Infinity War is fantastic but could the events of Marvel’s latest master works ring hollow in the future?
SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read on if you’ve yet to see Infinity War. Seriously. Go and see the movie first.
The article continues after this spoiler free review. You’ve been warned.
Much like everyone else, I walked out of the screening of Infinity War in shock. I was barely keeping my shit together. What I’d just seen had ripped up the rule book for cinematic universes and super hero movies in general. It was brave. It was bold. It was devastating. I’d expected a few characters to die in the fight against Thanos (I had my money on Cap and Iron Man) but I never expected the whole sale clearance of super heroes that went up in smoke (okay, dust) before my eyes. After watching Marvel Studios meticulously piece together a decade’s worth of movies in to a precarious house of cards, it was cathartic to see them knock it all down in a snap of Thanos’ fingers. Loki, Heimdall, Gamora, Vision, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Winter Soldier, Falcon, Scarlet With, the entire cast of the Guardians of the Galaxy and even Nick Fury & Maria Hill. All gone in what I consider to be the best 2 and a half hours of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. Unfortunately, it’s probably the most inconsequential MCU movie to date, too.
Half an hour later, still in shock, and I’d yet to get past the first stage of grief – Denial. I’ve still not moved past it, to be honest, and I don’t think I’ll need too either. You see, much like many of Marvel’s big comic universe altering events, they gave themselves an “out”. Weaved throughout Infinity War’s plot is the thread for a retcon that Marvel Studios only need to pull to undo all of the ground breaking events of their latest record breaker and it all hinges on Doctor Strange’s last words… “It was the only way”.
Earlier in the movie, while aboard the donut ship on the way to Titan, Doctor Strange says in no uncertain terms that he would not sacrifice the Time stone to Thanos to save Tony Stark or Peter Pa – oh we’re using made up names – Spider-Man’s life. Fast forward an hour and that’s exactly what he’s doing. In order to keep Tony from being turned into a shish kebab by Thanos, he plucks the Time Stone from the stats and hands it over to the Mad Titan. Why? There’s only one reason Doctor Strange would do this. During his glimpse into the future, examining all possible eventualities in the battle with Thanos, Doctor Strange must have seen that the only way to eventually win, was to lose. That’s a theme in Avengers: Infinity War. “We don’t trade lives” said Captain America on Earth while Doctor Strange is trading his own for the future of the MCU. Steven Strange must have seen that if the universe had any hope to overcome the destruction that Thanos would bring to the MCU, Tony Stark had to live and that half of life in the Universe had to die. At least temporarily.
This is Marvel’s “out”. I fully expect that, together with Captain Marvel, once her 90’s origins film has had its run and she has answered the call from Nick Fury, Iron Man and the rest of the surviving Avengers somehow convince Thanos that his actions were not worth the cost he paid. If Thanos can kill off half of the Universe with a click of his fingers, it stands to reason that he could reverse that action with another.
“Hey!” I hear you say “The Russo Brothers said yesterday that they’re committed to the decisions they made for Infinity War”. That’s true. They did. Speaking to Variety, they said “There is a real commitment on our end to the stakes. Yes, this is a fantasy world, and yes, remarkable things can happen in a fantasy world, but they come at a high cost”. I tell you who won’t be paying that cost though – Disney. In the fire sale of characters that turned to dust during Infinity War was the record breaking Black Panther, the billion earning Guardians and the cash cow Spider-Man. Do you really think that the house of Mouse would be willing to pass on that earning potential?
Nah. It’s more likely that this is a changing of the guard type situation and in the next Avengers movie, the original Avengers make way – one way or another – for a new team to rise. This isn’t the first time the Russo’s have played fast and loose with the truth in order to sell a story and retain the mystery . Hell, every advert for Infinity War featured Hulk and he was a total no show.
Does this make the events of Infinity War feel hollow? Kind of, but that’s what’s so ‘Marvel’ about this movie. It’s as grand in scale and as universe altering as any of the cross comic book stories that have happened over the years but similarly, no one’s dead in a comic until you see someone crying over their grave stone (and even then, it’s not impossible for a character to return) and the same seems to be true for the MCU. While a retcon is certainly on the cards for the MCU, making the events of Infinity War almost entirely inconsequential, that doesn’t detract from the action and the character development in what I consider to be the MCU’s biggest triumph.
For the first time in the MCU, the question is now “Who is going to come back to life?” rather than “Who is inevitably going to die?”