In defense of the Avengers 4 title shenanigans

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It was Endgame, after all that.

Nearly two years of speculation about what the fourth Avengers movie would be called finally ended Friday when Marvel Studios casually dropped the film’s first trailer and unveiled the title as Avengers: Endgame. Some fans are now frustrated wondering what the point of holding that information back for so long really was, especially when it involved the Russo Brothers straight up lying in order to keep the mystery alive.

I’m here to defend them and explain why the way things played out makes perfect sense.

It was back in 2014 when Marvel announced the Avengers’ long-awaited confrontation with Thanos would be split across two installments with Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 releasing in May 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 following in May 2019.

It wasn’t long before the studio began to backtrack, with Kevin Feige insisting in subsequent interviews that these were actually two distinct stories and not one story cut in two.

It seemed Marvel, and especially Disney, had gotten cold feet about releasing their finale in two parts, likely after seeing other two-parters like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay struggle at the box office. The two-parter formula popularized by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hadn’t worked for everyone, with audiences often feeling less enticed to go see a movie that it’s clear from the title alone is not yet finished.

So Marvel decided to drop the Part 2 from the second movie, leaving the first installment as Avengers: Infinity War and keeping Part 2 untitled. Fans immediately began to speculate about what the name of the second movie could be, and their curiosity was greatly intensified when Feige suggested in an interview that the reason this information was being withheld was that the title is actually a spoiler for Infinity War.

This wildly intriguing statement only drew more fans into the increasingly engrossing puzzle. What on Earth kind of title could actually be a spoiler for a previous movie?

Feige, clearly, was not intentionally aiming for this reaction. He wasn’t even the one to bring up the idea of the title being a spoiler; an interviewer simply asked him if that’s the case, and he answered in the affirmative. He would later regret this and walk it back after witnessing firsthand the firestorm he unintentionally created, but the clarification that the title isn’t a spoiler never really stopped the original bit of information from spreading.

Infinity War released in April 2018, and in its wake, no title announcement came; it wasn’t included at the end of the credits at some fans had theorized. Everyone had their own guesses at the name of the follow-up, with one popular one being that it would be called Endgame. That would make sense, considering the word “endgame” had now come up in two Avengers sequels in a row; Tony referenced the endgame in Age of Ultron, and in a key moment in Infinity War, Doctor Strange had said, “We’re in the endgame now.”

But the Russo Brothers soon declared in an interview with Uproxx that the film’s title was not spoken in Infinity War, which would rule out Endgame — and which we now know was a straight up lie. But to be fair to them, what were they supposed to say? If they were to answer yes to that question, that would ruin the whole point of keeping the title a secret to begin with. Answering with “no comment” would only make fans assume the answer was yes, so their only choice was to lie in order to maintain the secret.

Now, that begs the question: was maintaining the secret a worthwhile endeavor? What was the point of all of it?

Well, with Infinity War, the Russos were clearly hoping for audiences to feel like the Avengers were going to vanquish Thanos at the end — specifically leading us to believe that Thor would kill him — so when this massive summer blockbuster concluded with the villain not only winning, but killing half of all life in the universe, it would be one of the most mindblowing twists in the history of tentpole action films.

Marvel also clearly wanted audiences to go into the movie feeling like they were about to witness the Avengers’ last stand, and not just one part of their last stand. That was essential both from a marketing perspective – so audiences didn’t feel they were about to see half a movie and that they could simply wait until next year to see the complete story back to back – and from a storytelling perspective. If audiences think they bought a ticket to see a triumphant, conclusive ending to this story, and instead they’re sent back into the lobby having witnessed half of their beloved characters die, that makes Thanos’ victory even more of a gut punch.

Now imagine if heading into Infinity War, it was widely known that one year later, there was going to be a film called Avengers: Endgame. Sure, it was already known that another Avengers sequel was going to follow Infinity War, but with so little having been publicized about it, it was easy for casual fans to have it out of their mind or not even learn about it at all. On the other hand, it kind of ruins the finality of one movie when it’s known that it’s going to be immediately followed by a sequel that literally has the word “end” in it. This is likely what Feige meant by the title being a spoiler; it’s not that it was called “Avengers: The One After Everyone Dies,” but “Avengers: Endgame” could potentially clue general audiences into the fact that Infinity War ends on a cliffhanger and is not itself the endgame.

So Marvel’s plan was to completely much talk of Avengers 4 at all pre-Infinity War, with this including the promotional campaign; those who watched the film’s stars on the late night circuit may have noticed that the fact that another movie would follow shortly after Infinity War rarely came up. Then, once it became widely known that Infinity War ended on a cliffhanger, Marvel would shift gears and begin to promote the next movie, rather than have to attempt to promote two movies at once and making audiences feel like the full story wouldn’t be over until 2019. Hardcore fans knew all this already just from following the project’s production, but why let everyone in on the secret who didn’t already spoil it for themselves?

This put people like Kevin Feige and the Russo Brothers in a tough situation when they were asked about the title in interviews. It’s easy to assume when you see a headline like “Kevin Feige Reveals the Title for Avengers 4 Is a Spoiler for Infinity War” or “The Russo Brothers Reveal the Closest Avengers Title Guess” that they volunteered that information, holding a full-on press conference to make sure it gets out there. But more often than not, they’re just being put on the spot in an interview, trying to dance around the subject of the title as much as they can not because there’s necessarily any great secret to it, but because they’re rather not talk about a fourth movie before the third one even comes out.

At some point, it seems it became clear to people like the Russo Brothers that this intrigue for the title was only building up suspense and generating additional hype, at which point I would guess that a decision was made behind the scenes to delay the reveal even longer than initially planned. Just think of how much discussion the anticipation for the title generated for Avengers 4 all throughout the fall, compared to if the end credits for Infinity War just casually dropped it, i.e. “Thanos will return in Avengers: Endgame.” And think of how much the mystery made you jump at the chance to immediately watch the trailer the second it hit to find out the answer, since it was left out of the video title.

Personally, I’m happy to have had the title kept off my radar during my first viewing of Infinity War. I’m someone who keeps up with the production of MCU movies closely and was, therefore, well aware that Thanos is the villain of Avengers 4 before seeing Infinity War. I was also pretty sure that Infinity War would end with Thanos’ infamous snap, as originally depicted in the comics. But Avengers 4 being so completely underdiscussed, and seeming more like a vague project off in the distance rather than something tangible with a name and logo, allowed me to not think about it much while watching Infinity War and get sucked into the story as the grand finale. If the title was out there, a giant “AVENGERS: ENDGAME” would be stuck in my head during the first viewing.

Besides, I’ll never forget the experience of, on Friday morning, looking up on Twitter and nearly spitting out my coffee when I saw a video titled “Marvel Studios’ Avengers – Trailer” posted. At first, I thought that, after all that, Marvel was just calling the movie “Avengers.” I then thought that perhaps they were actually going to start marketing it without a title, just cutting to the release date with no name being revealed.

But as the logo began to form, it became clear that a subtitle was coming, too, and those five to eight seconds of suspense as I realized that, after all this speculation and hype, I was about to find out the title of Avengers 4 was pure bliss, and it made the whole journey worth it. The fact that the title itself wasn’t necessarily anything that special is kind of beside the point.

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