WARNING: THIS POST WILL CONTAIN MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The ending of Avengers: Infinity War is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The fact that a major studio was willing to conclude the biggest blockbuster of the summer on such a dark note, with 10 heroes dying before our eyes — including the one who just headlined the biggest movie phenomenon of 2018, Black Panther — is just completely bonkers. But ever since I saw the movie, I’ve been going back and forth wondering whether it’s as effective as it could be.
A lot of the hype surrounding Infinity War revolved around the idea that finally, we had a Marvel movie with real stakes. In other words, characters were going to die this time, and they were presumably going to stay dead.
But that’s not exactly what happens in Infinity War because although a lot of characters die, we know for a fact that the vast majority of their deaths will be reversed in the next movie. I don’t mean “know” in the sense that it seems likely; I mean in the sense that Black Panther and Spider-Man sequels have already been officially confirmed; there’s a Spider-Man movie coming out next year, for God’s sake.
I now desperately wish that Marvel had been a bit more secretive about its upcoming slate of movies. They were already being fairly coy about what lied beyond Infinity War — not even telling us what the name of the fourth Avengers movie is — but clearly, the studio was unwilling to not announce Spider-Man and Black Panther sequels at the height of the original movies’ popularity.
This creates another one of those situations that we’ve seen a number of times over the past few years where we’re presented with a “death” that should be super shocking, but it’s blatantly obvious that we’re just being messed with. So the creators go through the motions of pretending the death is permanent and that the actor has left the project, only for them to return to absolutely no one’s surprise. Basically, we’re looking for an exact repeat of the hiatus between Game of Thrones Season 5 and 6, complete with the creators ducking Comic-Con.
Can you imagine how ballsy it would have been if the movie ended with all of the original Avengers disappearing in the snap? It’s pretty realistic to think that any of those characters might legitimately be killed off, so we’d be in a genuine state of suspense for the next year, having no idea if Tony Stark or Captain America are coming back or not (well, other than seeing them in set photos).
Clearly, though, that’s not the story Marvel wants to tell. Coincidentally, the snap happens to have left behind every single original Avenger, so it seems pretty obvious that this serves the storytelling purpose of clearing the deck so that Avengers 4 can be a sendoff for the original team, who go off on a mission to rescue the new recruits and maybe even sacrifice themselves to bring them back.
But the ending is undeniably effective if we don’t really focus on it as being a twist and focus more on the way it impacts the characters. Sure, we know Spider-Man isn’t really dead, but Tony Stark doesn’t, and his reaction is devastating. The same goes for Captain America’s reaction to watching his lifelong friend Bucky turn to ash before his eyes.
So I think we’ll appreciate this ending a lot more once we have some time to think about it and view it as more than just a shocking twist. It’s a great, emotional wallop, and I’m a huge fan of what it sets up for Avengers 4. I just can’t help but feel it would have been so much more effective if it didn’t leave everyone in the theater saying to themselves, “But they just announced Black Panther 2!” I’ve seen the movie twice now, and both times I saw it, someone in the audience made a comment like that.
Heck, at least make the first few people to disappear be characters whose deaths are slightly more believable, like Wanda and Falcon — but the second death is Black Panther; as soon as he goes, it’s obvious that none of these characters can really be dying, so we stop taking the scene as seriously.
And how do we feel about the fact that all of these deaths are going to be reversed, anyway? Personally, I think the only way it will work is if a sacrifice is made to achieve it. If Tony Stark just gets a hold of the Infinity Gauntlet and uses it to set everything back to normal, that would be disappointing and actually make Infinity War the least consequential Avengers movie, not the most consequential as had been promised.
On the other hand, if someone like Tony, Steve, or maybe even all of the original Avengers have to die in order to bring these characters back, I think it would totally work. And this would be a dramatically satisfying way to usher out the old generation to make room for the new.
Speaking of deaths, another area of the movie that I feel conflicted about is Gamora’s death. The Guardians of the Galaxy films are my favorite entries into the MCU, so this was obviously tremendously upsetting, as it was supposed to be. But I think my biggest concern about it is that it completely ruins the ability for the Guardians films to function as any sort of trilogy.
Think about it: in the future, any viewers who watch just the three Guardians movies back to back will be so confused when one of the series’ main characters just flat out dies off-screen between entries. Sure, watching the Iron Man movies back to back would also create some confusion, but to a much lesser degree. And besides, the Guardians movies were much more of their own thing than anything else in the MCU before now.
That is unless Gamora’s death is reversed, too. But as much as I want her back, it’s going to be quite cheap if Avengers 4 brings back not just everyone who disappeared in the snap, but everyone who died a normal death, death. I’m now concerned that despite this movie being hyped up as having the most stakes, it will, in the end, be fairly inconsequential after all of its significant moments are reversed.
But we’ll get a much better sense of how well all of these things work next year, when we finally get to see the actual end of this movie.