Warning: main spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War below.
When Avengers: Infinity War was inaugurated on April 27, it even exceeded Disney's own high expectations, best Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the biggest box office opening of history. Given that it is the film that aims to bring together all 18 previous films in the Marvel film universe, Infinity War certainly had a lot of expectation from the audience working in their favor. But he also had a secret weapon to inspire interest: death.
For years, fans and critics have assumed that when the movie is very bad, Thanos (Josh Brolin) finally faces The Avengers face to face, in at least one beloved character he would end up dead. Some felt that it would almost certainly be Captain America (Chris Evans); the constant coming and going of the contractual negotiations made Tony Stark, of Robert Downey Jr., another possible possibility. But as the audiences discovered at the end of Infinity War it was not just one the character that died. It was half the team, with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), some of the main characters who were crumbling to dust when Thanos clicked his fingers clad in Infinity Gauntlet. And that does not even count Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Vision (Paul Bettany), all of whom chewed the dust before the climax of the film.
Thanos slaughtering half of the universe, and half of the characters accumulated as stars over the course of the last 10 years, was dazzling, shocking and completely heartbreaking. It was an impressive ending. There was only one problem: it did not make any sense.
At this moment, the emotional impact of seeing all those characters disappear is undeniably powerful. This is a franchise in which no front-line hero has really died or even abandoned the series. I have seen the film twice, and both times, the audience in my theater has had the same visceral reaction panting and horrified. It's a cinematic moment, unlike anything we've seen in modern film production. But the best way to measure the reactions of viewers at the end is to see how they respond to credits and what comes next. Marvel fans have become accustomed to two extra moments at the end of the studio movies: a half credit scene and a credit advance, Infinity War drops the middle credit scene, and the subs on a title card, which turns to dust in the same way that the fallen Avengers did. Both times I saw the movie, the audience moaned audibly on the business card, as if they expected a happy moment of indulgence to improve everything a little. (The only post-credit scene bothers Captain Marvel as a possible savior, but it's hard to get too excited after seeing Nickell, the Samuel L. Jackson merger.)
But the reason why the public who knows the film knows that it must stay for the first credit sequences is the same reason why the end of Infinity War ] feels so cheap after more reflection. This is an interconnected cinematographic universe, with one film setting the next in a growing series of presentations, teams, setbacks and triumphs. No MCU movie works in isolation. And most fans of the series have an intrinsic awareness at this point that Infinity War establishes both Ant-Man and The Wasp (coming in July 2018) as Captain Marvel (set for March 2019), which will inevitably set the sequel still untitled Avengers and so on.
If Marvel had killed Captain America or Iron Man, the public could have believed that there would be no walks or resurrections. His characters have been milked by the MCU in numerous films for more than a decade, and it would not be difficult to accept that his time had finally come. Instead, the great act of destruction of Thanos erases the characters that represent the future of the franchise. It is aimed at the characters that the corporate father of Marvel, Disney, simply would never let go, especially because some of them already have sequels aligned.
Black Panther became the highest grossing film in the history of Marvel Cinematic Universe earlier this year. Ryan Coogler's film made tremendous advances in terms of representation, cultural awareness and the kind of timely and powerful narrative that is so often lacking in the box office successes of superheroes. In 2017, Spider-Man: Homecoming finally divided the iconic character in Marvel Cinematic Universe, with a sequel already announced for 2019. More than two movies, Guardians of the Galaxy have practically been become his own Marvel sub-brand, with James Gunn adding his unique style and sense of humor to the world, with, yes, a third installment on the road in 2020.
The protagonists of these films are not just fans' favorites he could be killed by shock, or in a cruel turn of narrative fate. These are characters with great cultural importance and untapped box office potential. The audiences already know that they are coming back. The only exception to the last point is Black Panther, which does not yet have a formal sequel. But even there, Marvel Studios director Kevin Feige told Entertainment Weekly "we will definitely do that."
Then once the audience leaves the theater and starts thinking about Avengers: Infinity War what initially felt like A devastating loss begins to feel like the cheapest of stunts. People are too aware of the way in which entertainment is produced, promoted and consumed in order not to recognize that none of these horrible deaths will really last. And to be fair, there is a positive element in that. The beloved characters who die are a disappointment, and an audience that really believes that their new favorite character may have disappeared is an audience that could be discouraged to see the next installment of Avengers when it rolls. Instead, millions of fans of Black Panther and Spider-Man, all of whom know that T & # 39; Challa and Peter Parker will return, will head to the film Avengers next year, eager to discover ] how his favorite characters will survive the wrath of Thanos. The plot also configures a potentially powerful moment to pass the torch. The old school Avengers survived Infinity War but what if they eventually sacrifice themselves, to allow the next generation of MCU heroes to continue the biggest fight?
But even that calculation by Marvel betrays a certain amount of metaconscience of the audience, a level of strategic thinking about the way in which corporations and studios position their intellectual properties to Maximize your value in movies, TV shows, books, games, theme parks and any other possible vertical. It is to recognize films as pure businesses, instead of pure stories. And that may be the saddest lesson of Infinity War .
I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back when I was young. At that time, there were only two Star Wars movies . Darth Vader, being Luke's father, caused all kinds of cognitive dissonance between good and bad, even for a child. Seeing Han Solo trapped in a carbonite block and sent to a gangster was emotionally devastating, but it seemed too possible that his story was over. There was no production pipeline underway to feed or a larger ecosystem that required these characters to exist in perpetuity. The end of the movie's suspense created a sequel, but there were no guarantees about how any of the stories would unfold.
It was a simpler moment, and not only because he was younger It was simpler because individual movies were still his main driving force. For the public, there was no certainty about what might or might not happen when a story decided to darken. For the simple experience of storytelling, it was a purer experience. In the days since I first saw Infinity War I asked myself how his final in that environment would have been played. I would have been indignant, no doubt, but that indignation would have led to an even more potent catharsis when some of these "dead" characters inevitably return to the land of the living.
Instead, we have a facsimile of loss, a moment in which the public follows the movements, horrified that a movie has the guts to kill a main character, without having to deal with disorderly emotional ramifications. In a way, it seems to be the most Marvel approach possible. These are comic movies, where no one can really die, even after seeing them turn to ashes.