With Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios took another ambitious step forward and brought the term blockbuster back to big budget films. But for all the hype, what has actually happened to the Marvel Universe now that the Mad Titan has cast his gawky gauntlet all over it? Using Thanos and the Infinity Stones, Marvel has woven together a cast of characters admirably similar to their comic book counterparts. The amount of intrigue and puzzlement over the MCU’s twists and turns has never been higher because, as the movies show time and again, while these characters are definitely inspired by their canon counterparts, the stories are brand new.
Movies are nowhere close to being “the comic books of today”, so the adaptation Marvel has undertaken has developed a far more linear story, but the moments are grander, the effects more stunning, and the stakes are higher than ever. If they can successfully translate the story on screen. That “if” is where the movie franchise puts its reputation on the line with every film they release. Here’s an update with how they’re pulling off this amazing feat and how the whole story is going so far, with Infinity War: 10 Problems It Solved In The MCU, 10 More That It Caused.
20 Enter Thanos - Solved
The MCU’s villain problem has been largely documented, especially here on Screen Rant. Too often, in earlier films featuring the Avengers, the villain has served as a big bogeyman, lurching along, furthering a shallow scheme of megalomania. Pair that problem with the expectations leading up to Avengers: Infinity War and the stakes for the Thanos’ debut were through the roof. From the title alone, along with several teasers softening the ground for his intro, fans knew that Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) would debut in this movie and his quest to hold the Infinity Gauntlet would be laid out in full.
Luckily, Marvel Studios took previous criticism to heart and made this movie as much about Thanos and his whole philosophy, as much as it brought all of the separate stories into one.
It wasn’t clear how much of the ultra villain, created by Jim Starlin, would come through in the on screen representation, but extended sequences of his early life and Titan’s destruction, along with extensive time given to his and Gamora’s relationship, revealed that the Mad Titan is complex and emotional. The stunning performance by Brolin even makes some in the audience empathize with his mission. Maybe just 50%.
19 The Halving of All Available Heroes - Caused
In a catastrophe inspired by the original Infinity Gauntlet series, (published in 1991, written by Jim Starlin, drawn by George Perez and Ron Lim), the Infinity War movie eradicated half of all living beings on earth, once Thanos finally secured the Mind Stone and completed the Infinity Gauntlet. This includes half of all the Marvel superheroes fans know and love. Just as a reminder, among the disappeared includes: Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis, Groot, Bucky Barnes, and Falcon. That list comprises the team’s two most powerful magicians and most of their best physical combat fighters.
Left is a fighting force at 50% that already had a lot of trouble stopping Thanos when they were at full strength. Still, currently on the board for future movies: Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Iron Man, Iron Eagle, The Hulk(ish), and Rocket Raccoon are left standing solidly in the hero camp at the end. Wounded and disparate as that group may be. All of the original Avengers are spared from the purge, so that might be a clue to how the heroes will move forward. That also leaves out some prominent side actors, who’ll be covered later in this list.
18 Exit Loki - Solved
Loki the trickster God, brother of Thor, was played brilliantly by Tom Hiddleston for seven years since the first Thor movie came out in 2011. Since that first appearance, audiences have seen Loki battle for his father’s love, take his alienation to heart, work on the dark side, and then come back to be redeemed in fan’s and (most importantly to Loki) Thor’s eyes. Audiences have seen that cycle of redemption, betrayal, fake death and resurrection a few times now, but in the latest iteration of Avengers family drama, it looks like he’s been taken out for good this time.
It didn’t take long either. Right at the top of Avengers: Infinity War, the shot opens onto a field of destruction, freshly burned to the ground by Thanos’ wrath. It doesn’t take long to realize that this is the ship full of Asgardians that the story last teased at the end of Thor: Ragnarok was ambushed. Loki’s end came at Thanos’ own hand, a clever way to pit fans against the villain immediately with the rage of a thousand suns. Before he passed, however, Loki was given a heartfelt, redemptive monologue, and it finally seemed like he and his brother achieved reconciliation. Of course, that appropriate end may also just be a genius fake out.
17 Iron Man Is Trapped In Outer Space - Caused
All the way in Act One, Tony Stark is sucked up into space in pursuit of Thanos’ Black Order, so when the movie closes on the main battlefield in Wakanda, he’s still on the other side of the plot hanging out on Titan. Iron Man is left in an especially precarious emotional position at the end of this movie. He just watched Peter Parker, this kid he’s developed a deep friendship with, dissolve into thin air under his supervision. On top of that, he had a near death experience when stabbed by Thanos and now the character is in mortal and psychic peril.
These may be clues that Tony Stark is building up to a big end scene in the next movie.
No one knows how he’ll rejoin the action or play a role in the Mad Titan’s ultimate downfall, but Tony Stark’s is one of the biggest cliffhangers in Infinity War. The narcissistic, volatile, superhero, Iron Man, played by the narcissistic, volatile Robert Downey Jr. kicked off the MCU with the success of Iron Man in 2008 and while, by today’s standards, Tony Stark can look a dinosaur, even a liability at times, his heroic journey is still held up as the tent pole of the entire Avengers movie project.
16 Cap and Bucky Reunited - Solved
The last time Steve Rogers and his childhood friend, Bucky Barnes were reunited, he was a brainwashed automaton who had been manipulated by Hydra into committing acts of terrorism and assisting the latest Baron Zemo. After it was revealed that Bucky, in his service to Red Skull, had become a monster so fatal for the evil empire that he was used in the assassination of Tony Stark’s own parents, it didn’t look like their friendship would ever escape the stigma of Bucky’s treachery.
Captain America, true to his name, knew that the friendship could be repaired, and since the events of Captain America: Civil War, Bucky’s been stashed in Wakanda, undergoing treatments to clear his mind of the trauma and programming. After his recovery was established in the post credits scene of Black Panther, Infinity War saw a joyful reunion between the two friends and Captain America was once again going into battle side by side the Winter Soldier. Maybe to be expected, Bucky didn’t cross paths with Tony Stark in this movie, so those two still haven’t reconciled over his parents’ passing. Then, conveniently enough, Bucky was one of the heroes who disappeared at the end. Several screenwriting strategies come to mind that would make room for the two Avengers never having that particular conversation.
15 Gamora's End - Caused
The biggest consequence of Thanos’ drive to collect all six Infinity Stones was the cost he paid to take the Soul Stone, Gamora’s life. Gamora’s knowledge of the location of the Soul Stone on Vormir eventually got her kidnapped by Thanos and after she gives him the information he requests, they go to the planet together, where he learns he must sacrifice one he loves to take the stone. This results in his taking Gamora’s life, with a rather cruel shove off a cliff to her doom.
Fans of Gamora, or even fans of causal plot structure, found this death to be a little unsatisfying. Gamora’s love story and entire agency is completely thrown out the window, unabashedly, on screen, in order to build Thanos’ character and hash out their relationship. It’s also just a little too convenient that she knows the location of the soul stone, so she gets kidnapped and she happens to be the only thing Thanos has ever loved so she fits as a viable sacrifice. Going forward, in order for Gamora’s death to be properly avenged, she’ll either need to be resurrected in some grand time/reality altering event or her passing needs to be expanded into a larger motivating factor. Maybe it’ll fuel Nebula or Peter Quill to finally achieve the cunning required to take down Thanos?
14 Incorporate the Guardians - Solved
One of the biggest lifts of the entire movie was how to weave all of the different characters together in the first film that features every single hero. The entire MCU, from Spider-Man to Thor to Shuri, were jammed into this story.
In particular, it’s pretty remarkable how seamlessly all of the Guardians of the Galaxy were blended into a story that started with earth bound Avengers.
Amazing performances from Pratt and Downey, Hemsworth and Cooper, and Dave Bautista being all over the place, made the Marvel family feel real, and like natural allies. Additional credit for this trick goes to building this franchise of movies into more than a house of cards. The journey from Iron Man to Infinity War takes its time, preparing audiences for this perfect storm of heroes from different places to come together and rage on screen. Thor, both the movie and the character ,get a lot of credit for this too, taking that first step into the cosmic universe on the theater screen. By the time men are becoming ants and handless surgeons are performing magic, fans are clamoring for the tree ent, the grumpy raccoon and the bispecies power couple to fly their spaceship right into Avengers tower. After all that, Infinity War brought the symphony together beautifully.
13 The Destruction of Wakanda - Caused
After Black Panther did a stunning job of introducing the land of Wakanda, Infinity War took that incredible place and had a massive battle all over it, destroying the land and killing most of its army. Sounds about typical. On the plus side, it was an incredible battle to behold and after so many of these climaxes occurring among New York skyscrapers, one empathizes with the decision to mix it up.
The Border Tribe, led by W’Kabi, the Dora Milaje, led by Okoye, and the Jabari tribe, brought down from the mountains by M’Baku, all suffered heavy losses. It doesn’t look like the battle reached the city, so the main metropolis is still intact, but T’Challa, the Black Panther, was among those dissolved by Thanos’ bifurcational decree. Shuri, interestingly, is unaccounted for at the end of Infinity War. The last time audiences saw her, she was scrambling to extract the Mind Stone safely from Vision’s brain. After being unsuccessful, the action swooped out of her lab and she wasn’t checked in on again. Hers is another loose thread caused by the Wakandan throne being drawn into the Avengers’ conflict with Thanos. Both for Avengers 4, coming in 2019, and Black Panther 2, currently unannounced.
12 Doctor Strange Bounces Back - Solved
It was a delight to see Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Stephen Strange have a bounce back performance in the latest Avengers movie. As soon as Heimdall sends The Hulk into New York City’s Sanctum Sanctorum with his last breath, Doctor Strange is injected into the story unwillingly, but he makes the perfect first battle between Earth’s heroes and Thanos’ Black Order.
Going back to the way the film franchise has incorporated so many storylines together, Doctor Strange’s magic goes a long way to forging links between characters. In his previous movie, Doctor Strange in 2016, it was a little slow and predictable, but it served as a serviceable origin story for the character. It hit all of the correct beats and set him up as the defender of Earth against otherworldly beings by pitting him against Dormammu. Coming from that background, it’s only natural that he should serve as the first line of defense against Thanos’ goons. It also doesn’t hurt that his American accent benefits from having fewer lines and the ones he did have were served right into his alpha male character. All superheroes are prone to inflated egos, mixing them all together in Infinity War was one of the things fans were most excited for; fortunately, in this movie, Doctor Strange didn’t disappoint.
11 Tony Stark and Pepper Potts Relationship in Crisis - Caused
Just before the introduction of Doctor Strange into the Thanos saga, Infinity War opens Act One with an update on the relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. The couple last broke off their tryst due to Stark’s all consuming work ethic and inability to prioritize their partnership. While the latest movie makes it appear that the two are doing well, or at least trying to, Pepper again brings up this insurmountable force, vying for his time and attention.
In this opening scene, his single-mindedness is illustrated by his false power core that he wears on his chest as a symbol of his role.
If, as theorized, Tony Stark is slated to be ultimately concluded in the upcoming movie, the resolution between he and Pepper should be made somehow before his passing. Unfortunately this appears to mean that Tony and Pepper will never reconcile themselves into a happy relationship, which is a tragic message for the main male protagonist at the head of a whole film empire. Looking ahead to the next steps of their relationship, Iron Man may either extinguish his own flame in a stunning act of self sacrifice or retire to enjoy the quiet life with Pepper and live happily ever after. The odds favor the former outcome, but even sliding Robert Downey Jr. out of the picture still leaves questions about Pepper’s role in Avengers Tower and as head of Stark Industries.
10 Red Skull Has The Soul Stone - Solved
The biggest mystery leading up to Infinity War was the location of the Soul Stone. It was well known that Thanos would seek to complete his Infinity Gauntlet by collecting all six stones and the location of the first five had been laid out in earlier films. The final, Soul, Stone was the most difficult for audiences and even the Mad Titan himself to find. Prior to the movie’s release and the solution to the puzzle, fans theorized that the Soul Stone could reside in Wakanda, rest with Heimdall, be in the custody of Adam Warlock, rest on Planet Titan, or else is somewhere lost in time.
Infinity War revealed that the Soul Stone was hidden on the planet Vormir, a secret Gamora had discovered and only surrendered to Thanos under extreme duress. Once the action pans to that planet, fans learned that Red Skull, Captain America’s first villain from The First Avenger (2011), had been transported there when his body fell through the Tesseract portal, at the end of his and Cap’s final battle. Since then, for almost three quarters of a century, Red Skull has been acting as Stonekeeper, cursed with exile on a forgotten planet. A fitting conclusion to the Hydra leader’s tale.
9 Hulk is in a Funk - Caused
Infinity War was a good reunion for most of the original Avengers, but The Hulk has had a performance problem ever since he was initially called on to skirmish with Thanos in the opening scenes of the movie. As the action progressed and the battle for Earth became more heated, Bruce Banner tried again and again to summon the big green guy, but repeatedly found himself in an internal struggle with his alter ego. The absence of The Hulk’s fighting prowess was sorely missed in fighting the Black Order, but Tony Stark had some giant Mech warrior for the doctor to operate, mimicking the scene from Black Panther where Martin Freeman remotely controls the Wakandan fighter plane.
Banner sticks around to the end of the movie, avoiding hideous disintegration, but The Hulk never again graces the screen with a performance. Presumably this is some head nod at a deeper emotional storyline for Banner, but it’s not yet clear how he’ll come out of it or even what’s brought on this sudden behavior. Some have speculated that The Hulk suffered such a bruising from his brawl with Thanos that he’s a little gun shy. Others say that The Hulk is just tired of Banner ordering him around. Don’t forget, he was a gladiatorial champion in Thor: Ragnarok.
8 Stormbreaker Replaces Mjolnir - Solved
In a move that many fans saw coming, Peter Dinklage joined the cast of Infinity War as Eitri, who creates weapons for the Gods. During a so-so “C” story, Thor, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot travel to a place called Nidavellir and visit Eitri in order to learn of the origin of Thanos’ Gauntlet. While there, Thor observes the havoc Thanos has brought on the cosmic maker community and is reinspired with both rage at his enemy and faith in his destiny. He uses this revitalization to convince Eitri to make for him, Stormbreaker.
The battle axe was forged by the Gods, from a metal called Uru, and bound by a handle contributed by one of Groot’s own snapped off limbs. It’s not the most daring act of sacrifice fans have seen in the MCU so far, but it was a sweet moment. If the axe is half as resilient as Groot seems to be, Stormbreaker will make a fine weapon for Thor. After Mjolnir’s destruction at the hands of Hela in Ragnarok, Thor was a without a weapon to channel his full powers and command of lightning. Once Stormbreaker was forged, Thor, Rocket and Groot flew back to the main battle to assist in the fight against Thanos’ army and the battle axe almost saved the day.
7 All Six Infinity Stones Are In The Open - Caused
Like little breadcrumbs being laid out along the way to a film franchise, the Infinity Stones have been built up and developed so much over the course of fifteen-plus movies, that these are now the ultimate Macguffins. If anything, the MCU knows how to do a trope the right way. Now that the Mind, Time, Reality, Soul, Power, and Space Stones are all out from their respective hiding spaces, Thanos is only the beginning of problems.
After spending a full ten years describing these massive plot devices, how does Kevin Feige and the creative team at Marvel plan to dispatch with these all powerful stones?
Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, despite how bleak it looks now, our heroes will save the day, even if it takes a couple/few movies to do it. But once the stones are in the hands of the Avengers and Thanos has been banished to wherever, what happens to the stones then? One or two might be destroyed, Doctor Strange can reclaim the Time Stone, the Mind Stone sounds valuable enough to keep around somewhere. The dirty little secret of the Infinity Stones is that they’re just as threatening to the universe divided, than united under Thanos.
6 Scarlet Witch and Vision’s Conclusion - Solved
Judging from all the screen time Vision and the Scarlet Witch got in Infinity War, it looks like their love story was gracefully concluded with Vision’s passing at the hands of Thanos. From their one nice evening in Scotland to those precious times when she was trying to magic the rock out of his forehead, what they had was special. Alright, it didn’t end up being the most epic romance in the world, but the sequence they got to declare and demonstrate their love for each other is pretty good by the standards of the genre and about as much attention as their characters will get from this main plot.
The real crime is that no spin off has been announced yet for either of the two to expand their characters. The first thought is Vision, coming off the monstrous success of Tom King and Gabriel Walta’s twelve issue graphic novel exploring the peculiarities of an android superhero trying to have a normal life. The suburban setting of King’s story reads more like Edward Scissorhands than an Avengers movie, so spinning it off into its own, separate, but connected continuity would be difficult, but fans will sorely mourn the loss of these two lovable characters from the front line.
5 How Does Captain Marvel Work Into All This? - Caused
As the post credits scene at the end of Infinity War revealed, Captain Marvel will be tied directly to the events that occur in the next movie. At the tail end, when Agent Hill and Nick Fury are racing through New York in a Land Rover, the wave of deaths starts to rush toward them. With his final movement, Fury presses the call button on an old style beeper, sending a page to Captain Marvel. Her movie isn’t set to come out until March of 2019, but the entire time from now until then will be packed with fans theorizing on how she’ll come in to save the day and restore order to the MCU.
It’s been established already that the first Captain Marvel movie will be set in the ‘90s, dialing back the clock on the Marvel setting and opening a great span of time to insert some Easter Eggs. Her opening movie looks like it will be more of an origin story, focusing on how she got her powers from the original hero, Mar-Vell. The war between the Skrull and Kree races has been teased and Ronan the (Kree) Accuser is going to return to make an appearance, his first since Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1 (2014).
4 Update on Hulk and Black Widow - Solved
When Bruce Banner zooms back to Earth, it’s the first time he’s set foot on the planet since he ran away in shame after the events of Age of Ultron (2015). After spending some time as a gladiator champion, he’s found his way back to his home planet only to bring news of the most terrifying villain in the known universe and now the big purple guy’s henchmen are attacking Earth, no one can stop them, and no one has any form of plan for Thanos. And then he runs into Natasha.
When they were last working together, Hulk and Black Widow developed quite a rapport, showing signs of embarking on a romantic relationship. The reception, when the two met in this movie, after so much time had passed, was a pretty chilly one. The Natasha Romanoff that Bruce Banner left behind has been doing anything but sitting idly by. She’s been a fugitive, running with Steve and Sam, being their own rogue superheroes. Infinity War made it clear that the two of them are on hold for now, but it’s for the best, considering the state Banner/Hulk is in at the moment. For a guy who’s naturally a little bit back and forth, he seems especially lost lately. Hopefully future movies bring Hulk back on track.
3 Still Have To Exit More Major Characters - Caused
When the credits finally began to roll on the latest entrant into the MCU galaxy of stars, Infinity War kicked off with the Marvel Studios logo with a ‘10’ fashioned into the typeface, signifying an entire decade building this thing that has generated so much buzz, broken so many records, and surprised so many doubters. It’s been an amazing ten years of movies, but by the next Avengers movie, fans will have to say goodbye to even more of their beloved characters.
Technically, they already said goodbye to half of them, but looking down the nose of the future a little bit, Avengers 4 will be the roller coaster that comes to a halt for at least one or two more major heroes. Loki, Gamora, Vision, and Heimdall were swept away in this movie, although this writer thinks Gamora will make a return. Before this movie came out, many fans were theorizing about whether Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers, Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes, or Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye would be next to conclude their journey in the MCU. All of those characters plus several more have had long runs in the franchise and all parties are better off concluding or spinning off their arcs.
2 Thor’s New Eye - Solved
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) was an experimental addition to the Thor trilogy of movies. Director Taika Waititi went all out on Thor’s cosmic roots, while at the same time delivering a powerful story about his duty as King of Asgard. Ragnarok laid a lot of the groundwork for the storylines of Thor’s duty and destiny as a God of Thunder that Infinity War picked up on. Thor first accesses his terrifying lightning power in a battle with his sister Hela, in fact, for control of the throne of their people. As a result of that battle and speaking to the quirkiness of that movie, Thor lost one of his eyes along with his homeland, family, and everything he’s ever known.
Fortunately, through the beauty of serialized cinematic storytelling, Thor had that eye restored as a product of his introduction to the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians picked up Thor right after his brother was taken out and his ship was destroyed by Thanos, but it wasn’t until he developed an unlikely friendship with Rocket Raccoon that their stories really dovetail. Earlier in the Guardians’ adventures, in Vol. 2, Rocket just happened to acquire a false space/magic/high-tech eyeball from one of the Ravagers who launched a mutiny against Yondu. Just like an eyeball in its socket, the MCU has borne heroes that fit perfectly together.
1 Introduce Next Generation - Caused
Producers from Marvel Studios have said that plans exist to make movies through the next five years if all goes well. It’s that next era of movies that Infinity War mostly neglected in its ode to Thanos. Spider-Man was taken in by Tony Stark to become an official Avenger and he’ll make an excellent team lead if they decide to go that direction. But other than that, not many other moves were made to pave the way for those next five years.
Along with the most villain development a Marvel movie has attempted, this introductory half to a two part story did set the table impeccably for an all out tear down in the next movies. The amount they’ve played with illusion and reality to date was nothing compared to this disappearing half a universe trick. The next few Marvel movies will truly test audience’s capacity to be manipulated on a level necessary to tell a true comic book story. The character arcs have gone on for so long now, that more and more extreme measures are taken to keep the story plausible. The ultimate trick will be to see if they can flip all of these legacy Avengers over and usher in the next age of Marvel heroes.
Which of these are you most excited to see resolved? Let us know in the comments!