josh Brolin as Thanos;
  • Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man;
  • Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch;
  • Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne/The Wasp; and
  • Drax and Rocket from the Guardians crew

Jeremy Renner will be making an appearance as Hawkeye, info based on a trailer reveal that featured him trading in his signature crossbow for a samurai-style sword. The MCU's newest flagship hero, Carol Denvers/Captain Marvel, played by Brie Larson, will also be joining the cast for this blockbuster sequel.

There’s no telling exactly how much screen time his character will enjoy in this new movie, nor has there been any advance word on any additional first-time players joining the arena, but let’s just be happy that not all the main cast members perished in Thanos’ wake.

Speaking of which…

Thanos Has a New Look (We Think)

The evil demigod, voiced by veteran actor Josh Brolin, is reportedly getting a costume and weapon makeover for the upcoming film. Leaked action figure concept art made the rounds online earlier in 2018 and, according to ScreenGeek, is supposedly a legitimate depiction of what we can expect from Thanos’ look in Endgame.

A more in-depth look at the Avengers antagonist may come closer to the movie’s release, with additional trailers/teasers paving the way for fans to get some more insight. Another character getting a costume revamp is supposedly Captain America, with his new herowear coming courtesy of a Lego leak of all things.

The figure in the leak depicts Cap wearing an all-white suit, all but confirming that he and the heroes are headed to the Quantum Realm. Thor and Rocket Raccoon toys, also showing the characters in white suits, has their likenesses leaked online last year. See below for the leaked image of Cap.

However, the studio’s marketing campaign for this film will feel decidedly different than anything we’ve seen from Marvel in the past, so there’s no guaranteeing that kind of outcome either.

Avengers: Endgame’s Running Time Might Crack 3 Hours

In an interview with Collider, Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo were asked about several of the film’s details, including how long it will be. Infinity War clocked in at a shade under two-and-a-half hours and, when pressed on whether its sequel will go longer, Joe Russo said it could “easily” run 3 hours.

According to Anthony Russo, Disney has never given the duo time constraints that they have to follow in order to get a film released. Honestly, no matter how long the movie is, you know that millions of people will flock to theaters to see it. That said, if you’re looking at a Godfather-esque running time, Marvel will likely be venturing into less kid and family-friendly territory in doing so.

Marvel’s Trolling Has Been Top-Notch

Even with all the speculation and scrutiny that the forthcoming flick has been smothered in, those involved with the MCU have still connected with their fans with some masterful trolling maneuvers.

The Russo brothers were in the middle of this recent meme swirl, substituting their old Twitter profile picture with a fan-made image featuring studio luminaries Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, the latter of whom will be playing Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home.

By the way, if you haven’t been following Jackman and Reynolds’ “beef” on social media, do yourself a favor and check it out.

However, those trolling attempts didn't come close to Mark Ruffalo's bleeped title reveal on The Tonight Show last October.

It ignited a (fake) Twitter back-and-forth between the actor and the Russo brothers, although the entire seemed to be a publicity stunt dreamed up by the studio. Still, lip readers have been trying to decipher what Ruffalo said ever since.