When audiences meet Captain America and Black Widow again in Avengers: Infinity War, they have changed. It isn't just that Cap has a beard, or that Widow has ditched her iconic red hair for blonde locks - it's that since the Avengers disassembled they have been running their own covert missions, and it's taken a toll on them, both physically and mentally. And now they're about to face their greatest challenge by far.
Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) retreat to Wakanda with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in Avengers: Infinity War. Photo: Disney
"They have kind of been flying under the radar but still taking care of business in the way they know how to do," Scarlet Johansson said last year, during our visit to the set of Infinity War. "I think when you're sort of fighting for something that you know is important, but is not being really recognised or supported by a larger organisation or even like, society as a whole, I think it takes a certain toll, and you can get feelings about it in a way. So that's kind of where we find them."
In June 2017, Johansson's Widow and Chris Evans' Captain America could be found arriving in Wakanda - AKA the Atlanta set of Infinity War - with several other Marvel heroes, hoping to enlist T'Challa's help (you can read more about the scene itself here). However, though Rhodie (Don Cheadle), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are with Cap and Widow, Evans is quick to point out these are not the Avengers, and things are not like they have been in the past.
Don't call them the Avengers. Photo: Disney
"I don't know if I would necessarily say that this is the group of Avengers. Just circumstances have dictated that we come together," Evans said. "There is no technical Avengers structure [but] I think [Cap] is still a leader at heart. I just don't know if he necessarily has the same chain of command that he had in prior films."
Those circumstances, of course, revolve around the arrival of Thanos (Josh Brolin), the mad titan who attacks Earth to seize the Infinity Stones. As the new trailer reveals, if he procures all six, he'll be able to murder half of the universe instantly - and many of the stones are in the possession of various Avengers, including one that powers Doctor Strange's Eye of Agamotto amulet, and another located in the head of the android Vision. Evans felt Captain America and the other superheroes have been anticipating this for some time.
"I think, [to] some degree, it's probably [our] worst fears come to reality," Evans said. "I think the first time the sky opens up and aliens pour into the city, you kind of realise, 'Well that's a possibility, and we handled it this time, but who knows how powerful these people can become?' And I think this is kind of a worst-case scenario where you find out all the potential of someone trying to destroy your planet can be."
Thanos' invasion is an epic story all on its own, but Infinity War is also trying to continue telling the individual Avengers' stories and bring all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's heroes together. Johansson admitted Infinity War is very plot-heavy.
"There's just a lot of people coming together, a lot of universes coming together," she said. "I actually think that, in some ways, there's not a lot of time to have feelings about what's going on, because we're facing the greatest threat we ever have and, I mean, that in itself is so much."
The Russo brothers direct Johansson on the set of Infinity War. Photo: Disney
Those "feelings" she refers to includes the dangling romantic subplot between Black Widow and Bruce Banner (last seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron and referenced most recently in Thor: Ragnarok), as well as Cap and Widow's ongoing conflict with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) since Civil War. Evans and Johansson said all of that will be addressed, but it just can't be at the forefront.
"I don't think either one of us are ones to hold grudges," Evans said. "I think we operate very binary, [have a] utilitarian approach to most things we do, and I don't think we let emotion dictate our reality. It's been a couple years, so I think we both, to some degree, not moved on, but maybe buried some things."
Speaking of burying things, Evans and Johansson could say almost nothing about the plot of Infinity War, to the point where they repeatedly joked about how little they could tell us. But they would say how excited they were to bring these stories, which include over a dozen Marvel movies between them, to a conclusion.
"I don't think this has ever been done before," Evans said, "where you have so many different franchises coming together to kind of really try to make one stew. Like I said, The Avengers was pretty ambitious, but [Infinity War] really blows that one out of the water."
We'll find out how when the movie premieres on April 25.