By Joe Bursley
WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for Avengers: Infinity War and possibly future MCU films.
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
One of the biggest complaints of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is how inconsequential its movies tend to be. The heroes always win, the bad guy is defeated and almost always killed off (unless they’re fangirl-bait like Loki), and the universe is more or less returned to a normal stasis. It is difficult to watch a movie and anticipate high stakes when all the hero cast members already have sequels announced beforehand. After 18 movies, fans have been desperate for consequences in Infinity War just for a change of pace, with predictions of heroic deaths like Captain America abounding before the film’s premiere. And the Russo brothers delivered in their massive Avengers movie, in the most massive way.
Infinity War has lots of character deaths throughout the film, and it does leave quite the cliffhanger at the end to set up Avengers 4 next May, whatever it will be called. And, for the most part, the movies set in the MCU after Avengers 4 have remained a mystery, save for a couple. Yet I already sort of know how the next film will resolve the cliffhanger in Infinity War, or at least that it will happen. As much as Marvel tried to keep their cinematic universe’s future a secret, they didn’t quite cover all their bases.
So, who does die in Infinity War?
The story of Infinity War is really the story of its main protagonist, Thanos. Yes, the movie is supposedly called Avengers: Infinity War, but the movie really focuses on Thanos and his journey to collect the Infinity Stones. His reason? Because the universe is finite, and life finds a way to grow exponentially until it collapses due to a lack of resources, Thanos plans to use the Infinity Gauntlet to harness the Stones’ power to wipe out half of all life in the universe indiscriminately. From every planet and every race/species in every galaxy. “Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.”
Ultimately, Thanos is successful in his mission, as he collects the Infinity Stones and seals the doom for the Avengers. The multiple deaths in the film can be split up into “pre-snap” and “post-snap,” where “post-snap” deaths result from Thanos’ balancing act, while “pre-snap” deaths are casualties on his quest to gather the Infinity Stones. The four pre-snap deaths are Loki, Heimdall, Gamora, and Vision. All the others, including Bucky, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Falcon, Spider-Man, Scarlet Witch, Star-Lord, Drax, Groot, Mantis, Maria Hill, and Nick Fury, disintegrated into piles of ash once Thanos balances the universe. The film ends there, leaving the open question of what will happen next in Avengers 4.
But do they really die?
This is Marvel’s biggest issue with the ending of Infinity War: they killed off all their newest members. Many fans were expecting Captain America and even possibly Iron Man to bite the bullet during this film, as their contracts are basically up, and they’ve been around since the beginning of the MCU. However, all six of the original Avengers were suspiciously seen alive after the big snap (well, except for Hawkeye), while more recent stars like Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and Black Panther all turned to ash. And this largely hints at these deaths not being permanent. If the MCU is planning to evolve and continue after Infinity War, it will likely want to use the more recently established heroes to continue what the original six started in 2012. It seems likely that the future Avengers’ roster will include Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel (once her solo movie introduces the character in March 2019), and probably Ant Man and/or the Wasp. That can’t happen if most of these heroes are piles of ash.
Marvel’s own movie roster confirms that the deaths are not permanent. Spider-Man is scheduled to have a solo sequel to his Homecoming adventure that takes place immediately after Avengers 4 and is scheduled for release July 2019. “But wait, Spider-Man died! I cried when he was clinging to Tony Stark at the end of Infinity War,” you may protest. Don’t worry; I cried to. But it would be difficult for Spider-Man to have a solo adventure after Avengers 4 if he stayed dead, which indicates he will somehow come back to life. Also, Kevin Feige, the God-King of Marvel Studios, has revealed that Black Panther will also get a sequel at some point, despite that character having bit the dust as well. So, if at least two of the ashen heroes are confirmed to come back, it’s probable that everyone else will too.
Image from Reddit
In Marvel’s defense, the studio has been otherwise quite secretive with their movie plans post-Avengers 4. The MCU currently has NINE unnamed movies coming out through 2020 and has announced they will not release any of the titles until the premiere of Avengers 4. Unfortunately, they didn’t cover all their bases, and we can assume that the cliffhanger at the end of Infinity War will not have many permanent consequences (I mean, it would be really risky to just kill off half the universe and leave it like that, tbh). Which is somewhat disappointing, because the consequences of Marvel movies overall have been lacking, and now the biggest consequence of all seems like a temporary fixture.
So, how will they fix the universe?
I realize that I’ve basically offered my theory that everyone who died will come back to life using mostly meta knowledge, so I will try to offer up some ideas for how the Avengers can avenge the universe in the next movie. I don’t have a set theory, but my hunch is to look back to the Infinity Stones, specifically the Time and Soul Stones.
Firstly, the Time Stone seems to be one of the most powerful of the stones when used properly. The Space Stone can create portals, the Power Stone can create explosions, the Reality Stone can create hallucinations, and the Mind Stone can create a pretentious android (sorry, Vision, but it’s true). Save for the Soul Stone, which hasn’t quite been explained in full detail, the Time Stone is easily the most overpowered as it can manipulate time. Doctor Strange used it to create an endless time loop when fighting Dormammu in his solo movie, as well as view over 14 million scenarios for fighting Thanos (which in of itself is suspicious). Later, Thanos used the Time Stone’s power to reverse time, revive Vision, and restore the Mind Stone after Wanda had tried to destroy both of them to defeat the titan. In case you misread that, Thanos used the stone to turn back time and bring someone back to life, which seems like the perfect deus ex machina that the Avengers need to restore the universe. This theory is supported by leaked pictures of the Avengers 4 set, which shows Iron Man, Ant-Man, a pre-CGI Hulk, and Captain America standing around in rubble reminiscent of the Battle of New York. More importantly, Cap is wearing his “spangly outfit” from the first Avengers movie, leading many to believe that time travel plays an important role in the next film. Is this theory sound, or is there more to the story? Or could it be an elaborate hoax by the Russo brothers to distract spying fans?
Secondly, the Soul Stone. This Stone’s power hasn’t been explained much in the movies, except for the fact that it requires a sacrifice of the person you love most in order to use it (AKA Gamora’s death). However, after the “big snap”, we see Thanos in an orange-tinted dimension with a younger version of Gamora, very likely her “soul.” The fan theory is that everybody who disintegrated at the end of Infinity War is really with Gamora inside the Soul Stone and that the Avengers need only to wield the Infinity Gauntlet to release their souls and restore the universe to its former glory.
Whatever the case, many of the deaths seen in Infinity War are not permanent as many popular characters are scheduled to make a return after Avengers 4, and there are multiple options within the Marvel universe to achieve that goal. And while Infinity War did have some meta flaws that left more to be desired regarding consequences, it does mark a turning point in the MCU to take risks and create darker, grim storylines and powerful, developed villains such as Thanos. I can only hope that they continue their success and don’t turn into the DC Cinematic Universe.
Joe is a sophomore Telecommunications major at Ball State. Joe’s focus at Byte is writing and editing for the Features section. After graduation, Joe hopes to work as a producer at a news studio and eventually publish a book or two.