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This is it, folks! We are in the Avengers: Endgame! Eleven years and 21 films have prepared the world for this momentous event of epic proportions, and after this movie is released, nothing will be the same. So surely, you’re prepared for the big day, but let’s go through a rough and ready checklist.

You’ve picked out a shirt/outfit/cosplay of your favorite hero to wear to the theater, right? Good. You’re all stretched and rested, prepared for a little over three hours of screen time with no bathroom breaks? Fantastic. You remember all of the details needed to enjoy Avengers: Endgame, after rewatching the entire MCU? Ah, ha! We thought you’d need help with that.

While this isn’t a total substitute for watching the 21 film run currently known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’re about to provide you with nine key facts that you should remember, in order to make your Endgame the best game. So do another stretch, make sure your outfit’s pressed and stitched, and read on to prepare yourself for the movie event of the summer.

The Infinity Stones Are As Old As The Universe Itself

As explained by Master Wong in Avengers: Infinity War, the Infinity Stones were created by the Big Bang, along with the universe we all exist in. Thanks to that big universe energy, each of the six stones created were cast out into the cosmos, settling in random spaces.

So if you’re a being like Thanos, this is something that’s crucial, as theoretically one could use those stones to do something like, say, balance the universe in your own image and take on the Earth’s mightiest heroes without breaking a sweat.

Or, if you’re a comic/movie company, you could build an entire shared universe of heroes over the acquisition and defense of these stones as well. But whatever one would do with the Infinity Stones, the point is, they’re roughly as old as the planet you’re currently on. Maybe fractionally older.

Those Stones Also Controlling Vital Elements Of Existence

Each of the Infinity Stones controls a vital element that can be manipulated whenever that gem is activated. Those six elements are Reality, Time, Mind, Soul, Space, and Power; each with a different color corresponding to their power signatures.

Those stones individually are a force to be reckoned with, but there’s an even bigger threat that involves their usage. Should all six of those Infinity Stones be collected and mounted into the fabled Infinity Gauntlet, they could be used to trigger a cataclysmic event that would wipe out half the universe.

Known as “The Decimation” (or simply, The Snap), it’s Thanos’ ultimate endgame, as he is obsessed with balancing what he feels is a universe of chaos and overpopulation. There’s a chance of stopping this mad titan, but to do so, the right team needs to be in place.

The Original Avengers Haven't Been All Together Since Age Of Ultron

Normally that “right team” would be The Avengers, but here’s the thing: the original six haven’t been together since Avengers: Age of Ultron. With Hulk being the first to leave the scene, the group eventually started peeling off and doing their own things.

Eventually, Thor would be the next Avenger to leave the board, as his visions of destruction and chaos in Asgard inspired him to return home after a prolonged absence. And then, the rest of the OG team was broken apart by those three lovely politically-charged words: The Sokovia Accords.

With Iron Man and Captain America leading factions of pro and anti sentiments involving the accords, the events of Captain America: Civil War split the rest of the team, including Hawkeye and Black Widow, into groups that were either law-abiding supers or fugitive-costumed heroes. At this point, the fracturing of the team that started in Avengers: Age of Ultron only continued to set them apart.

The Avengers Are Much Different Heroes Than When They Started

Even if they hadn’t split up during the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War, there are a lot of changes that have happened in the lives of the team. And we’re not just talking about costumes or weapons of choice either; these go right to the stem of their personalities.

Tony Stark is in the final stages of settling down to get married to Pepper Potts. Captain America is no longer the U.S. Government’s biggest boy scout. Black Widow and Bruce “The Hulk” Banner were in the middle of a relationship until he left. And Hawkeye has a secret family no one knew about.

Add in their differences of opinion involving the Sokovia Accords, and you’ve got a body of superheroes that aren’t quite sure what the next move is. Which is the perfect time for Thanos (Josh Brolin) to come knocking in Avengers: Infinity War, with his quest for the Infinity Stones already putting one Avenger partially out of commission.

The Hulk Has Gone Into Hiding (With Bruce Still In The Open)

There was a time when Bruce Banner would have metaphorically killed to rid himself of the ability to turn into the Hulk. Having a large, green, rage monster within you that needs constant supervision and control isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when trying to lead a normal life. So who can really blame him?

However, Banner’s wish for Hulk to return to action throughout Avengers: Infinity War is equally identifiable, seeing as it’s kind of his job at that point. But the green guy went into hiding after receiving a rare thrashing from Thanos, and as of the end of the film, he’s yet to show up in his full form; despite what the trailers may have told people.

So now, Bruce Banner could go on dates, get angry without a care, and generally live a normal life. You know, if it wasn’t for the whole Decimation happening and everything. Come to think of it, has anyone seen Betty Ross lately?

The Decimation Had To Happen, According To Doctor Strange

Quite possibly the greatest twist of all to take place in Avengers: Infinity War is not the fact that Thanos’s Decimation actually happened, but the fact that according to Dr. Stephen Strange, it had to happen. There’s heroes admitting that the odds are severely not in their favor, and then there’s flat out telling your teammates that you have to lose big in order to win bigger.

Out of 14,000,605 outcomes that could have taken place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there was only one scenario that Strange admitted would have yielded a successful outcome; a fact he’d continue to swear by as he crumpled into dust. And unfortunately for the universe, that particular game plan meant Thanos had to get his hands on the complete Infinity Gauntlet package, and realize his plan of wiping out half of its occupants.

With the ultimate defeat delivered at their doorstep, and quite a few of their own numbers wiped out in the process, The Avengers that remained were left to mourn and lick their wounds. Meanwhile, Thanos surveys his work on a lush planet, ready to give up his madness and be at peace with the universe.

All Of The Avengers Are Scattered Throughout The Universe

Even before the main event of Avengers: Infinity War, the team was split into two different locations, providing Thanos with just as many fronts to fight his war of acquisition. On his home planet of Titan, and the fields of Wakanda, the purple tyrant found himself snapping up the last two Infinity Stones, and then snapping away half the universe.

This left Tony Stark and Nebula on the planet of Titan, with the Guardians of the Galaxy’s craft the Milano as their only way off the planet. Meanwhile, the rest of the remaining Avengers are on Earth, presumably at their New York headquarters, trying to figure out what their next move is.

While they may not know it, events at that point are in order that will eventually save the day. And it will all come down to the very thing, and the very person, that brought them together in the first place.

Nick Fury Provided The Avengers With An Edge

At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, we see a post-credits scene of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Nick Fury and Maria Hill driving as they learn of the incursion of Thanos’s forces in Wakanda. All of a sudden, a car accident takes place, and the agents learn of the effects The Decimation is having on the globe firsthand.

With Hill being the first to disintegrate, Nick Fury has just enough time to almost swear, and send a page out to his good friend Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers. She receives this page in the depths of space and returns in the post-credits scene to Captain Marvel, with one question in mind: “Where’s Fury?”

Her friend may be missing, but thanks to Captain America and his surviving partners in The Avengers continually paging her to return, Carol is now aligned with Earth’s mightiest heroes in their most desperate hour of need.

Ant-Man Is Stuck In The Quantum Realm

As if the stakes weren’t high enough with the events set forth in Avengers: Infinity War, there’s one more thing that is going to be super important to remember when stepping foot into Avengers: Endgame: Scott Lang is stuck in the Quantum Realm, thanks to The Decimation.

It was all due to a science experiment being run at the end of Ant-Man and The Wasp, as the newly reunited Pym/Van Dyne family were having Scott harvest some energy in the world of the subatomic. All in the name of keeping Ava “Ghost” Starr stable while research was being conducted to cure her of a problem involving involuntary quantum phase shifts.

Just as Scott was ready to return to the world of the regularly sized, The Decimation hit and took out Hope Van Dyne, her mother Janet, and her father Hank Pym; all of whom were monitoring Ant-Man as he went subatomic. Scott seemingly has no way out at this point, and we’re left with him crying out for help in the Quantum Realm.

There you have it: everything you needed to know about Avengers: Endgame, but were too cool to ask. Now, you’re absolutely ready to see the end of an era. So do a couple more stretches, and don’t overestimate using the bathroom a couple extra times before seeing the film. You can never be too sure with your bladder. Happy hunting, MCU fans, and if you happen to have the time to watch a couple of the previous films, use our list of the essential short list of titles to make sure you’re spending your prep time wisely.

Avengers: Endgame starts pulling everything back into place in early showings this Thursday.

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