UPDATE (April 29, 2018): This post was written in November 2017. Now that Avengers: Infinity War has been released, you can read my recap of it here.
And now, back to the original post.
As I type this, the new Avengers: Infinity War trailer has been viewed 37 million times.
It has over 237,000 comments on its YouTube page alone.
And it’s only been online for less than 24 hours.
There are already 6 million Google results for “Avengers Infinity War Trailer,” which is currently the U.S.’s 8th-biggest result in Google Trends (and it’s likely to go up).
If you want a cut-by-cut analysis of every shot in the trailer and what it implies about the film’s plot, Vulture has you covered.
If you want proof that the trailer is an attention magnet, the top article about it on io9 already has 462K likes and over 1000 comments… and the second article about it on io9 already has 270K likes and over 500 comments.
And if you’re counting, that’s TWO articles about a movie trailer — from the same news source, on the same day — which combined for over 730K likes and probably well over 2 million views.
(For bonus points, this is all happening on a day when BuzzFeed and ESPN [Marvel’s fellow Disney-owned property] are both announcing massive layoffs. Who says journalism is dead?)
I Can’t Spell Infinity Gauntlet without U
Okay, so Avengers: Infinity War is obviously going to be a massive hit… but the crowdsourced hyper-analysis of its trailer also comes with a price.
The trailer’s popularity means that fans have already autopsied the clip so diligently that we can probably predict the film’s exact outline a full six months before it hits theaters.
Thanos’s minions destroy Thor’s spaceship and take Loki’s tesseract, leaving the Asgardians stranded…
Meanwhile, his other minions attack Wakanda, where most of the Avengers assemble…
But that’s all just a distraction, because Thanos’s real goal is visiting New York City to add the Vision’s mind gem to his Infinity Gauntlet, which he does while Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Hulk, and Wong team up to stop him… and fail.
And while each of these sequences will probably be filled with cutting-edge CGI, sweat-soaked stunts, slow-motion looks of dire concern, and classic one-liners delivered with zing, I’m predicting there’s one ingredient we’ll find in short supply:
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Infinity War
First off, remember that we’re in the middle of a Peak Marvel Release Pattern:
- Black Panther comes out February 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War comes out May 4, 2018
- Ant-Man and the Wasp comes out July 6, 2018
From a narrative standpoint, this means that certain Infinity War plot points may be set up in Black Panther or resolved in AMATW, because the Marvel films are essentially one big neverending season of a binge-able hangout sci-fi sitcom.
For example, we know that Winter Soldier is being cryogenically frozen in Wakanda at the end of Captain America: Civil War. Then we see him in Wakanda again in Infinity War, so we know he’ll get unthawed in one of the next two movies. That’s less of a spoiler and more of a formality.
But the Infinity War trailer also handicaps its own lead-in.
The clip shows some supporting characters from Black Panther, like M’Baku and Okoye, fighting alongside the Avengers. While this may seem like a cool world-expanding team-up, this reveal also undercuts some of the core narrative tension in Black Panther.
See, we already know that Black Panther will survive a movie called Black Panther thanks to his plot armor.
As a result, his supporting cast are the only characters we can allow ourselves to worry about. Thus, when we see that some characters are already included in the next movie, it means we don’t have to worry about them in the one that precedes it.
(Granted, this didn’t stop Black Panther from becoming the future of the MCU…)
But what we know about Marvel’s plans doesn’t end there.
Add in news like the possibility of a Rocket Raccoon solo spinoff movie to follow Guardians of the Galaxy 3… well, let’s just say that you probably don’t need to get too worried about anyone during any of the Infinity War‘s battle scenes, because they’re probably all coming back for round 2… and beyond.
That’s the problem: Marvel’s saturation strategy is starting to dull the emotional potential of their plotlines. When we already know which characters have inked deals for future movies, following their plotline starts to feel like we’re just watching a video game.
Now, does that mean these movies won’t be fun? Of course not.
Does it mean these movies won’t also sometimes be emotionally affecting? Hey, it happens. (I’m still a sucker for Hawkeye’s speech to Wanda in Avengers: Age of Ultron.)
But just like the comics themselves, if you’re expecting any character’s choice to have a real, lasting, and profound impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’re deluding yourself.
These films are the equivalent of rearranging the furniture in a room: some designs may work better than others, but any illusion of change is temporary because the pieces are all still the same in the end.
The One Twist that Makes Business Sense
As has been widely reported, 2019’s Avengers 4 will mark the end of the contracts for all of the original Avengers actors.
This means, in theory, that Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk could all check out of the MCU after (or during) the Infinity War if their actors would like to be free to pursue other gigs. (So could Black Widow and Hawkeye, but they were never positioned as headliners to begin with.)
Now, Iron Man already almost sacrificed himself once (in the original Avengers), so there’s a precedent for him to do so again, especially on a grander scale. As the hero (and actor) who kicked off the Marvel Studios era, it would be fitting for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark to end his run by nobly saving the world.
Chris Evans can’t stay cryo-young forever, and Steve Rogers has a habit of jumping on grenades, so Captain America could also be the one (or one of several) who sacrifices himself for the greater good. Again, that would be thematically fitting — especially since Cap is the last hero standing against Thanos in the original Infinity Gauntlet series.
And Chris Hemsworth’s Thor has always been the frat boy of the group, so making the ultimate sacrifice would show that he finally matured into the selfless leader his father Odin always hoped he’d become.
Granted, if any of these plot twists come to pass, they’re likely to happen in the 4th Avengers movie… although it’s possible that one of the big names checks out at the climax of Infinity War just to establish the raised stakes for the grand finale. (If that happens, my money’s on Thor, since he just had his own conclusion of sorts in Thor: Ragnarok… and since he seems to be tearing apart a spaceship in the trailer, which feels like a very “Flash-sacrificing-himself-during-Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths” kind of move.)
But there are two reasons why any (or all) of these “shocking” departures are actually a safer bet than they might seem.
Although those changes may be temporary, they prove that Marvel is open to reshuffling the identities of its core heroes from time to time — especially when those heroes’ ideals can still be represented by different people in the same uniform.
Secondly, remember the end of Doctor Strange? That’s when Stephen Strange uses a time stone to defeat the dread Dormammu.
Sure, Thanos is likely to reclaim this time stone for himself during Infinity War.
But when the battle is over, Doctor Strange could easily use the time stone to “reset” the MCU after Avengers 4… possibly to a time when different people (or different actors) can become earth’s mightiest heroes anew.
If that happens, it won’t just be Dormammu who got trapped in an endless time loop of painful reboots.
It’ll be Hollywood.
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Poster Image: Marvel: Infinity War fan art by artist Pierre-Luc Boucher