"Avengers: Endgame" features a key difference from the 21 movies that came before it.
The Marvel heroes who weren't turned to dust by Thanos' population-decimating snap in "Infinity War" are left to pick up the pieces of a universe torn apart, and morale isn't exactly high, explains star Don Cheadle.
"The tone that this film has is different than the other ones, given that we're dealing with all this loss and grieving and people wanting to give up and really feeling hopeless," said Cheadle, who plays War Machine. "That's something that you don't usually see in the Avengers movies. They're like, 'We're gonna win at all costs.' We find a very defeated group of superheroes in this one."
The long-awaited "Endgame" picks up after Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) obtained the six Infinity Stones and wiped out half of all living things in an effort to balance out the universe and preserve its resources.
Among the casualties were Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Star-Lord, Scarlet Witch and Spider-Man, putting the burden on War Machine, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor and a few other heroes to try and save the day.
"On the set, it felt like we were really bringing something special to this one and different to this one than any of the other movies had," Cheadle said. "Especially with the stakes (in the movie) being so high, with half of our people being gone, and half of the universe being gone, there's obviously a lot to fight for."
The previous 21 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series all built up to "Endgame." The franchise's first movie, "Iron Man," came out in 2008, and star Robert Downey Jr. recently recalled simply not wanting to mess things up when he took that project on.
"There is always two tracks at least in my mind," Downey said at the "Avengers: Endgame" press conference on April 7. "One is the sky is falling and the other is the sky is the limit. And as we had those many discussions in the high desert and shooting the film, I'm reminded now that I was talking a lot of smack saying wait until you see where this goes. But in the moment, I was just hoping day to day we were making good scenes and getting good stuff in the can. ... I just wanted to not drop the ball."
That blockbuster paved the way for a mega-franchise that has introduced dozens of memorable heroes and villains to moviegoers in the years since.
The newest addition to the series, Brie Larson's Captain Marvel, appears in "Endgame" less than two months after her own movie premiered to massive success.
Larson actually achieved a milestone with "Endgame" before she even started shooting for the "Captain Marvel" movie.
"This film will always be personally dear to me because it was my first time playing Captain Marvel," Larson said of "Endgame" at the press conference. "We shot this first. So I had to stumble and try to figure out who this character was with no script for this and no script for 'Captain Marvel,' either. And perform for the first time in front of legends. But it was incredible."
The fates of the characters, both new and old, will remain the subject of intense fan speculation until "Endgame" hits theaters today.