The Avengers ending explained: The Infinity Saga begins

The Avengers was the end of Phase One of the MCU, but it was also just the beginning for the Infinity Saga. Here's what its ending and post-credits scene mean.
Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in The Avengers (2012) ©Marvel 2012
Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in The Avengers (2012) ©Marvel 2012 /

The Marvel Cinematic Universe had already been doing pretty well for itself by the time that 2012's The Avengers rolled around. It had hits with Captain America, Hulk and Thor movies, while the Iron Man flicks were half a billion phenomenons. But none of that success could have prepared anyone for the monumental force that the team-up movie would be.

The Avengers is probably the most pivotal movie in the whole franchise, because its success showed both Marvel Studios and the wider entertainment field just how much of a demand there was for superhero shared universes. It also set the stage for the MCU to ascend to even greater heights in subsequent installments, completing Phase One of the Infinity Saga but also allowing it to continue in the process.

If you have just begun your MCU watch, or you're revisiting it on a rewatch, and would like to know what the end of The Avengers means, and how it sets up the future of the franchise, let's get into it.

The post-credits scene introduces Thanos as the MCU's Big Bad

Loki may have been the Big Bad of The Avengers but he was working with someone far, far worse. That person provided him with the Chituari army that invaded Earth as part of an agreement that would allow Loki to rule over that planet while their leader could seemingly rule across the rest of the universe. It was a mutually-beneficial arrangement that hinged on one thing: Loki's victory.

As you saw in the film's climax, the God of Mischief ultimately failed as he underestimated The Avengers. Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, the Incredible Hulk, and Loki's own brother Thor were able to defeat the Chituari and bring an end to his reign of terror. That defeat let the universe know that Earth had its team of protectors who would step up to any threat. And back in that unknown world that sent the invaders in the first place, the unknown threat loomed.

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy..Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel 2014 /

This is where we get our first glimpse of Thanos, who turned with a smile when he heard that to challenge the Avengers would be to court death. He wanted the challenge, he longed for it, and he needed it. And that is the moment that the Infinity Saga came to be the titan (no pun intended) that it is remembered as today.

The Mad Titan is the notorious Big Bad of the Infinity Saga and this is just the first of his many appearances throughout the franchise. Marvel Studios knew to play the long game with him, using so many of their subsequent MCU outings to tease his inevitable arrival. We'll not go into spoiler territory here in case you haven't yet seen the remainder of the movies in the franchise, but we will say this: Thanos is the biggest threat the franchise has ever seen, so it's no surprise that he was saved to be the long-term threat of an Avengers movie.

It's not a matter of "if he challenges the heroes", it is merely "when".

The Avengers have assembled

If the closing scenes of The Avengers highlight anything, it's that Nick Fury and the team of heroes have put the world - or worlds - on notice: The Avengers have arrived and Earth's Mightiest Heroes will be willing step up and fight for humanity should the time come once again. This is something that Agent Maria Hill discusses with Fury himself, asking how he knows if the band will get back together in the future; to which Fury responds that they will need them to. And that will be enough.

One of the other questions that Fury was asked by the SHIELD board was in regards to the Avengers' whereabouts. He told them that the heroes deserved some time off and thus he wasn't tracking where they were. However, both that and the question that Hill asked him very nicely set up the final shot in the film.

Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. in The Avengers
Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. in The Avengers (2012) ©Marvel 2012 /

Tony Stark and Pepper Potts worked on remodelling Stark Tower, which had seen a lot of damage done to it due to the fight with Loki. As we zoomed out, we saw that just the "A" remained from the Stark logo on the building; and that was all it needed, for Stark Tower was officially set to become Avengers Tower.

This is where Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye, and Hulk would reconvene whenever the world needed them, housing an arsenal of weaponry and suits for their next battles. And without giving anything away, it isn't long until the Tower - and the heroes themselves - return to screens in the MCU.

Loki returns to Asgard with Thor and the Tesseract

After the battle of Manhattan had come to a close, all of the Avengers returned to their lives. That included Thor, only his life wasn't on Earth. The God of Thunder was able to use the power of the Tesseract to return himself - and Loki - to the realm of Asgard. The rest of the team watched as the brothers opened a doorway and ascended to the Heavens.

Loki, The Avengers
Tom Hiddleston in The Avengers (2012) ©Marvel 2012 /

The SHIELD board weren't too happy with Loki being allowed to leave Earth after the crimes he had committed, but as Nick Fury so aptly put it, he was set to answer for those crimes by facing some Asgardian justice instead. And since the Tesseract had already caused too much harm in the hands of humans, it too was allowed to return to the gods.

If you're interested in seeing what kind of justice Loki faces, you will be happy to know that this isn't the last you see of him or this story. The aftermath of his reign of terror is explored in 2013 film Thor: The Dark World, which also sees Thor battle the Dark Elves.

The next film in the MCU franchise is Iron Man 3, which officially kicks off Phase Two and paves the way for Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man.

Next. Every MCU movie ranked from worst to best. Every MCU movie ranked from worst to best. dark