I suppose we should begin with a spoiler warning, even though it feels unnecessary at this point. Avengers: Infinity War is careening toward a billion-dollar box office showing, so I imagine a large portion of you have already seen it and those who haven’t yet have made peace with it. Also, the headline of this post — the one you just clicked on! — literally contains the words “Infinity War” and “ending.” If you get something about the movie spoiled for you in here, I gotta believe that’s on you, pal. But still, I do not like getting yelled at, so this is me warning you. Hello and/or goodbye.
At the end of Infinity War, Thanos collects all the Infinity stones and — after a boneheaded and impulsive display of fury by Star-Lord — snaps his fingers to kill off a huge chunk of the universe’s population. In the process, the following of our heroes turn to dust: Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Star-Lord, Scarlet Witch, Winter Soldier, Groot, Drax, and Mantis. (Others died earlier in non-snap fashion, including Loki, Gamora, and Vision.) We also probably lost some celebrities, depending who does and does not exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But that gets us into a discussion about The Leftovers and the Wu-Tang Clan, and that’s a discussion for another day.
What’s important here is that the next film in the franchise, tentatively titled Avengers 4, is due out next May. There’s a lot to process between now and then, mostly related to the fate of the departed, and there are a bunch of ways to think about it all. Let’s look at four of those ways.
WAY NUMBER ONE: “That was wild! I wonder what will happen next.”
This is both the healthiest way to think about the ending and also the way the studio would like you to think about it, two things that are not always compatible. It’s possible to look at the ending this way and not be naive about it, too. I think we all know some or all of these characters are coming back at some point, if only because their deaths were so sudden and lumped together. They can’t go out like that? Can they?
The big thing here is that it’s okay to watch a movie and get a little lost in it and block out the real world factors at play in its creation and marketing. It’s not always easy. It’s hard enough to avoid spoilers from the actual movie, let alone breathless news alerts about casting and scheduling and such. But if you can consume a movie without all that, you’ll probably enjoy it more. A noble goal.
Which brings us to…
WAY NUMBER TWO: “Oh please. If you look at the list of already announced upcoming MCU films, you’ll see that many of the quote-unquote dead characters are certainly…”
It’s not necessarily your fault if you thought this as you watched poor young Spider-Man turn into dust in Tony Stark’s arms. Marvel has made a big deal out of announcing sequels and scheduling them out well into the next decade, so yes, it is pretty common knowledge that there’s another Spider-Man movie coming, and another Black Panther, and Marvel — and Disney — is not in the business of killing off superheroes 15 minutes after turning them into billion-dollar properties, especially not in a movie where they get maybe 15 minutes of screentime. So, fine. Point made.
But I would also caution you about being the type of person who says these things out loud, especially if you’re talking to someone who is thinking about it the first way we discussed. It can come off very jaded and dismissive, and just because a real emotional moment was tarnished for you by showbiz knowledge doesn’t mean you have to “um, actually” everyone who saw Spider-Man’s “death” and got a little emotional about it. They know he’s probably not dead-dead. You don’t have to say everything you know out loud, in this case, and just in general.
Also: I would urge you not to go full Jon Snow with all of this. You remember that, right? The thing where Jon Snow from Game of Thrones died at the end of the fifth season and was promptly revived at the beginning of the sixth, but in between fans chased poor Kit Harington through airports across the globe to see if he’d show up on set, and a million entertainment journalists peppered him with questions like “So… is Jon really dead?,” which put my dude in the impossible position of lying to the world over and over because, like, what else was he supposed to say? (“Nah.”) This has already started a bit, with the writers of the film saying fans should brace themselves to treat the deaths as final, which a bunch of people responded to with anger and disgust and, again, citations to all the Marvel movies on the docket starring characters who are currently dust thanks to the snapped fingers of Grape Hellboy.
This is all theater at this point. A work of fiction within a work of fiction. Best to sit back and enjoy the play and not be the lunatic who stands up and shouts “She’s not really Lady Macbeth! She’s Cheryl! I met her at Panera once! She drives a Prius!” That ruins the play for everyone else.
WAY NUMBER THREE: “I sure hope I don’t get hit by a bus before Avengers 4 comes out!”
I mean, I don’t particularly want to get hit by a bus at any point in my life. It does not seem great or fun. But this is something I think about whenever a big huge movie or television series ends on a cliffhanger. Or even when a sequel is announced way in advance. For example, both Avengers 4 and John Wick 3 are scheduled for next May. I want to know what happens with all these allegedly dead superheroes and I also want to know what happens to my beloved bearded assassin and his dog now that they’ve lost their membership in Ian McShane’s league of assassins, or whatever it’s called. (Yes, I choose to believe the dog is a member.) So now I have to be super careful and make sure I stay alive for a whole year so I don’t miss out. That’s a lot of pressure. I should probably just stay inside.
WAY NUMBER FOUR: “If they really killed off Drax I swear to the ghost of Edward Norton’s Hulk I will spit on the floor of the theater in protest.”
I truly did not expect Drax to become my favorite character in the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe, but here we are. I love him so much. I hope he comes back and gets his own movie or at least gets folded into the Fast & Furious franchise. I have always said those movies will end up in outer space someday. Let Dom race Drax in the cosmos. The movie-going public — mostly just me — demands it.