Avengers 4 Has A Death Problem
All that praise laid down, doing such a bold switch on audiences on the second-to-last film comes with risks for the real finale. Immediately, a lot of the ending hype has been spent. Avengers 4 will undoubtedly be sold on it being the last ride for many of the key heroes, yet while few were upset by the subterfuge performed by Marvel, there'll be some skepticism about true finality. Indeed, Infinity War exists in a landscape where no Marvel movie after 2019 is announced and so does feel like a late-day entry, whereas by this time next year at least the 2020 MCU movies will be in known development.
Of course, Avengers 3's quality and reception marginalizes that concern. The real barrier is the deaths. For months leading up to Avengers: Infinity War, the same people who'd pulled the Part 1 switch-then-bait were also promising deaths and that they would be permanent - sly fuel to the Stark or Cap theories - something they've continued afterward. And here's the problem. Obviously, no director, writer or producer is going to spoil or undo the ending of a movie still playing in theaters, but all involved are holding militantly to the notion that Infinity War's deaths are permanent when that just can't be the case.
Loki and Heimdall can stay dead, sure, but there are easy get-outs for Gamora and Vision, while the victims of the snap are sure to be resurrected (at the very least, the Guardians, Spider-Man and Black Panther all must return for solo movies, and it's not really an avenging if the villain's entire plan hasn't been undone). You have a situation where the filmmakers are stepping beyond simple misleading statements, and the majority of the audience knows it.
How Can Marvel Market Avengers 4?
Whereas for Avengers: Infinity War the trick was enabled by a greater sense of mystery about the overall purpose of the project, half the secret is out for Avengers 4, and the marketing tact must adjust to account for it. The campaign must decide early on what's a spoiler and what isn't and stick to it militantly. Uncertain terms leading to unclear narratives have hurt the likes of Batman v Superman and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and while Avengers 4 is sure to be more crowd-pleasing than either, at this level anti-hype is a failure.
The other movies in many ways force Marvel's hand. Ant-Man & the Wasp and Captain Marvel being set before Thanos' snap and the films inhabiting different areas of the MCU means they roll pretty easily, but when it comes to what's next, issues are clear. Spider-Man 2 releases less than three months after Avengers 4, and considering it's a Sony picture, can't be subject to the same restrictions. The same goes for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which is likely to start filming in 2019 before most of the vanished actors are brought back.
Essentially, Marvel almost has to admit that the finger snap was a bust and will be reversed straight up, mainly so they can include their future A-listers in the marketing; starting out with a teaser focused on the OG heroes and making clear it's their film, then segueing into the bigger scope would be fitting - and they can still keep the method of rescue a closely-held secret. Deflating as that sounds, it wouldn't really be that damaging. While there's certainly an argument to be made that knowing dead characters will be back robs Avengers 3 of some of its emotional weight, the actual sense of permanent loss wasn't the point of Infinity War's ending: it was more about Thanos' ultimate victory.
Marvel's pulled a careful backtrack with Infinity War, but now they need to go all in with Avengers 4.
All this said, however, it may not really matter how the film is marketed: from this vantage point, with its predecessor one of the biggest release ever, the film is a sure-fire success, spoiler or no. Avengers: Infinity War the best trailer they could have asked for.
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