Okay, this column is going to extensively talk about the ending of Avengers: Infinity Wars. So much so that if you haven’t seen it yet, you should stop reading right now. As a matter of fact, let me just throw this up here:
Good. That should take care of it.
So, since everyone reading this has seen Avengers: Infinity War, we all know what happened at the end. Loki, Heimdall? Dead and dead. Gamora? Gone. Vision? Destroyed. And that ending! In a snap of a fingers, Bucky, Falcon, Groot, Peter Quill, Drax, Mantis, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Nick Fury and Maria Hill all cease to exist anymore. They all disappear into a cloud of dust. And I’d wager a bet that Ant-Man and the Wasp, which takes place before Infinity War, will end with a number of that cast going poof as well.
We are through the looking glass people! Black is white! Up is down! Marvel Studios has just killed off most of their heroes! Many who just had successful films and were headed for a sequel! A couple already had sequels announced! What is going on! Are they trying to go bankrupt?
While this happened, hardcore comic book fans let out a collective, “meh.” We have seen this all before. Death in comic books is anything but permanent. It’s used to sell books. Heroes are killed off in a seemingly inescapable deaths only to return a couple months to a year later. I even wrote a post letting you all know the backdoor MacGuffin they built into the plot that could bring the heroes back.
But Marvel is holding true to the line that the stakes in the films are real and that the dead are really, really dead. This is what co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo had to say to Variety this week:
“Unless you have real stakes, you’re sort of limited in terms of the emotional impact a story can have on you. You have to go to very difficult places for the stakes to feel real, for the characters to feel like they have something to lose, for the audience to feel like they have something at risk. What we’re looking for in storytelling or art is emotional catharsis. And that’s not simply getting what you want. It’s getting an emotional experience that makes you feel and respond to it and energizes you on some level.”
“I will say this: There is a real commitment on our end to the stakes,” Anthony Russo says. “Yes, this is a fantasy world, and yes, remarkable things can happen in a fantasy world, but-“
Joe finishes the thought: “They come at an incredibly high cost. For us, there will always be stakes and the stakes have been progressing from film to film. And I think you can extrapolate that they will continue to deepen in ‘Avengers 4.‘”
So, what if the Russo’s were telling the truth? What if the dead of Avengers: Infinity War really stay dead? Where does Marvel Studios go from here? How do they go on?
Let me show you, starting with the films are are already scheduled and moving on from there.
Spider-Man: Homecoming 2:
Spider-Man’s death in Avengers: Infinity War was a totally gut punch that left a lot of moviegoers bawling like a baby, including jaded comic book vets like me. Now, Marvel’s most recognizable character staying dead is probably the most unlikely of all these theories, but if they decide to move on, a potential replacement is already waiting in the shadows–Miles Morales. Better yet, he has already officially been recognized as being in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In the first Spider-Man: Homecoming, Donald Glover played an Aaron Davis, who appeared in the comics as a villain-turned-hero named The Prowler. In the film, he very notably mentioned he had a nephew. That nephew’s name in the comics? You guessed it, Miles Morales.
Kevin Feige has already confirmed that Miles Morales indeed exists in the MCU. So it wouldn’t be hard for him to take over the mantle in the next Spider-Man film, perhaps inspired by Peter Parker’s sacrifice as he was in the comics.
Of course, the character already has a movie coming out–December’s animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But that shouldn’t stop the character from appearing in the scheduled live-action Spider- Man film in July 5, 2019, if Marvel chooses.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3
The Guardians got the worst of it in Avengers: Infinity War. The only survivor of the team is Rocket Raccoon. Gamora got killed by Thanos and the rest died in the “Finger Snap of Doom.” And while I’m sure there are a lot of people who would throw good money after bad to see a standalone film starring everyone’s favorite woodland creature, the film that is coming in 2020 is still Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 3, not Rocket Raccoon, Vol 1.
Whoever, it is now the time where I point out that the last GotG film took place in the past, 2014 to be exact. So while for any other film in the franchise it would be a copout to go back in time to before Thanos did his damage, there’s a precedence with the Guardians. Maybe have one more adventure with the original crew, and have the last scene be them receiving the distress call from the Asgardians that brought them into Infinity War.
But if that doesn’t work, let us not forget that the last Guardians film introduced Sylvester Stallone as Stakar Ogord, who leads a group of Ravagers that resemble the original comic book version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Big stars such as Ving Rhames and Michelle Yeoh play members of his team. So we have a replacement cast for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 already waiting in the wings. And since they have already been introduced, we can jump right in on their adventures without having an origin story.
If the decision was made to make all the deaths in Avengers: Infinity War permanent at all, it was probably done way before they got the grosses for Black Panther. I’m sure they expected it to be a hit, but not a #3 of all time kind of hit. The fact that there will be a sequel is a given and Marvel Studios would be crazy to mess with the formula in future installments. But if they are that crazy, there is a way they can have a Black Panther film without T’Challa.
In the comic books, after an attack by Doctor Doom puts T’Challa into a coma, his sister Shuri becomes Queen of Wakanda and takes up the mantle of the Black Panther.
Letitia Wright’s Shuri is one of the breakout characters of the film, and I, for one, would love to see more of her. However, the film portrays Wakanda as a patriarchy where the crown is contested by combat between lead males of the tribe. Just having Shuri take over is something that would need to have been addressed.
If there is one franchise that might not survive if it’s hero stays dead, it would be Doctor Strange. Why? Because, well, its his name in the title of it, isn’t it?
While there have been a number of Sorcerer Supremes in the comics, the only one who has already been introduced into the MCU is Loki, and he’s also been killed off. And one of the other two, Margali Szardos, is part of the X-Men universe, a character Marvel will not get their hands on until 2019 at the earliest. The other, Doctor Voodoo, well, he probably will never get adapted to the big screen. We could maybe get a film starring Wong or Baron Mordo as an antihero, but that film would be named something else.
This might not be all that big of a loss. Doctor Strange ranked #14 domestically and #12 worldwide of all MCU films. Granted, he did better than Ant-Man, which is getting a sequel in a few months. But he was way behind Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy when it came to post-Avengers debuts. It might be better just to start anew with another character for a film.
Like I said, more than likely almost all the character who were turned to ash in the finger snap will be back, and the other deaths in the film could be undone as well. But if Marvel is serious about keeping the ending of Avengers: Infinity War in continuity unchanged, they have options to keep their successful franchises going.