Avengers 3 & 4: Who will make it out alive ... and who won't?

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We're just nine short months away from Avengers: Infinity War, the highly anticipated third Avengers film that will pull every superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe into battle against Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his plot to use the Infinity Stones to wipe out all of reality as we know it. Fans last month got a glimpse of footage from the film at D23 and San Diego Comic-Con, and the early buzz is that the movie will live up to the epic nature of the storyline.

We've also been told point blank -- by Marvel head Kevin Feige, by directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and by cast members -- that Infinity War and the fourth Avengers film will remake the MCU significantly. It's almost a certainty that a number of the characters we've come to know and love won't make it to Phase 4 (if it's even called that), simply because of the stakes involved and, in the real world of Hollywood, a lot of their contractual obligations to Marvel are coming to an end.

But of course even as old heroes fall, new ones will rise to take their place. Below we've rounded up almost every major player we expect to see in the two Avengers movies and speculated on whether we think they're either doomed for sure, on the fence or might still be standing when the smoke clears. In many cases we've also analyzed where the actor stands as far as their deal with Marvel goes (to the best of our knowledge -- see Robert Downey Jr. as someone who has renegotiated his contract a couple of times already).

We don't know any of this for sure until next May, so this is all just fun for now. Who do you think will make it and who do you predict will bite the dust at Thanos' feet?

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)

Over the past few years, Iron Man and his real-life alter ego, Robert Downey Jr., have taken a sort of mentoring role in the MCU, darting in and out of stories without having to do all the heavy lifting to drive a movie forward. We suspect Tony Stark will be front and center in the upcoming Avengers films, however, but we are also guessing that neither he nor RDJ are quite willing to hang up the armor just yet. Iron Man may end up taking a beating from Thanos, but we imagine he'll live through it -- and hang around a little to see what happens in the MCU post-Infinity War.

Verdict: Still standing

The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)

It's hard to kill a Hulk -- not impossible, especially when you have the power to destroy all of reality, but on an everyday basis the big green guy is not easy to take down. And with Ruffalo still likely to have a film or two on his current contract, it's likely that this popular and successful incarnation of Bruce Banner and his angry side will stick around a little longer. We'd still like to see World War Hulk somehow get to the screen, but we'll probably see him show up in someone else's movie as he does this November in Thor: Ragnarok.

Verdict: Still standing

Captain America (Chris Evans)

Technically he's not Captain America anymore, just plain old Steve Rogers, but he'll probably don his outfit and wield his shield one last time before the Infinity War is over. And trust us when we say we feel confident that Cap will end up making the ultimate sacrifice before all is said and done, bravely going to his death to save the entire universe. In the real world, Chris Evans' contract is up and he sounds like he's fully ready to step aside. So this is very likely the end of Steve Rogers -- but perhaps not the end of Captain America.

Verdict: Doomed

Thor (Chris Hemsworth)

Although it's pretty hard to kill an Asgardian as powerful as Thor himself, the Avengers: Infinity War footage shown at D23 and Comic-Con last month featured a startling shot in which Thor's head was clearly in the vise-like grip of one of Thanos' hands. With Asgard itself allegedly coming to ruin in Thor: Ragnarok (and Odin likely to die once and for all), the fabric of Thor's entire existence may already be fraying. Could the tumultuous events of Avengers 3 and 4 end with Thor going into hibernation himself for a long, long time to recover from his wounds?

Verdict: On the fence

Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)

Let's face it, Clint Barton -- despite best intentions and spirited performances from Renner -- has always been sort of the odd man out among the Avengers. This is, after all, a guy who shoots arrows yet interacts with superbeings and armored walking weapons. What kind of a chance do you think he stands against a Mad Titan who will presumably be able to alter all of reality according to his will? Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel will be Renner's fifth and sixth films in the role (if you count his cameo in the first Thor), so if you figure that Renner signed the same six-film contract as most of his pals, there's a very good chance that Hawkeye will be firing off his last arrow.

Verdict: Doomed

Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)

Wanda Maximoff was being broken out of the Raft by Steve Rogers the last time we saw her, but it's hard to determine what kind of mental shape she might have been in, since her abilities and her control over them were a central issue of the story in Captain America: Civil War. The hint of a romance with the Vision was also in the air (in the comics they fell in love and got married). Depending on how she can use her powers against Thanos, and what happens to Vision, we'd say that Wanda is on shaky ground both mentally and physically, with perhaps the worst yet to come.

Verdict: On the fence

Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)

After slowly finding his way back to his true identity -- as well as his humanity -- in Captain America: Civil War, Bucky Barnes is a prime candidate for complete redemption. Even though he was placed in suspended animation at the end of that film, we know he'll be back for Infinity War and quite possibly helping Black Panther with the Wakandan response to Thanos. Will his journey lead him to sacrifice himself -- or will he take over the mantle of Captain America (as he did in the comics) following the almost certain demise of Steve Rogers? Sebastian Stan has four more movies left on his nine-picture contract after shooting the next two Avengers entries, so I'd bet on the latter.

Verdict: On the fence

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)

The Sorcerer Supreme hasn't even gotten to his own standalone sequel yet, so we expect him to stick around for a while. Avengers: Infinity War will mark the first time that Strange and the Avengers will work together, but we doubt it will be the last. With several veteran members not likely to return for the next phase of Marvel movies, it's likely that Strange, Spider-Man and perhaps Captain Marvel will form the core of whatever form the Avengers take next. Don't need magic to predict this one: Strange is staying put.

Verdict: Still standing

Vision (Paul Bettany)

As powerful as he is, this benevolent synthezoid is a goner. After all, he's got one of the Infinity Stones lodged in his forehead (the Mind Stone) and Thanos is going to yank it out at some point so that he can fit all six rocks into the Infinity Gauntlet. There have been some unauthorized set photos published showing Bettany, with no prosthetics and in normal clothes, kissing Elizabeth Olsen; some fans have theorized that this means Vision will turn fully human after losing the Mind Stone (we're guessing they were just rehearsing a scene before Bettany got into his full costume). But let's face it: none of this bodes well for the Vision as he currently exists.

Verdict: Doomed

Loki (Tom Hiddleston)

It's been long speculated that Loki will become a sort of right-hand man to Thanos in the upcoming Avengers sequels, taking the place of Mephisto from the Infinity Gauntlet storyline in the comics. Indeed, in the Infinity War footage shown at D23 and SDCC, we got a glimpse of Loki presenting the Tesseract to someone off-screen, no doubt Thanos, and the Trickster has been working indirectly with the Mad Titan since the first Avengers in 2012. But Loki may find himself competing for that position with Corvus of the Black Order, and in the end Loki's better instincts may lead him to switch sides yet again. Whether he sacrifices himself for the greater good or is obliterated out of spite by Thanos, we're guessing that Loki won't see Asgard -- or any other realm -- again.

Verdict: Doomed

Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)

Despite her superior fighting abilities and marksmanship, Natasha Romanoff is, like her frequent partner Hawkeye, a normal human being. Does a mere mortal who doesn't even wear a high-tech armored suit stand a chance against an enraged, all-powerful cosmic superbeing? In the real world, Infinity War and Avengers 4 will be Johansson's 6th and 7th appearances as the Widow, and she may be yearning like her dear friend Cap/Chris Evans to take a break. If the Widow does survive, you might expect her to do a gentle fade into the background while new, powerful women like Captain Marvel and the Wasp pick up her mantle.

Verdict: On the fence

Spider-Man (Tom Holland)

Young Peter Parker has just gotten his first real introduction to the world of the Avengers and proven he can hang with the best of them, but the same question comes up for him as it does for many of our heroes: will he be able to stand and fight against a force like nothing he's ever encountered in his relatively brief career as a superhero? The footage we've seen so far seems to indicate that Spidey gets beaten up pretty badly in the war against the Mad Titan, but let's be pragmatic about this: with the character successfully rebooted for a second time, a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming already announced and a lot of Avengers going away, Spider-Man is one of the heroes you can bank on.

Verdict: Still standing

Falcon (Anthony Mackie)

Sam Wilson has been Cap's loyal and unwavering wingman (pun intended) since they met in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, not to mention a fearless and rock steady member of the Avengers since 2015. Both Sam and Bucky have assumed the Captain America persona in the comics as well, although Sam is not enhanced with the same superhuman strength as either Bucky or Steve -- which could be a strike against him. Going up against Thanos -- and possibly losing Cap in the process -- may turn out to be the ultimate test of the Falcon's physical and mental endurance, as well as his leadership qualities.

Verdict: On the fence

Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)

Like Doctor Strange and several other characters, T'Challa has just been introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's safe to say that he will emerge from the wreckage of Infinity War as a leader of not just Wakanda but the Avengers as well -- although whether he wants that responsibility is another matter. T'Challa is almost certain to survive, but the conflict that may drive him as the MCU moves forward is whether he retreats and protects his homeland or assumes a larger role in defending the Earth itself.

Verdict: Still standing

Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)

Ant-Man and the Wasp seems likely to be set before the events of Avengers: Infinity War, even though the Ant-Man sequel comes out two months after the Avengers throwdown. But on the other hand, do we know for sure that Scott is even in Infinity War? He was one of the few heroes not glimpsed in the sizzle reel shown in Anaheim and San Diego. He and the Wasp may join the battle in Avengers 4, especially if the team gets decimated in the previous film. But can he make himself big enough as Giant Man to dwarf even the mighty Thanos?

Verdict: On the fence

War Machine (Don Cheadle)

Poor Rhodey was left badly wounded at the end of Captain America: Civil War, and it wasn't certain whether he would ever be able to suit up with the Avengers (or whatever is left of them) again. But if Rhodey sees his fellow team members going up against Thanos with the fate of the universe in the balance, there's no way he'll want to sit on the sidelines -- and sadly, in his less-than-ideal condition, we suspect he'll be one of the first to fall.

Verdict: Doomed

The Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is one of the few films confirmed for the post-Infinity War MCU and James Gunn has said that the movie will be the last to feature the current iteration of that team. That probably means most of the Guardians -- especially Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) -- will survive Thanos. But three others, namely Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) -- the latter of which are his adopted daughters -- have personal scores to settle with the Mad Titan. Drax and Gamora both perished in the comics, but Nebula played a crucial role in defeating her abusive adoptive dad. Is it possible we might see some version of that play out on screen, with one or more of those three sacrificing themselves?

Verdict: Some still standing ...

Avengers: Infinity War is out May 4, 2018 and Avengers 4 arrives on May 3, 2019.