Months ago, thousands of people got to see the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer at Disney’s D23 convention. Though the footage eventually leaked online, it remained the type of thing spoken of in hushed, reverent tones or simply a source of fan cred for anyone who could legitimately claim, “I’ve seen the trailer, and you haven’t.”
That all changes today. Because today marks the worldwide debut of…actually, a largely new version of that Infinity War trailer. So, yeah, the D23 people still have some bragging rights as they saw certain shots which aren’t in this new trailer, but can’t we all just get along and geek out over the first footage of Thanos finally getting up off his ass and doing something for a change in this damn little cinematic universe! Mo-capped Josh Brolin is going to powerglove his way through our heroes and this trailer already spoils the apparent death of one of them:
As you’d expect from a globe-hopping adventure pitting the Avengers against an intergalactic madman, the story looks as if it will pair everyone in teams as they fight on different fronts of the battle: Iron Man, the Doctor Strange crew and Spider-Man in New York, Black Panther, Black Widow, Cap, Winter Soldier, War Machine and Falcon in Wakanda, and Thor and the Guardians up in space and on their way to Earth like some kind of calvary. The two at most risk, though, might just be Scarlet Witch and Vision.
I’d already guessed Vision, who is clearly experimenting with ways to look more human in the trailer, wasn’t going to last long. He’s been on borrowed time from the moment his creation was powered by an infinity stone, i.e., that shiny thing on his forehead. Still, I didn’t expect to see that stone ripped from his head in this trailer, although their use of quick cutting more suggests his death than outright confirms it. In fact, upon closer examination – and by that I mean after watching the trailer 4 times in a row because how could I not – of the two stones Thanos is sporting in the trailer Vision’s doesn’t appear to be one of them:
Still, Thanos has two of the stones, one coming from Loki volunteering the tesseract to him, remembering, of course, that despite the moral change of heart the Trickster God exhibits by the end of Ragnarok he knows enough about Thanos to be terrified of him. In order to complete the collection, Thanos is going to have to kill Vision at some point. Scarlet Witch, Cap and Black Panther can’t swoop in to save him every time. Death is coming to the Avengers, and it won’t just be Vision.
That this trailer arrives on the heels of Vanity Fair’s exhaustively detailed celebration of Marvel Studio’s past and future is no accident. Infinity War is the beginning of the end for this journey which began when an eye-patched Samuel L. Jackson spouted something about an Avengers initiative to a nonplussed Robert Downey, Jr. in a scene tacked on to the end of a movie as a mere easter egg and possible pie-in-the-sky dream of things to come. 17 films and literally billions of dollars later, I’d say it worked out pretty well. But now The Avengers are about to face their biggest foe yet, and it’s not Thanos. No, it’s the fulfilment of contractual obligations.
It’s become a game among Marvel fans at this point to keep track of how many films each actor has left on their contract because then we can use that to make educated guesses about which characters are about to die. According to Vanity Fair, Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor and Hawkeye are all prime candidates because Infinity War’s still-untitled sequel, for now just being called Avengers 4, will close out the contractual obligations for Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth and Jeremy Renner.
They can, of course, re-negotiate, as Downey, Jr. has already done at least once. Ike Perlmutter is gone. Penny-pinching is no longer the law of the land at Marvel Studios. Evans isn’t making nearly as much noise as he used to be about wanting to retire from acting and pursue directing. Thanks to Ragnarok, Hemsworth and Ruffalo are coming off their best work in the Universe yet. Johansson might want to stick around to be a part of a Black Widow solo film or that female team-up movie Tessa Thompson pitched to Kevin Feige. Renner…um…um…well….okay, Hawkeye’s probably a goner. You don’t put Linda Cardellini in your 10th-anniversary photo shoot unless you’re trying to remind people that Hawkeye has a wife (and kids) who sure will be sad when he bites it in one of these next two movies.
But make no mistake about it: the Marvel Cinematic Universe is on the cusp of a monumental change that will either leave a trail of dead bodies behind it or finally send certain characters off into happy ending retirements or both. I could be wrong, after all. Maybe Hawkeye just goes back to that farm with his family, takes up darts in his spare time to scratch that sharp shooting itch. Maybe Tony Stark and Pepper Potts elope and move to Bali, assuming it’s still there what with the volcano and everything. Maybe Thor, Hulk and even Loki somehow survive the fight with Thanos and go adventuring together with Valkyrie and whatever remains of the Asgardians.
Yeah, maybe. But not everyone’s going to get that ending because you don’t build to this for over half a decade and not have Thanos bring some permanent death to the MCU. His long-delayed arrival and various ineffectual cameos are already so unintentionally comical he dude’s got to bring the pain to justify the wait and earn the audience’s fear. And in all likelihood even though they keep claiming Avengers 4 will be a distinct film and not a mere Part 2 to Infinity War it’s hard to imagine Thanos being contained to just the one film.
Either way, as Kevin Feige put it, Avengers 4 “bring things you’ve never seen in superhero films: a finale […] There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting […] We’re 22 movies in, and we’ve got another 20 movies on the docket that are completely different from anything that’s come before—intentionally.”
But, as if hearing and responding to a certain persistent criticism of the studio’s usually aggressive release date announcements, Marvel is telling us next to nothing concrete about its post-Avengers 4 world. Avengers 4 drops 5/2/19, Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 (or maybe Spider-Man: Prom, to stick with the school dance theme) drops 7/5/19 and at some point there will be a Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and possibly several Guardians spin-offs spearheaded by James Gunn. Beyond that, we don’t know anything for sure.
So, for a change, we can genuinely debate about how who’s going to survive and who won’t and have few certainties about what might actually happen. Would it be better for Iron Man or Captain America to die? Killing Iron Man would certainly bring things full circle since he started all of this, and killing Captain America would force the MCU to search for a new moral center and/or allow the Winter Soldier or Falcon to take up the Cap identity ala the comics. However, Iron Man’s resources and Downey, Jr.’s quips make him such a perfect mentor figure and financial patron for new heroes, and Cap has anchored the MCU’s most reliable and consistent franchise.
These are questions we’ve been able to debate for years, but Infinity War is going to start making it real. The old guard is about to be replaced by the new, either partially or across the board. Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Brie Larson are the future, Downey, Jr., Evans, and Johansson the past. “I feel a lot of joy for the next generation,” Johansson said told Vanity Fair. “It’s a bittersweet feeling, but a positive one.”
Not that change has been foreign to the studio or new characters particularly infrequent, but the OG Avengers have always been available to help usher in the new or aid in the transition. What happens when the baton is passed on completely and some of these characters go the way of Logan and Professor Xavier before them?
Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, says, “ “We’re looking for worlds that are completely separate—geographically or in time—from the worlds that we’ve already visited.”
Death, to repeat, is coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and with it comes change, the kind of change that has Evangeline Lilly comparing it to the mid-era of Lost when no one, not the audience nor the actors or writers, knew for sure what was going to happen. Unlike Lost, Feige has a definite plan, and you bet against him at your own peril. I will miss whoever doesn’t make it through Infinity War, but when we’re talking about a studio that is capable of throwing curveballs like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ragnarok at us out of nowhere I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.
Heck, we still have so much to get through before that even becomes an issue. Black Panther, Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp are all next year followed by Captain Marvel, Avengers 4 and Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 after that. And Infinity War? Yeah….it looks so good.
Avengers: Infinity War is due 5/4/18.