WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War, in theaters now.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo spent the final month leading up to the release of Avengers: Infinity War pleading with fans who would get an early glimpse of the movie not to spoil it for others. And yet, the trailers and television spots did just that. What should have been a huge shock for fans had already been revealed by Gamora’s line, “The entire time I knew him, he only ever had one goal. To wipe out half the universe. If he gets all the Infinity Stones, he can do it with the snap of his fingers.”
This trailer was then followed up by a television spot which saw the Mad Titan literally snapping his fingers (albeit without the Gauntlet). So, does the marketing’s willingness to spoil the big moment take away from its overall impact? Well, not necessarily.
Marvel Studios had done its best to prepare fans for what has been billed as the culmination of everything before it — the “end” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. So while the decision to tease Thanos’ final act in the marketing is surprising, it’s also understandable why the decision was made to tease the snap felt around the world. While the move hails from the pages of the Infinity Gauntlet crossover in the comics, it’s safe to say many fans never expected Marvel Studios to actually wipe out half of sentient life in the universe — including a good amount of our heroes — in the last moments of the film.
It was a bold act, and backed up everything Marvel has been teasing for the past couple of years. In fact, back in 2017, before production officially kicked off on Infinity War, co-director Joe Russo assured fans that they believed in stakes. “I believe that everything has to have an end at some point in order for it to have value. The audience should be prepared.”
Was the audience prepared? No. And that’s exactly why Thanos’ action made as much of an impact as it did.
Despite being one of the biggest franchises, eve, there has been one major complaint regarding the Marvel Cinematic Universe throughout the years; namely, its unwillingness to kill off any heroes. Nearly each major player in the MCU has at one point been on the brink of death, only to somehow survive. Two of the best examples, of course, being Captain America and the Winter Soldier… both of which met their supposed deaths in Captain America: The First Avenger.
That isn’t to says fans hadn’t expected some characters to die in Infinity War, of course — just not so many of them.
Despite not actually appearing in the film after all of the teasing by the Russo brothers, Hawkeye had led the dead pool for heroes expected to die at the hands of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Also thought to die in the film? Nebula and Steve Rogers, two characters that magically survived their meeting with the Mad Titan.
We’d seen the outcome of the film thanks to the trailers and TV spots — heck, we’d even read it in the comics — and yet, the film managed to draw shock from audiences as those that were expected to die went on to survive while characters we expected to survive ceased to exist because of Thanos. This is why the final moment had such an impact. The Russo brothers had promised us intense surprises, and they delivered. But instead of taking the expected route, killing off characters such as Nebula and Hawkeye — who will actually appear in Avengers 4, and likely in major roles — they opted to go for the characters we were only beginning to know, such as Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange, as well as others we’d come to love throughout the years, including Groot, Star-Lord, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Winter Soldier.
What made their deaths at the end so surprising was the fact that we’d already lost three major players in the MCU before Thanos achieved his goal. We’d witnessed the deaths of Loki and Heimdall early on and later watched as Thanos personally sacrificed Gamora in order to retrieve the Soul Stone. Sure, more deaths seemed likely once Thanos secured all of the Infinity Stones, but not on the scale we saw. It’s because of this that the ending of Infinity War remains so impactful despite the marketing’s blatant spoiling.
The Russo brothers drew inspiration from the Infinity Gauntlet comics, yes, and those who read the comics had an inkling of what to expect. But the ending still worked because the directors rose the stakes on an emotional level, by killing characters we’d convinced ourselves would somehow survive — and keeping this who were certain to die alive.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Infinity War boasts a sprawling ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Benedict Wong, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Holland and Anthony Mackie.