Was Marvel’s Avenger’s: Infinity War the most shocking superhero film ever? After all, by the end of the movie – spoiler alert! – half of the cast were seemingly dead. But there seems to be a pattern as to who big baddie Thanos murdered and who remained alive. And perhaps that pattern holds a clue as to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe…
Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies have been showing up in theaters since 2008, and the films of the franchise have arguably breathed new life into a whole lot of old comic book characters. Indeed, casual fans might never have heard of the likes of War Machine, Groot, Hawkeye or M’Baku before they all hit the big screen.
And Avengers: Infinity War – whose release happened to coincide with the MCU’s tenth anniversary – shook things up for the franchise in a very big way. At the end of the movie, the alien tyrant Thanos completes his Infinity Gauntlet – a weapon that can rewrite the whole universe. Thanos then uses the gauntlet to obliterate half the population of the world and, of course, half of the superheroes.
Multiple fan favorites then turned to dust. The casualties included all of the Guardians of the Galaxy bar Rocket and Nebula – not to mention non-Guardians Maria Hill, Nick Fury, Scarlet Witch, Doctor Strange, the Winter Soldier, Falcon, Spider-Man and Black Panther. Among the survivors, meanwhile, were Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, War Machine, Captain America, M’Baku and Okoye.
However, it would seem a given that those characters who apparently died in Infinity War won’t necessarily stay dead. After all, Spider-Man and Black Panther sequels were confirmed even before Infinity War’s release, and those movies would be rather difficult to pull off if their main characters were no longer alive.
But what of those who are definitely still living? Well, it’s interesting that the original Avengers from the recent film franchise have survived. Yes, Black Widow, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk and Thor are all still out there – albeit probably in demoralized and traumatized states. That just leaves Hawkeye, the sixth Avenger, unaccounted for.
And although Hawkeye wasn’t seen in Infinity War, the movie did at least explain his absence. You see, Hawkeye is one of the few superheroes with a family. And, after the events of the last MCU movie he was seen in, Captain America: Civil War, he was under voluntary house arrest so that he and his loved ones could stay under government protection.
There’s a high chance that Hawkeye will be in the next Avengers film, though. That’s what has been seemingly suggested by Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who talked about the absence of Hawkeye and Ant-Man in their movie while speaking to the podcast Happy Sad Confused in May 2018. “We have a really interesting story cooked up for both [Hawkeye and Ant-Man],” Joe said.
Ant-Man’s second movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp, was the first film Marvel Studios released after Infinity War. And during the mid-credits scene of that movie, viewers finally saw what became of Ant-Man, Wasp and their supporting cast in the aftermath of Thanos’ attack. Truly, no-one in the Marvel Universe appears to be safe.
So, how can all this be put right? And how can half the universe be restored? Well, Marvel boss Kevin Feige seemed to drop a pretty big hint during a June 2018 interview with io9. He said, “I think for a film series that is going on ten years and is gearing towards a conclusion with Avengers 4 – which you don’t usually have in these kind[s] of movies – you can sort of do the math. And [you may] realize [that] it’s the original Avengers [who] are left.”
That comment would seem to imply that the Infinity War sequel could be the last film for the original Avengers – and that that movie would possibly involve their deaths. And if this is the case, the franchise would continue without Black Widow, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man and Hawkeye and their corresponding A-list actors.
Some of the biggest names in Hollywood happen to play those superheroes, too. Scarlett Johansson is Black Widow, Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man, Mark Ruffalo is Hulk, Chris Evans is Captain America, Chris Hemsworth is Thor and Jeremy Renner is Hawkeye. That’s a lot of star power for a franchise to lose.
But it does seem likely that all those actors plan to bow out of the MCU eventually. Committing to multiple movies in a franchise isn’t for everyone, and it’s understandable that some stars will eventually want to move on. Chris Evans has hinted as much during a March 2018 interview with The New York Times, in which he told the newspaper, “You want to get off the train before they push you off.”
Fans watching the production of the Spider-Man sequel have noticed something interesting, too. Many characters have been spotted on set, including some who seemingly died in Infinity War such as Maria Hill and Nick Fury. But Iron Man has seemingly yet to make an appearance for filming. Considering the importance of the superhero to the previous Spider-Man movie, that’s not a good sign.
So perhaps Evans and Downey Jr., at least, are actually exiting the MCU. Still, their departures – if they happen – won’t necessarily spell the end of the franchise. For one, Disney, which owns Marvel, reportedly has MCU movies planned for release until at least 2022.
Meanwhile, another Marvel boss has implied that the original Avengers may be on their way out, too. Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke to Business Insider in May 2018 about the future of the franchise, saying, “We’ve plotted out Marvel movies that will take us well into the next decade.” Then, however, he added, “I’m guessing that we will try our hand at what I’ll call a new franchise beyond Avengers.”
So, what could happen next? Well, an interesting development took place in July 2018: in that month Disney bought Fox, which owns the rights to Marvel’s X-Men and Fantastic Four. It’s very possible, then, that Disney will slowly work those characters – especially popular ones like Wolverine – into the MCU.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that all the original Avengers have good reasons for making the ultimate sacrifice. Iron Man and Black Widow both want to make up for past misdeeds, for example, while Captain America and Thor have both seen many of their loved ones die. Meanwhile, Hulk wants to be rid of the monster inside him, and Hawkeye may be willing to perish if it means his family will live.
So although it would be devastating to watch all those fan favorites die, story-wise it would make a lot of sense. A common criticism levelled against comic books is that death isn’t often permanent; countless characters have been killed off only to return later on. This criticism would only be exacerbated if and when the “dead” Infinity War characters return – that is, unless some of the most beloved characters bite the bullet in their place.
For now, of course, Marvel and Disney are keeping very quiet indeed about what might happen in the Infinity War sequel; even the title hasn’t been released yet. And any and all theories as to the plot are currently on the table. But one thing’s almost guaranteed: superhero fans are going to be crying their eyes out once the credits roll.