So the Infinity War Trailer dropped this week. It’s pretty good. I really like the angle they’re taking with Thanos, our villain. He’s not just some boring sadistic space monster. He’s a big dude with big goals, but he seems to enjoy the prospect of mopping the floor with the heroes. His design is interesting as well. He doesn’t look cruel or insane. If anything his design makes him look thoughtful.
It’s interesting the movie is called “Infinity War”. Originally it was titled “Infinity War Part 1”. We know this movie and the next were shot together and form a single story. Maybe the sequel will be called Avengers: Infinity Plus One War.
It’s been a long road to get here. The Marvel Cinematic Universe turns 10 next year, and a lot of the old guard are preparing to leave. I’ve been wondering about this since the whole MCU plan was announced. It’s a remarkable opportunity: The chance to introduce a superhero, grow them for a decade as they experience multiple character arcs, and then kill them off for good. TV shows can’tIt’s not IMPOSSIBLE, but what are the odds of making it this long without getting canceled, the public losing interest, the key creative people moving on, or the meta-plot dissolving into nonsense as it passes through multiple writing teams? do these kinds of long-running stories, and in comics you can’t count on anyone staying dead. In a lot of ways, this is exactly what I’ve always wanted from superhero stories. Stories that are long but not unlimited, with characters that die when the writers run out of interesting things to do with them. It’s a shame these things are so expensive to make, because I’d love to see a lot more heroes explored in this format.
The Marvel movies are to the box office what John Cena is to wrestling. It’s almost boring to see them win all the time. Sometimes I wish they would fumble one of these things just so we can see how they’d handle it.
But that’s silly. We’re getting two or three incredible movies a year and that’s more than enough entertainment for me. Rather than wishing Marvel would fail, it’s probably more sensible to wish DC would pull it together and start giving us a rival series of similar stature.
Anyway, we’re about five months from the first Infinity War movie, and so I’d like to engage in a little speculation as to what they’re going to do, who’s going to die, and how things might play out.
I have no insider knowledge so nothing we discuss here can be considered “spoilers”, but I will be spoiling some earlier Marvel films and comics and such. For the record, I’m all caught up on the Marvel movies except for Thor: Ragnarok, which I plan to see in February when it comes out on video. 26 years ago I read the Infinity Gauntlet comics, which is what this movie is loosely based on. So if you’ve fallen behind on your Marvel-watching and you’re shy about spoilers, then maybe give this post a pass.
Still here? Great. Let’s do this…
It’s no secret that Robert Downey Jr. is done with the series. I can’t say I blame him. He’s been doing this longer than anyone else. I’m sure Iron Man will die in these movies. The big team image in the trailer doesn’t feature him, which means he might not even survive the first movie. Then again, movie trailers are famously unreliable these days so we probably shouldn’t read too much into his absence. Maybe in the movie the camera pans right and he’ll stomp into frame in the enormous Hulkbuster ArmorElsewhere in the trailer we see the Hulkbuster Armor, and it does indeed look like it’s in this same jungle location..
Who will replace him?
Obviously James Rhodes / War Machine is the replacement for Iron Man in terms of combat, but in terms of story? Stark is a brilliant inventor with a razor witBy the standards of movie banter.. He’s wealthy, informed, and he’s got some leadership skills.
Rhodes hasn’t shown any leadership skills. Sure, he’s in the military and he has rank over other guys, but in the movie they’ve shown several times that he’s not really on the same level as the other superheroes. He usually plays straight man to someone else’s antics. He’s not cool, or brilliant, or inspiring.
Sure, in the real world he’d totally be in line for a leadership position in the Avengers. But from a storytelling point of view it feels like the writer would be painting themselves into a corner. He’s not a big enough character or screen presence to take on that role, and if he did you’d have a stable, sensible, well-grounded, perfectly ordinary guy in charge. That’s a recipe for boring stories. He’s not a fan favorite. Heck, I think he’s had less screen time than Stan Lee.
In short, War Machine can take over as the guy in a robot suit and he might even take on the Iron Man name, but he’s not going to really take over as Iron Man in terms of leadership or story importance.
Chris Evans has made it clear he wants to direct and he’s tired of spending so much time in the gym. While I appreciate the time he’s spent making himself look so perfect for the part, I can’t blame him for wanting to move on. Like Iron Man, I think Captain America is going to die. It just makes sense from a storytelling perspective.
Who will replace him?
This is easy. The writers have been planning for this from the beginning and they already have Bucky / Winter Soldier ready to take over. They’ve been carefully maintaining his shaggy hair and perma-stubble so we can get that big “oh wow!” moment of transformation when he cleans himself up to don the star-spangled suit.
Yes, they left him on ice at the end of Civil War. He’s got a bunch of Hydra mind-control nonsense in his head and his robo-arm got blown off, but it’s obvious the writer can thaw him out whenever they need. Scarlet Witch’s mind powers are vague enough they could justify her “erasing” the Hydra conditioning, while at the same time also erasing as much or as little of Bucky’s memories as they need to make the story work. And the robo-arm? Bah. In this universe you can probably just order a fresh one on Ebay. Stark probably has a drawer full of robo-arms.
The only question is: Will they thaw him out before Tony Stark dies? Stark has a huge grudge against Bucky. This is a comic book movie. Memories can be erased and robo-arms can be replaced, but it would be an extreme sin of storytelling to sweep that conflict under the rug. If Stark and Bucky have to fight side-by-side, then the writer will need to deal with this.
You could make it one of the side-plots. Both of these characters need closure. Bucky needs to lay his murderous past to rest and stop feeling guilt about things he couldn’t control, and Stark needs to forgive him so he can move on. If Steve Rogers dies at the end of the first movie then they can thaw out Bucky at the start of the second. Then Stark and Bucky can hammer out their differences as they bond in the process of saving the universe. Just before the big showdown, they could settle their differences and Stark could name Bucky as the new Captain America, which is likely to stick once Stark snuffs it.
I dunno. That’s just one of a dozen ways they could handle it. I’m happy as long as they don’t ignore it.
Again, Bucky can replace the Captain in combat, but not leadership. We’re still left without a leader for the team. Sure, Nick Fury is in charge if Marvel wants to keep paying for Samuel L. Jackson, but I’m talking about leadership on the field.
You can’t just casually kill off superheroes, particularly not ones we’ve spent so much time with. If someone is going to die, we need to spend screen time on it. We need to give them their heroic moment, their shocking death, and then allow all these other characters to react to it. Then people need to discuss it later so it doesn’t feel like everyone forgot them. If you try to stuff too many deaths into one movie you risk ruining the pacing, and if you do them in bulk then it can feel cheap and unsatisfying. So in terms of basic screen time, there’s only so many heroes you can kill in a given movie.
So I’m kind of thinking Thor survives. Again, I don’t know what happens in Ragnarok yet, but rather than kill off a small-g god, it seems more expedient to have him return to Asgard to rule / rebuild. I imagine Ragnarok left him with plenty to worry about back home.
In the future, Marvel can bring him back for brief throne-room cameos, like they did with Anthony Hopkins as Odin.
Who will replace him?
I don’t know. Everyone is raving about Valkyrie in Ragnarok, but I don’t know if her personality / powerset lends itself to teaming up with the Avengers.
Hawkeye will live, because if they kill him off I’ll never forgive them.
He’s not in the trailer, but then neither are Ant-Man and Bucky. Maybe they show up in the second movie.
EDIT: Obviously Bucky is in the trailer. He’s RIGHT THERE in the big group shot. I guess I was just too obsessed with Cap and his missing shield to notice?
Anyway, showing Hawkeye going home to is family would be a good way to cap off the movies, like showing Sam going back to the shire.
I have no idea. I haven’t heard any rumors about her wanting to stay or leave. On the other hand, it’s not totally clear what use an ordinary human assassin will be against Thanos. I guess the writer will find something for her and Hawkeye to do.
I’d like it if they started making Black Widow movies to replace Captain America. Yes, they could keep making Captain America with Bucky, but I think Bucky isn’t an interesting enough character to make us care to see an entire movie about him. Meanwhile, Black Widow is all mystery and secrets and hidden agendas and has a much more commanding screen presence. She can pick up where Captain America left off in terms of discovering and thwarting Hydra’s nefarious plans.
Then again, maybe she’s had enough Marvel by now. Hard to say.
Ant-Man has movie that comes out after the Infinity War is over, so we know he’ll live. Scarlet Witch has only been in a couple of movies and I’m sure Marvel has her for a few more. Same goes for Black Panther. Same goes for Spider-Man.
Drax seems doomed to die trying to get revenge on Thanos. Sure, the writer can save him if they want, but that sounds like a good end to his character.
Dr. Strange ought to live. In the comics, a character named Adam Warlock was a key player in the war against Thanos. I don’t want to say he was the “main character”, but he was the one making plans and giving everyone exposition. Since he doesn’t exist in the MCU, I’m betting some of his exposition duties will fall to Dr. Strange.
It seems like Vision really ought to die. He was brought to life by the infinity gem in the middle of his forehead, and the trailer clearly shows the bad guys performing an gem-ectomy on him.
I don’t have any guesses regarding Hulk. This is one character you really can’t pass on. There’s no Hulk Jr. waiting to take the mantle if Hulk dies. Honestly if Mark Ruffalo wants to quit then it’s probably best to re-cast the role.
So Who’s in Charge?
In the future, who will lead the Avengers into battle? Both Stark and Rogers are going to die or retire in such a way that we’ll never see them again, and those guys were the leaders of the group. Nobody else on the team has been portrayed as leadership material.
And again, I’m not just talking about skills and seniority. I’m thinking about who makes a good leader from a storytelling perspective. Who has a dynamic personality that can drive a plot? Who has the affection and recognition of the general audience? Who’s going to look good standing front-and-center on the poster for Avengers 5?
Scarlet Witch is too young and not really a leader. Vision is much too sedate to be screaming “Secure the MacGuffin before it’s too late!” in the heat of battle. Hulk is too Hulk. An Asgardian (Thor or his replacement) would be good at the job, but it would be awkward having a leader that only shows up during cataclysms. I’m pretty sure Spider-Man has lead the team in the comics, but not when he was a stammering teenager.
Let’s look at the candidates.
War Machine is not a commanding screen presence. He’s not an interesting character except as a foil for others. While Don Cheadle is a great talent, he’s not a blockbuster movie star and it’s hard to imagine him at the center of these stories. If the writer wanted to make Rhodes the leader they would need to spend a lot of time with him in Infinity War. They would need to give him some more personality flaws, some goals, and some relationships with people other than Tony Stark. And since he doesn’t get a single line of dialog and we never see his face in the trailer, my guess is that he’s going to continue to be a side-character.
Black Widow seems like a bit of a lone Wolf to be doing that sort of thing. Scarlett Johansson is certainly a big enough star to pull it off and her character is plenty interesting. The writer could make it work if they wanted, but it feels like Natasha Romanova wouldn’t want the job. Also, Scarlett Johansson has been doing this a long time and maybe she’s ready to move on from the MCU.
Falcon seems like an okay fit. He’s not really main character material right now, but he’s closer than War Machine.
Winter Soldier is a basket of crazy with a murderous past. From a logical perspective he’s a terrible choice, but from a screenwriting perspective he’s a good one. The audience already knows him, and he has established relationships with other people. It’s a safe bet he’s going to take on the Captain America name, and leadership of the Avengers comes with the job. It has to be Bucky.
So here’s my take:
While I don’t know what happens to Hela in Ragnarok, I’ve been assuming that they’re going to follow the comics and have Thanos be in love with herI don’t know if Hela and death are actually the same character, but for for the purposes of movie adaptation it’s close enough., which will form his central motivation. He’ll show up on Earth to claim the gems and we’ll get our movie. Steve Rogers will die in the conflict. The Avengers will go for reinforcements in the second movie. This means bringing out second-stringers like Hawkeye and Ant-Man, as well as welcoming newcomers like Nova.
Bucky is revived at the start of the second movie, and then we spend the rest of the movie watching him go through moments of growth / reinvention so that he’s ready for the mantle of leadership when the time comes. This would retroactively make the events of Civil War even more important, since it would mean Captain America wasn’t just saving the life of his friend, but also the future leader of the Avengers. Part of this process involves working through things with Iron Man. Iron Man dies in the big fireworks show at the end, along with any of the other big stars that want to retire from making Marvel movies.
Family man Barton (Hawkeye) is used to bring us back to normalcy at the end and let us leave the theater feeling warm and hopeful.
I’m not predicting that’s what will happen. (EDIT: And since Bucky is in the trailer, it clearly CAN’T happen this way. That’s fine with me, as long as the feud with Stark isn’t dismissed with a hand-wave.) I’m just saying that if I was the writer, that’s what I’d do.
So what’s your take? Are you excited for Infinity War? Any guesses on who will live or die?
 It’s not IMPOSSIBLE, but what are the odds of making it this long without getting canceled, the public losing interest, the key creative people moving on, or the meta-plot dissolving into nonsense as it passes through multiple writing teams?
 Elsewhere in the trailer we see the Hulkbuster Armor, and it does indeed look like it’s in this same jungle location.
 By the standards of movie banter.
 I don’t know if Hela and death are actually the same character, but for for the purposes of movie adaptation it’s close enough.
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