Every now and again, there are a few moments in popular culture so inherently profound that you just know, deep in the pit of your soul, that everything will be different afterwards. It doesn’t matter how many weeks or even months away it is. You just know.
Iron Man, which kicked off the MCU, was that kind of moment. The Avengers, which solidified it as a truly unified universe, was another. So was Civil War, which shook the franchise to its foundations. And by the look of it, Infinity War will prove itself in much the same way.
Judging by the newly released trailer, Avengers: Infinity War fits comfortably into the same mold as the first Avengers. That movie was about “bring[ing] together a group of remarkable people to see if [they] could become something more, so that when [the world] needed [them, they] could fight the battles that they never could.” Essentially, its main takeaway was that friendship is magic and, to borrow from Justice League, sometimes “you can’t save the world alone.”
Civil War largely inverted that idea. Yes, they are friends. Yes, they are stronger together. But they are also individuals: flawed and motivated by different, sometimes competing goals. Steve might be Tony’s friend, but he’s also Bucky’s, and there’s always going to be a line in the sand.
That movie largely brought the franchise back to square one. No, they didn’t just erase a decade’s worth of hard-earned continuity; they developed it in such a compelling way that the center did not – could not – hold. The team fractured: Tony maintaining the government-sanctioned Avengers team and Steve absconding to Wakanda with those who stood against them.
Regardless of all else the movie is about – which, judging from the trailer, includes payoffs for Loki’s troubled relationship with Thor, Peter Parker’s desire for full acceptance into the Avengers and Thanos’ phase-spanning quest for the Infinity Stones – it is fundamentally a return to form for the franchise. It brings Earth’s mightiest heroes, ALL of Earth’s mightiest heroes, together to save the entire universe from Thanos’ megalomaniacal ambitions.
This foremost means that it’s a “getting the band back together” story: bringing the splintered Avengers factions together and healing the lingering rift leftover from Civil War in the face of a far greater threat. Even if they fight the same battle on different fronts (which their disparate locations seem to suggest), they are still fighting on the same team. However, this also means tying together all of the nebulous elements left floating around the MCU from the last two phases in the franchise: bringing Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy and every other new or peripheral hero into the Avengers’ fold.
And while I understand that some people want Marvel to get away from the Avengers’ formula, the simple fact of the matter is that it works, and works incredibly well to boot. It is the inevitable end-point for this franchise post-Civil War and as of Ragnarok. Phase one built the MCU up, Phase 2 evolved it, and phase 3 has so-far torn it apart. It only makes sense that, scattered to the winds, the Avengers would find their way back to each other.