So if you’re like most people in the world, you’ve probably already seen Avengers: Infinity War. Needless to say, shit hits the fan, and the future of the MCU is in flux.
Or is it?
Marvel Studios has proven very calculated as they build their universe, and their shrewd business practices might have bled into their latest film in an unintended manner.
Once contract disputes became an obvious issue for the MCU, it was clear that the powers that be had to switch things up. Many to point to Age of Ultron as the instance in which the MCU reached its most stale point, and Ant-Man, while moderately refreshing, wasn’t exactly a tide-changing affair. But then, Phase 3 happened, and Marvel expanded into new territory. After seeing everyone punch each other in Civil War, Marvel got weird with Doctor Strange, and it doubled down on the weirdness with the widely strange Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. After that was Homecoming, Ragnarok, and Black Panther. Not all of these films include completely new characters, but one could argue that they recontextualize important characters at the very least.
And that’s not the only thing that Marvel addressed with these films. They also created plenty of new avenues for growth in the MCU with interesting, new characters that fans have already glommed onto. In this regard, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther led the way as clear stand-outs. Holland is clearly positioned as a cornerstone of the MCU post-Phase-3 as a youngster with a boyish charm and youthful appearance that will allow him to stay believable in the role for quite some time. Meanwhile, Black Panther is well over the $1.3 billion mark. Money talks in Hollywood, and a sequel will obviously happen at some point.
In reality, we don’t need Iron Man and Cap anymore, we have plenty of new heroes ready to take the mantle.
Now would be the perfect time to bow out of this article if you haven’t seen Infinity War. Below are all the deaths to hero-types in the film:
- Black Panther
- Doctor Strange
- Winter Soldier
- Scarlet Witch
- Nick Fury
- Maria Hill
At first glance, Marvel deserves a lot of credit for having the cojones to pull off such a widespread killing spree of beloved characters. People have complained for years that Marvel films have lacked stakes, and many were delighted — including myself — and praised Infinity War for an extra layer of stakes and feeling of desperation. After all, killing sixteen characters is no small endeavor.
And yet, for once, Marvel’s calculated, well-oiled business model has come back to bite them, and it makes these deaths look less like incredibly ballsy narrative decisions and more like one big cop-out.
The Future of the MCU
After Infinity War comes Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, and the untitled Avengers 4. Those films will end the MCU as we know it and a new age will begin, and that “new age” is precisely where Infinity War breaks down.
In July of 2019, a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming is already slated for release, and Tom Holland is confirmed to return as Spider-Man. Even worse, James Gunn has already noted that a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is in development and scheduled for 2020. And while there’s been no official press release for a sequel to Black Panther, it’s clear that Marvel would want to continue to with that particular titular character after the film overperformed mightily as the box office.
Instead of worrying about the death of a certain character, Marvel has effectively changed the question to “how will these heroes return?” And when combined with the fact that the contracts of all of the original Avengers are up after Avengers 4 coupled with the fact that RDJ and Chris Evans have stated multiple times that they are done with the MCU after that film, it becomes fairly obvious that there will be some cosmic switcheroo that occurs in Avengers 4 that brings back the new faces of the MCU and tips the cap to the old faces that are ending their run as they are killed off in some sort of valiant gesture that thanks these actors for their hard work over the years. Realistically, we know where all of this is headed.
Does this Ruin Infinity War?
The above question is up to the individual viewer, but it’s obvious that Marvel Studios‘ insistence on world-building and planting its flags years in advance (not to mention the public manner in which they’ve handled their actors) may have diminished the power of the film for those that are tune with general movie news. Based solely on the narrative of the film, the carnage that occurs after Thanos’ snap works quite well. Still, you’d be lying to yourself if your mind didn’t immediately think, “Tom Holland is obviously coming back for another Spider-Man film.”
The prevailing thought leading up to the release of Infinity War was that the film would be a gamechanger for the MCU. And in many ways, that sentiment is still true. However, it might also be a gamechanger from the business and PR side of it all, forcing Marvel to reassess how they handle media coverage and flaunt their Phases for everyone to see as they also juggle a quickly-changing, film-to-film narrative full of brand new and newly-resurrected faces.
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