(WARNING: The following contains giant, hulking plot SPOILERS for Captain America: Civil War, as well as theoretical ones for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War — and beyond. Proceed with whatever level of caution that suggests to you is wise.)
With Captain America: Civil War having finally hit theaters, you might imagine there'd be time to stop and bask in the warm, soothing glow of its cinematic excellence. That, though, is very much not the case. After all, as fantastic a film as Civil War might be, it only marks the very beginning of Marvel's Phase Three, and as such...
It's Time To Take A Look At Captain America: Civil War As It Sets Us On The Path To Avengers: Infinity War
After all, while Civil War neatly tied up several of Phase Two's loose ends, it also began to loosen a whole lot of storylines for Phase Three to eventually untangle. Which, with Avengers: Infinity War looking set to act as the grand culmination of Marvel's adventures to date, makes Civil War potentially highly prescient.
And so, here are five of the most intriguing ways in which Captain America: Civil War sets us on the path to Infinity War.
(Note: This is where those aforementioned SPOILERS really start to kick in.)
5. Vision Looks Set To Play A Key Part In Thanos's Schemes
Vision didn't get a whole lot of screen time in Civil War, and what time he did have was largely spent developing his burgeoning relationship with Scarlet Witch — yet he still found time to briefly tease a potential future trip to space in order to find out what the Infinity Stone in his forehead really is.
If he does so, it seems likely that he'll run into a certain Mad Titan whose name rhymes with Rhanos — and may well spark Infinity War's central conflict. After all, if Thanos does indeed steal Vision's power-giving Infinity Stone, it seems only reasonable that the synthezoid's friends would investigate.
4. The Marvel Cinematic Universe Is Finally Connected
While previous Marvel movies have done an excellent job of assembling Earth's Mightiest Heroes — and of weaving some of those heroes into each other's solo movies as key supporting cast members — it wasn't until Civil War that we saw a truly integrated MCU. Where before we would all wonder why Iron Man wasn't giving Cap a hand in taking down Hydra, or why Cap wasn't Iron Man's first call in any crisis, we've now had the chance to see a world in which every superhero is truly connected.
Which, with Avengers: Infinity War seemingly set to feature even more heroes (and villains), isn't a trend that looks likely to go away any time soon.
3. Someone Is Going To Have To Claim Cap's Shield
Of course, with Chris Evans currently lined up to appear in both installments of Infinity War, it seems likely that he'll find himself back in possession of his iconic weapon before too long — but that's not the only potential outcome.
After all, Cap's shield has had a few different owners over the past decade in the comic books — meaning there's always the possibility that we'll see Steve Rogers die nobly, perhaps early on in proceedings. If so, then odds are the shield will get handed over to either Bucky "Winter Soldier" Barnes or Sam "Falcon" Wilson — both of who have wielded it in the comics in recent years.
2. Infinity War Might Have To Get The Band Back Together
With Civil War culminating in the seemingly permanent splitting up of the Avengers' original lineup — and with no likely team-up movie between now and Infinity War — it seems probable that we'll start the latter movie with Cap and Iron Man still on (relatively) opposing sides.
Could we thus see part of the first Infinity War be focused more on "getting the band back together" than on Thanos himself? And, if so, just what will that threat be?
1. There May Well Be Two Sets Of Avengers (Or More) By The Time We Reach Infinity War
After all, with Civil War ending with Cap (and the majority of the Avengers roster) going rogue, it seems increasingly likely that we're going to see at least two teams of Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War: Cap's unofficial group and, most likely, Iron Man's government-authorized outfit.
It's also entirely possible that we could see a third group of Avengers arise — perhaps under the command of William Hurt's "Thunderbolt" Ross. Could the comic book Dark Avengers see the light of day as the aforementioned pre-Thanos warmup threat? Or could we even see the fan favorite Thunderbolts hit the big time? After all, they were founded by Helmut Zemo.
The big question now, though?