Warning: Heavy spoilers from throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe are present in this post, excluding Avengers: Endgame Proceed with caution.
So, you’ve got a ticket to see Avengers: Endgame. But the thing is… you’ve never seen a Marvel movie, have no idea what an Infinity Stone is, and are pretty sure Thanos is a brand of dish detergent.
Bad news: Endgame is out now, so you’ve only got a little time to get caught up before diving in to 2019’s most anticipated premiere.
Good news: We’re here to help you cram before you hit the theater!
Prioritizing efficiency over thoroughness, here are all of the Marvel basics you need to know for the Endgame. Feel free to scroll, skim, and CTRL+F throughout this article for all your last-minute tidbit needs. (Tip #1: This movie is about superheroes.)
Fast facts about Avengers: Endgame
Directed by the Russo brothers, Avengers: Endgame is the final film in a 22-part series that has followed (you guessed it) The Avengers, as well as the whereabouts of six powerful gems known as the Infinity Stones, the forces of which left half of Marvel’s heroes dead at the end of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War.
It is widely speculated that Endgame will focus most of its plot on bringing the heroes lost in Infinity War back to life, possibly via time travel.
MCU: An acronym that stands for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the world created by the collective narratives of its 22 films.
S.H.I.E.L.D.: A government agency comprised of (mostly) good guys who support The Avengers in fighting off the universe’s various evils.
HYDRA: A terrorist organization intent on world domination.
The Infinity Stones: Six stones created by ancient celestial beings, each of which controls a different aspect of the universe — Space, Reality, Mind, Power, Soul, and Time. When combined, The Infinity Stones give the individual who wields them unmatched power.
Space Stone: The Infinity Stone that can control the physical (and metaphysical) aspects of space, namely opening up portals and wormholes that allow the wielder to teleport rapidly around the universe.
The Tesseract: A cube that contained the Space Stone before being destroyed in Infinity War.
Reality Stone: The Infinity Stone that can radically change the nature of reality by transforming matter. Can change the form of the wielder as well.
Mind Stone: The Infinity Stone with mind-control capabilities and other psychic powers.
Power Stone: The Infinity Stone with the most energy. Can be used to demolish entire planets.
Soul Stone: The most mysterious of The Infinity Stones, believed to possibly contain the power to capture or extinguish other beings’ souls. To retrieve it, the seeker must “lose that which they love” on the planet Vormir.
Vormir: A desolate alien planet where the Soul Stone was kept and guarded by former HYDRA leader Red Skull. A temple located on Vormir is where the Soul Stone sacrifice must be made.
Time Stone: The Infinity Stone that gives the user the ability to fast forward and rewind time. Relevant to Endgame, the Time Stone is used to predict possible futures for our heroes at the end of Infinity War.
The Snap: The climax of Infinity War, during which Thanos — the franchise’s central villain/that big purple dude you’ve seen on posters — uses The Infinity Stones to randomly kill half the population with a single snap of his fingers.
The Quantum Realm: An alternate dimension in which time and space operate vastly differently. May hold the key to Endgame‘s speculated time travel plot device.
Pym Particles: Extremely powerful subatomic particles that can expand or reduce mass while maintaining the subject’s physical stability. Essential to entering and exiting The Quantum Realm.
Vibranium: A nearly indestructible metal that forms the base for many of The Avengers’ most powerful weapons, including Captain America’s iconic shield.
A super abridged summary of the Infinity Saga
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga — aka the story that Avengers: Endgame is ending — exists in three phases.
Phase 1: Here we meet our main heroes: Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. Together, these heroes form The Avengers, a superhero group managed by S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury that is designed to protect Earth from the universe’s greatest threats.
In the franchise’s first cross-over film, The Avengers take on Thor’s brother Loki, who is intent on taking control of Earth. Loki has a scepter that contains the Mind Stone, and seeks out the powers of the other stones.
Having stolen the Tesseract (which contains the Space Stone) from S.H.I.E.L.D., Loki uses it to open a wormhole in the middle of Manhattan. A massive battle, often called the Battle of New York, erupts and The Avengers are victorious.
In a post-credits scene for The Avengers (2012), we get our first glimpse of the Infinity Saga’s main villain, Thanos.
TL;DR: There’s a whole bunch of superheroes trying to protect the people of Earth and keep a fancy cube that can make wormholes and a magic scepter with mind-control powers out of the hands of bad guys.
Phase 2: Following the Battle of New York, The Avengers face new foes in the forms of terrorist group HYDRA, the artificially intelligent Ultron, and alien war lord Ronan the Accuser. Luckily, a whole bunch of new heroes, like The Guardians of the Galaxy, Winter Soldier (aka Bucky Barnes), Vision, and Ant-Man, join in their fight.
Throughout the many battles to defeat these major threats, the heroes encounter two new Infinity Stones: the Reality Stone and the Power Stone.
The Reality Stone is discovered by Thor’s love interest Dr. Jane Foster, who is infected by its powers in the form of “the Aether.” Eventually, the Aether/Reality Stone is extracted from Foster, only to fall into the hands of yet another villain.
The Guardians of the Galaxy encounter the Power Stone, encased in an artifact known as The Orb, and spend much of their first film attempting to protect it from Ronan the Accuser, who seeks it out for Thanos.
Additionally, we are first introduced to the idea of The Quantum Realm through Ant-Man.
TL;DR: We meet more heroes, more villains, and two more stones. The game of “keep the cosmic lucky charms away from the bad guys” that began in Phase 1 continues.
Phase 3: With more films than either of the MCU’s other two phases, the final chunk ofthe Infinity Saga covers a lot of ground. Here are the most Endgame relevant storylines to know.
In Captain America: Civil War, The Avengers fight each other over proposed oversight of The Avengers and fallout of Phase 2, creating a sizable rift between Captain America and Iron Man. Eventually, everyone winds up back on the same page.
Following the Clash of The Avengers, we are introduced to a whole bunch of new heroes, the most Endgame relevant of which is Doctor Strange. Doctor Strange, a skilled sorcerer and protector of time, gains control of the Time Stone and vows to protect it from evil forces.
Then, comes the big show: Infinity War.
After a long fought battle, Thanos gains control of all six Infinity Stones, sacrificing his daughter Gamora at the planet of Vormir in exchange for the Soul Stone.
It soon becomes clear what Thanos wanted the Stones for: a vast and merciless population control scheme through which half of the universe’s inhabitants will turn to dust, so that the remaining half can thrive.
With a snap of his fingers, known as The Snap or the “Decimation,” Thanos wipes out half of the population and half of our heroes.
TL;DR: Thanos is triumphant, gaining control of all six Infinity Stones. He then snaps his fingers and wipes half the universe’s population out of existence. The follow up to this massive defeat is where Endgame begins.
Who’s who: Heroes
There are so many heroes in the MCU, Endgame released a whopping 32 character posters a month before the premiere, and then color-coded them by who did and did not survive The Snap. We’ve organized the following 32 character descriptions in the same fashion.
1. Iron Man / Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.): Billionaire, genius, and former CEO of Stark Industries with a high-tech suit of armor that gives him super powers. First official member of The Avengers.
2. Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans): Patriotic super soldier (who was encased in ice during World War II and thawed out in the present day) with a particularly awesome Vibranium and steel shield. Considered Earth’s first superhero, and a founding member of The Avengers.
3. Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson): Skilled assassin/super spy and founding member of The Avengers. Best friend to Hawkeye.
4. Thor (Chris Hemsworth): God of Thunder and King of Asgard, well-known for his mighty hammer. Founding member of The Avengers.
5. Okoye (Danai Gurira): Head of Wakanda’s armed forces, highly skilled in martial arts, often armed with her Vibranium spear.
6. Hawkeye / Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner): Skilled archer, former special agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and founding member of The Avengers. Best friend to Black Widow.
7. Captain Marvel / Carol Danvers (Brie Larson): A former United States Air Force pilot and alien/human hybrid who gained cosmic powers from The Tesseract.
8. Ant-Man / Scott Lang (Paul Rudd): Powered by Pym Particles Disks, Ant-Man’s incredible suit allows him to shrink in size, wield super human strength, and lead an army of ants. At the beginning of Endgame, Ant-Man is believed to be stuck inside The Quantum Realm. Partner to Wasp.
9. The Hulk / Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo): A skilled scientist who, after a failed experiment, began morphing into a big green monster whenever his heartbeat reached above a certain threshold. His power are often difficult to control. Founding member of The Avengers.
10. War Machine / James Rhodes (Don Cheadle): United States Air Force veteran and friend of Tony Stark. Armor allows him to fly, gives him superhero strength, and creates projectable energy blasts.
11. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson): An Asgardian warrior who often rides into battle on a winged steed.
12. Nebula (Karen Gillan): A former villain who turned into a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, a rogue group of heroes. Sister of Gamora and daughter of Thanos. Previously loyal to Thanos.
13. Rocket (Bradley Cooper): A Guardian of the Galaxy known for his skilled inventing and looking a whole lot like a run-of-the-mill raccoon. (Really, he’s an alien.)
14. Wong (Benedict Wong): A wizard and ally to Doctor Strange — also, a magical librarian.
15. Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau): Iron Man’s personal chauffeur and a Stark family friend.
16. Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow): CEO of Stark Industries, sporadic superhero, and wife of Tony Stark.
Currently deceased heroes
17. Star-Lord / Peter Quill (Chris Pratt): A half-god/half-human and Guardian of the Galaxy, with an affinity for old school music and his love interest Gamora. Dusted in The Snap.
18. Gamora (Zoe Saldana): A Guardian of the Galaxy, daughter of Thanos, and sister to Nebula. Sacrificed for the Soul Stone on Vormir by Thanos in Infinity War.
19. Black Panther / T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman): King of the technologically-advanced, African nation of Wakanda. Dusted in The Snap.
20. Dr. Strange / Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch): A skilled sorcerer with the ability to manipulate time and see future timelines throughout the Universe. Trained by The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange. Dusted in The Snap.
21. Spider-Man / Peter Parker (Tom Holland): A high school kid with web-slinging abilities and those well-known “spidey senses.” Mentored by Iron Man. Dusted in The Snap.
22. Loki (Tom Hiddleston): Brother to Thor and God of Mischief. A former villain who sought to control The Tesseract, but was apprehended at the end of the Battle of New York. Died at the hands of Thanos in Infinity War, apart from The Snap.
23. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): The Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and creator of The Avengers. Recruited Captain Marvel for The Avengers at the very end of Infinity War, prompting her to show up on Earth at the beginning of Endgame. Dusted in The Snap.
24. Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista): A Guardian of the Galaxy with incredible strength. Dusted in The Snap.
25. Scarlet Witch / Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen): Transformed by the Mind Stone, a villain-turned-hero with energy manipulation powers, telekinesis, and telepathy. Romantically linked to Vision. Dusted in The Snap.
26. Wasp / Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly): Former board member of Pym Technologies and partner to Ant-Man, with a suit that gives her the ability to shrink in size, fly, wield incredible strength, and unleash electric stings. Dusted in The Snap.
27. Mantis (Pom Klementieff): A Guardian of the Galaxy with psychic powers. Dusted in The Snap.
28. Groot (Vin Diesel): A large, tree-like Guardian of the Galaxy. Dusted in The Snap.
29. Falcon / Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie): United States Air Force veteran and ally of Captain America. Armored with a set of mechanical wings that allow him to conduct aerial attacks in combat. Dusted in The Snap.
30. Shuri (Letitia Wright): A skilled inventor and scientist responsible for leading innovation in the nation of Wakanda. Sister to Black Panther and Princess of Wakanda. Dusted in The Snap.
31. Winter Soldier / Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan): A former HYDRA prisoner and United States soldier. Best friend to Captain America. Similar to Captain America, Barnes was injected with experimental serum that gave him super powers. Dusted in The Snap.
32. Vision (Paul Bettany): An android created out of Vibranium and the Mind Stone. A creation from the destruction of Iron Man’s J.A.R.V.I.S. AI system and Ultron. Killed by Thanos when the Mind Stone is forcibly removed from him in Infinity War.
Who’s who: Villains
It’s possible that other villains from throughout the MCU will appear in Endgame, but there’s really just one guy you have to know: Thanos.
This is the
asshole radical alien behind The Snap. He is the father to both Gamora and Nebula. His whereabouts at the start of Endgame are unknown. However, he remains in control of the six Infinity Stones via a magical glove known as the Infinity Gauntlet.
Extra credit: Where to stream every MCU movie before Endgame
Thinking you wanna get in on the MCU for the long haul? Here’s where to see every last one of the Infinity Saga chapters before heading to the theaters. Good luck!
Available for streaming on Hulu: Iron Man 2 (2010)
Available for streaming on Prime Video: Iron Man 2 (2010)
Available for purchase on Prime Video: Iron Man (2008), (2008), Thor(2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Marvel’s The Avengers(2012), Iron Man 3(2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013),Captain America: The Winter Soldier(2014),Guardians of the Galaxy(2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Ant-Man (2015), Captain America: Civil War(2015),Doctor Strange(2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2(2017), Black Panther(2018), andAvengers: Infinity War(2018)
Note: Captain Marvel (2019) is not yet available to stream, but is still showing in many theaters.