Warning! If you do not want to know who dies in “Avengers: Infinity War,” do not keep reading. You have been warned.
For fans of the Marvel universe, death has never really meant death. We’ve seen Loki “die” and come back plenty of times. Bucky Barnes and Nick Fury have been assumed dead at various points, only to spring back into existence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well.
But this time, it was supposed to be different.
Leading up to the release of “Avengers: Infinity War,” the directors of the film spoke about the movie as a “final chapter.” Marvel boss Kevin Feige talked about the deaths in the movie being “real” this time. In an interview on April 22, one day before the premiere, I asked writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely to define what death means in their recent project.
“Death is death,” McFeely said. “I mean, we’re sensitive to that, and certainly the Marvel universe played with taking characters away and then giving them back to you in some other form. If we say goodbye to some characters, we will say it permanently.”
He continued: “The idea is that this movie’s going to be different and has a potential to be really good is because the stakes are real and choices are real and we know that we’ve cried wolf a little bit on that, so I suppose some audience members might look at that skeptically, but trust us.”
Did you get all that? “Permanent,” he said. “Trust us,” he said.
So I audibly gasped in the theater when certain characters bit the dust. Loki in the film’s first minutes. (Are you kidding me?) Gamora just halfway through the movie. (Holy what?) That is, until the very end, when Spider-Man, most of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther ― yes, even T’Challa ― crumbled to ash at the snap of Thanos’ fingers, thus rendering everything Marvel said to be pretty much baloney.
As my colleague Matt Jacobs pointed out, these characters are coming back.
New movies are already in the works for “Spider-Man,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Black Panther.” Is the third “Guardians” going to be about Rocket living life as a raccoon on Earth? Is “Spider-Man 2″ going to just focus on Ned putting that Lego Death Star he broke back together?
It all sounds riveting, but I doubt it. These characters will be resurrected one way or another. The creators played up their deaths, insinuating that they would mean something when they, well, won’t. Or can’t. The newly deceased are contractually obligated to come back.
I reached out to a rep for Markus and McFeely to clarify their previous quote, but didn’t hear back as of Monday afternoon.
I could see the studio putting out a press release explaining the sequels have been put on hold … or something. But it’s not going to change anything.
“Infinity War” was billed as the movie that the previous 18 MCU entires had been building toward. On that count it did not disappoint, but let’s face it: Marvel lied to us.
Maybe we should’ve seen this coming. After all, the “Infinity Gauntlet” comic, upon which the movie is largely based, is about Thanos killing a bunch of people before the characters eventually just … reverse everything. But with all the talk of “permanent death” and “real stakes,” it was easy to get caught up in the potential tragedy.
Now we’re left wondering: Were the writers truthful about anything in the run-up to the premiere? Well, maybe. Even before I knew the outcome of “Infinity War,” I asked them, “Wherever Captain America ends up, what was the reasoning for it?”
Markus told me it was a matter of “fulfilling the destiny” of that Brooklyn kid we met back in the 1940s.
“I mean, just continuing to put that guy, Steve Rogers, the asthmatic whatever-other-disease-he-had-at-that-point into the most unbelievable situation … and taking that to the farthest point,” he said.
This is what “Infinity War” achieves: setting up Captain America (and the other Avengers left standing at the film’s end, aka the actors with soon-to-be-expiring contracts), for one final conflict against Thanos to reverse everything and save the universe at the end of the next movie.
What that involves is anyone’s guess. HuffPost’s Andy McDonald suggested Cap could end up wielding the Infinity Gauntlet in the follow-up movie. I’d be down with that.
It’s just, after being promised real stakes, I’d rather not be treated to more fake deaths and last-minute saves, ultimately left wondering once again, “What just happened?”