Marvel Studios is gleefully tipping its hand early for its next Avengers films — with the clear aim to pull us into its larger, big-stakes game.

Shooting began last month in Atlanta for “Avengers: Infinity War” (due out in the summer of 2018), to be immediately followed by production of the follow-up 2019 Avengers sequel.

Over the weekend, Marvel released an “Infinity War” featurette, and star Robert Downey Jr. took to Facebook Live to “answer questions” with co-stars Tom Holland and Chris Pratt — thus providing physical evidence that Spider-Man and Star-Lord are indeed set to appear in Joe and Anthony Russo’s new film.

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Here are the aspects of “Infinity War” that now intrigue us most:

1. The Avengers filmmakers were smart to wait on the Guardians.

Marvel Studios didn’t jump the gun on having the Guardians of the Galaxy interact with one of the Avengers in the first “Guardians” film. That sage decision enhances the must-see factor of “Infinity War,” especially given the recent buzz about how well “Guardians: Vol. 2” has been testing (according to the Hollywood Reporter). Given that the Guardians’ Gamora is no fan of her step-dad Thanos, it makes sense that the Guardians and the Avengers will come together to battle Thanos over the Infinity Stones. (Perhaps half-earthling Star-Lord even wants to warn his birth-planet of the threat of Thanos coming.)

2. Likewise, you’ve got to appreciate the gradual progression toward Thanos.

It has been such a slow — and deftly executed — build to Thanos, as Marvel has made us wait to earn his appearance. Thanos has been watching from afar as the Infinity Stones have been gathered throughout the connected Marvel Studios movies — but we’ve had just several minutes tops of total Thanos time. After Thanos appeared at the end of the first Avengers movie, many fans presumed that he would be the villain in the next Avengers movie. Now, we get confirmation: at last, an entire Thanos film.

3. Spider-Man’s continued presence in the Marvel universe is most welcome.

Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is especially intriguing now because when this Marvel Studios-connected movie adventure began with Iron-Man nearly a decade ago, who would have predicted that the web-head would be a part of the big battle with Thanos in an Avengers movie? Marvel and Sony have moved quickly since reaching a deal to share the character — not only to shoot a new Spider-Man movie, but also to include him in “Avengers.”

4. “Infinity War” may be long, even for an Avengers movie.

This film may surpass 2½ hours — simply because so many well-known characters are in it. (For comparison’s sake, the first Avengers films each ran about 2:22.) Where is Spider-Man going to fit into things — and will the Avengers let him tag along against such a powerful foe? Spider-Man, Iron-Man, Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon — that’s a lot of laughs to balance out the pending doom of the Infinity Gauntlet.

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