Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Avengers: Infinity War
There's one major problem with Avengers: Infinity War: in spite of all comments to the contrary, it's clear the character deaths aren't permanent. Like the comic books that inspire it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a history of fake death scenes. Black Panther, Nick Fury, Bucky Barnes, War Machine, and even Tony Stark himself; all have had scenes where they've been on the verge of death. Infinity War, Marvel told viewers, would be different. As Kevin Feige noted when asked about character deaths, "People need to be careful what they are looking for."
The movie's script actually seems to directly address this. In an early scene, Thanos breaks Loki's neck, and smirks. "No resurrections this time," he declares, and there might as well be a nod and a wink to the audience. In Infinity War, death is going to be permanent. The stakes are raised right from the start, because this time nobody is guaranteed to survive.
And then comes the final twist, as Thanos successfully erases half the life in the universe. Beloved characters crumble into ash. The armies of Wakanda fade away. And even the bright young stars, the heroes of the future, are not spared. Tom Holland'sdeath scene is an absolute tearjerker. But will it really stick?
The Sequel Problem
Infinity War is undermined by a problem comic book publishers know all too well. Frequently, an annual "Summer Event" will kill off a major character, and fans will react with shock and outrage - and others will simply shrug in bemusement. Because the publisher has already released solicits several months down the line, and it's clear the death will be neatly reversed. In the same way, Infinity War kills countless heroes - but they're all heroes we know Marvel Studios are going to do more with down the line.
Take Spider-Man. Tom Holland is signed up for six Marvel movies. Filming is expected to begin on the Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel later this month. Clearly, then, Spider-Man's emotional death scene isn't going to stick. More awkwardly for Marvel, the sequel is due out only two months after Avengers 4's release. That means the studio will actually be beginning its marketing push for Spidey before they've even revealed his resurrection.
Or take the inevitable Black Panther 2. Given the tremendous success of the first film, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Marvel don't commission a sequel. Kevin Feige himself has already confirmed Marvel have a "pretty solid direction" for the story, and there's a strong push for Ryan Coogler to return. While Marvel has been rather more coy about Doctor Strange 2, Cumberbatch's someday-Sorcerer-Supreme was a highlight of Infinity War. Screenwriter Robert C. Cargill, who wrote the script for the first film, has already said he wants to use the villain Nightmare in the sequel. It seems the deaths in Infinity War aren't quite so permanent as Marvel would like viewers to believe.
Why Has Marvel Done This?
This, then, is one of the difficulties posed by a shared cinematic universe; if every movie links in somehow to the next, then viewers can have a sense of where things are going to go. The problem is only made worse when a studio's movies are released in quick succession. Marvel's habit of releasing three films a year means every bit of marketing for the Homecoming sequel will act as a potential spoiler for Avengers 4. In dramatic terms, Marvel may have been wiser to kill off some of the Phase 1 heroes - characters like Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, where the actors' contracts are coming to an end.
The reality is that, whatever the plot may be, Avengers 4 could only ever be one of two things: a "Passing of the Torch" or a "Last Hurrah." Had Marvel killed off the Phase 1 Avengers, we'd be expecting a "Passing of the Torch" - that heroes like Black Panther or Spider-Man, inspired by the Avengers' sacrifices, would unite to undo what Thanos has done. Instead, we have a "Last Hurrah," where the departing heroes get to save the world one last time. It's true that their ranks will be bolstered by the likes of Ant-Man, the Wasp, and most significantly Captain Marvel, but essentially, this is the last chance for the original Avengers to shine.
In thematic terms, it makes sense. Avengers 4 thus becomes a conclusion, a celebration of everything Marvel have done over the last decade. Unfortunately, in order to have that "Last Hurrah," Marvel have been forced to lower the stakes. When Thanos snapped his fingers, they could only kill the characters who they had future plans for.
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