If there was any doubt The Avengers: Infinity War was going to be very different from the comic version, the cast has confirmed it. Since the end credits of The Avengers, Marvel Studios has teased that Thanos was the true villain pulling the strings behind it all, preparing for an all-out assault. As more and more Infinity Stones were revealed to be driving each hero's movie series, the Marvel fans knew exactly what it was building towards... even as one Marvel fan theory after another was disproved by the films.
The payoff finally came when Marvel confirmed the coming of Infinity War, the studio's biggest movie yet, named for the comic series in which Thanos united the Infinity Stones to take over the universe. But problems with the presumed 'adaptation' soon appeared. The "Infinity War" comic saw Earth's heroes unite, sure - but under the orders of Adam Warlock. And Adam Warlock won't be in Infinity War. More recently, Marvel has confirmed Thanos has a different origin story and hinted fans should stop spinning theories about the final Soul Infinity Stone.
As good as the original comics may be, the sheer number of heroes and storylines at work in the MCU demand their own conclusions. So when we sat down with the cast on the set of Infinity War, they confirmed that Marvel's movie universe was now telling its own story, regardless of the event's title:
For both of you, where there any specific comic books that you read to help you prepare for this movie?
Mark Ruffalo: This one we're like, in new territory really.
Chadwick Boseman: It's different in this one, I don't know how to explain it. It's just because we're in so many different places.
Ruffalo: And it's so different from the comic books. There's elements that are clearly the same but when you really start to get into the story everything changes. Planet Hulk was a big influence for Thor 3, and the idea, the inkling of World War Hulk starts to... I read (that) way before doing this and there's some interesting stuff in there, but honestly nothing so far directly related to this.
You didn't read Infinity Gauntlet or any of those?
Ruffalo: Yeah, that is informative as well, but then again it just gets so... off of that topic that it starts to become a little confusing where you're like “Why isn't this in there? Why are we doing this?”
Boseman: It actually takes away from what is actually happening in front of you I think, in this case.
There's wisdom to Boseman's advice, encouraging fans to focus less on the story not being told than the one carefully crafted by studio talent. And if anything, Marvel Studios has made it clear in the past that adhering to every word of the source material matters less than some fans might wish. The results have spoken for themselves, with no better example than Thor: Ragnarok: originally giving the "Planet Hulk" story to Thor instead. Hulk was eventually added back in, and Rgnarok was a hit. With Infinity War, the inspirations have become even less direct - and far more layered than just one mini-series could handle.
Even without the ongoing storylines of the main characters to worry about, there are at least 5 comics Infinity War is based on, or adapting parts of to film. It was inevitable that at some point, the characters and stories of Marvel's movie universe would be more important than the comics which inspired their writers, stars, directors, and the audience too. The original Infinity War comic never went to Black Panther's home either... but you just try denying fans a bit more Wakanda-focused action. Bittersweet for comic devotees, but if the filmmakers and fans were reading the same comics for inspiration, the creativity and originality of the movies would be less enjoyable, not more.
That being said, Marvel now encounters a challenge likely to face all 'shared universes' who follow their path, adapting existing works. The studio was up front about The Avengers: Age of Ultron NOT adapting the comic of the same name. The same went for Thor: Ragnarok and its source material. The most problematic being Captain America: Civil War, using the name of one of Marvel's most politically-charged, and socially-relevant events... for a film not interested in telling that story at all. The implications of the title didn't irritate everyone, but if nothing else, the practice erodes the already spotty link between the biggest superhero movies today and the comics they're supposed to be based on.
If Infinity War is the culmination of the MCU so far, then that's the universe the story should worry about first. Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes from here - and whether fans should even read the comics to prepare - remains to be seen.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018