“Avengers: Infinity War” arrives Sept. 27, bringing with it one of the largest all-star casts in movie history.
Who is in it? Just about every major character who has appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, plus a handful of newcomers. It’s easier to list the “name” characters who are not in it, of which there, somehow, are a few.
THE BIG BAD: We’ve seen Thanos (Josh Brolin) in the background in a few films, but here’s where the Mad Titan takes the spotlight.
In the comics, ol’ purple-puss is a member of the race of Eternals, an Earth-born super-race who are infused with cosmic energy, making them (as the name implies) immortal. They are very hard to hurt or kill — immune to poisons and disease, resistant to environmental extremes and able to regenerate any injury. Heck, they don’t even get tired! They’re also super-strong, super-tough and can fly via telekinesis.
Thanos is even more powerful than that. He was born a mutant Eternal, called (uncharitably) a Deviant, more powerful than his fellows — and a lot meaner. (He murdered his mother when he was 10.) He has spent his life amassing power and augmenting himself with technology, magic and arcane energies. He is also in love with Death — not in the abstract, but the actual personification of Death! So murder on a large scale is a career, a hobby — even foreplay.
But as scary as that may sound, I think writer Donny Cates expressed it even better in the current “Thanos” comic book series:
“In the known universe, with all of its endless wonder and power, there exist a select few who are widely agreed upon — by those who calculate such things — to be the mightiest beings in all of existence. I am very sure you know who they are. However, there is something inside of these champions that you do not know. A secret truth that each of them carries in the darkest and most hidden parts of their soul. The fear … the certainty … that they will lose. That someday, despite their strength and courage … everyone … and everything … will die. And if you ask these gods, these Avengers, these destroyers … how they believe this marvelous universe of ours will arrive at that bloody and inevitable end? With a trembling voice, and a heavy and honest heart … they would all tell you the exact same thing …“Thanos wins.”
THE HENCHMEN: Thanos has, in the course of his depredations, amassed an army of killers, torturers and other not-nice people called the Black Order. They are led by six generals, four of whom make an appearance in “Infinity War”:
• Corvus Glaive: Thanos’ right-hand man is named for his weapon, a Medieval pole with a sword on the end. His glaive can cut through anything, and as long as it’s in one piece, he can’t die.
• Proxima Midnight: A skilled and powerful warrior with a spear. OK, there’s more to it than that. Her spear was forged by Thanos from a sun caught in a space/time warp where it existed as a star, supernova and black hole all at once. What does that mean? It means you really don’t want her to chuck it at you.
• Ebony Maw: A sneaky sort with super-powers of persuasion. Doesn’t sound like much? He once started whispering in Dr. Strange’s ear, and turned the Master of the Mystic Arts against the Avengers.
• Black Dwarf. Sometimes called Cull Obsidian, he is seriously strong. How strong? “I can beat the Hulk” strong.
AVENGERS ASSEMBLE: All of the Avengers join the fight — not just the original six (Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, Hulk, Iron Man and Thor), but also the ones added at the end of “Age of Ultron” (Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision and War Machine). Some of their respective supporting casts make the scene as well, including Bucky Barnes, Happy Hogan, Heimdall, Loki, Pepper Potts and Hawkeye’s wife, Laura Barton.
GUARDIANS ASSEMBLE: Amazingly, four of the original Guardians of the Galaxy (Drax, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon and Star-Lord) are also squeezed into this top-heavy movie. They’re accompanied by Groot Jr. (now a teenager), Mantis and Nebula.
STILL MORE: The trailers depict battle in Wakanda, so count on seeing Black Panther and the bulk of his supporting cast: mother Ramonda, sister Shuri, Jabari chieftan M’Baku and the Dora Milaje. Dr. Strange and Wong hold up the mystical end. Spider-Man and Ant-Man make the cut, presumably lightening a very dark movie. The Collector, who holds an Infinity Stone, makes a return. Speaking of which …
STONE COLD: Thanos is after the six Infinity Stones, so they have a “role.” We know about five:
• Loki stole the Tesseract (the Space Stone) at the end of “Thor: Ragnarok,” which probably explains why Thanos’ ship is hovering over the Asgardians at the end of that movie.
• In “Avengers,” Loki’s Scepter held the Mind Stone, which ended up on The Vision’s forehead in “Age of Ultron.”
• Dr. Strange holds the Time Stone, a.k.a. the Eye of Agamotto.
• In “Thor: The Dark World,” Malekith’s Aether was revealed to be the Reality Stone, and is in the possession of The Collector on Knowhere.
• The Power Stone, also called The Orb, first appeared in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” where it was given to the Nova Corps for safekeeping on their home planet, Xandar.
The sixth Infinity Stone, the Soul Stone, hasn’t appeared yet — or, if it has, hasn’t been identified.
THE RUMORS: Characters who don’t appear on the official cast list have managed to appear, instead, in entertainment media. Some websites suggest Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and others (fewer) mention Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). It seems an open secret that Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) will appear, but nobody has confirmed it. Spider-Man’s “Guy in the Chair” Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) may have a cameo. A flurry of stories have suggested a set appearance by Michelle Pfeiffer, who will play Janet Van Dyne — the original Wasp — in the upcoming “Ant-Man” sequel.
MIA: Hawkeye and Ant-Man have been conspicuously absent in the “Infinity War” trailers and posters, but they are present in the IMDb.com roster, and various Marvel officials have confirmed their involvement. But other characters aren’t so lucky.
Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) isn’t even a rumor. Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) hasn’t been a whisper. Gen. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) is a no-show. While the original Wasp may (or may not) appear, the current one (Evangeline Lilly) and her father Henry Pym (Michael Douglas) may have to wait for “Ant-Man and the Wasp” for a screen return.
ONE MORE THING: Peter Dinklage, of “Game of Thrones” fame, is listed on the IMDb.com cast list with a blank next to his name. It seems a safe bet that he’s not reprising his “X-Men: Days of Future Past” role as Bolivar Trask — at least, not yet — so who could he be?
My guess is Black Dwarf. Think how sweet it would be for Dinklage to toss around Avengers twice his size!