(Spoilers follow for Avengers: Age of Ultron)
So, Age of Ultron has been released to huge acclaim and financial success and when the dust settles we're left with a new Avengers team comprised of Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, Vision, Scarlet Witch and War Machine. It appears Tony Stark has well and truly retired and Thor has returned to Asgard to investigate the source of his visions.
We have every reason to believe that every character currently alive in the MCU, plus a few more to be introduced in Phase 3 (Like Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, The Inhumans, Black Panther etc.) except for maybe one who's identity is unknown as of yet who dies in Captain America: Civil War, will be appearing in The Avengers: Infinity War.
One of the problems that Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios were always bound to encounter however was where to go once they'd reached their ultimate climax, when they couldn't raise the bar any higher and many believe the Infinity Gauntlet to be the pinnacle of Marvel's mythos.
While in a recent interview Kevin Feige was quoted as saying that while they may use dark trailers they will never have truly dark films as it's not in the spirit of the MCU they are however open to major character death, (cough Quicksilver cough) so with that in mind I'm going to theorise on which characters won't make it to the end of Phase 3.
1. War Machine
Before the production began on the first Avengers movie there were reports that Robert Downey Jr. may not return for the film and most assumed War Machine would be used to replace him but thankfully the contracts were sorted out and the gold-and-red plated hero lit up the screens and made 1.5 billion dollars global.
One of the more interesting parts of Marvel's Phase 3 schedule however is the absence of another solo Iron Man movie, it's my belief that the character set to die in Civil War will be none other than James "Rhodey" Rhodes, at who's hands I don't yet know but it's likely that it'll be the stand-in for the robotic demigod Ragnarok created by Hank Pym and Tony Stark.
Between Civil War and the end of Phase 3 I think we'll see Tony Stark looking for a new protege, seeing as Rhodey was the heir apparent to the Iron Throne (GoT fans rejoice) but following his death another will need to be found. A popular belief is that it'll turn out to be Harley, the little kid from Tennessee in Iron Man 3.
2. The Vision
While he was certainly one of the highlights of Age of Ultron, Paul Bettany will almost certainly never get a solo Vision film and we know that Thanos is going to need to pluck the Mind Gem right out of Vision's shiny skull in order to assemble his gauntlet, effectively robbing him of his life essence and killing him.
The character is set to appear in [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409) as a member of Cap's New Avengers and it's probable that he'll appear in the first of the two-part Avengers III but I think it's doubtful he'll make it beyond Part 2 but the fact that he is a computer program gives a lot of credit to the idea that he could always be revived later on if needs be.
3. Captain America or Iron Man (potentially)
Fans of the comic will know that at the conclusion of Civil War when Steve Rogers was being brought to trial in handcuffs he was shot and killed while under mind-control. There's a lot of rumors about the Winter Soldier or Falcon taking over Cap after his rumored death in the end of Civil War but I think there's a good opening for a misdirect here by killing Tony Stark instead (I know he's a fan favorite character and makes the studio billions of dollars but they used a massive plot twist by setting up Hawkeye to die all throughout Avengers 2 only for Quicksilver to get gunned down).
If Tony died it would mean War Machine would likely live instead and be responsible for finding the replacement whereas if Cap died odds are that Fury would just toss his shield at Widow and tell her to bring Bucky Barnes or bring Sam Wilson into the loop.
Potential Storylines Post-Infinity Gauntlet
Keeping in with the Galactic Marvel characters like the Guardians it would make sense to use a popular inter-galactic storyline like...
The Kree-Skrull War!
It'd be a great way to use the characters leftover from Earth, the Inhumans, the Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel.
Secret Wars (Original or 2015)
Another great way to use as many different characters as the studio wants as the teams assembled in both volumes consist of a pretty eclectic group and it's a classic book beloved the world over.
A very sinister and thrilling story about the Invasion of the Skrull army by systematically replacing select heroes from earth with Skrull clones featuring the tag-line "Who do you trust?"
Personally Siege might be the story I'd like to see the most, it could begin with elements of Dark Reign and Norman Osborn assembling his own Avengers team and the Cabal with Loki manipulating him to use the Sentry (One of Marvel's most badass and powerful characters) to destroy Asgard only to be stopped by the return of the true Avengers and the re-unification of a revived Tony Stark, a reappointed Captain America and a very pee'd off Thor.
Which ever way the film series goes from here I know I'll stand in line for tickets on opening day and they'll continue to make Billions of dollars. Thanks for bearing with me through my first post and I hope you enjoyed it.