“You’d think killing people would make them like you, but it doesn’t. It just… it just makes them dead.” That was the thought that stayed with me as I left Avengers: Infinity War. This two and a half hour explosion unearthed a long-buried quote from a fan-made Harry Potter musical. And all because of the last few minutes! The only thing the MCU has effectively killed in the past is Elizabeth Olsen’s terrible Eastern European accent and hopefully the time stone doesn’t bring that back to life.
Now, Vision’s died twice; our beloved trickster god is glossed over like a house during a renovation; one of the few female characters is given the classic Disney villain death; and several sure-fire survivors like Black Panther and Spider-Man are decimated with the snap of two fingers. Is there truly a point in killing characters the audience knows will be back?
It’s easy to see this move from Marvel’s perspective. The MCU has long ignored the fact that actions have consequences, especially when those actions are violent. We see the effects of these actions on the world in Civil War, but not the personal toll it takes on our heroes. Excluding Infinity War for a moment, there has not been a key player Marvel death. The universe didn’t implode when the lesser of two Quicksilvers got canned. There have been plenty of fake-outs, sure, even ones used effectively like with Phil Coulson, but nothing’s truly stuck. Therefore, it is always hard to imagine the end of the world is here when Tony Stark and the gang will be back next week.
By lobbing a massive slaughter in Infinity War, the stakes are supposed to have been raised for the few survivors, the original Avengers line-up plus Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Captain Marvel and minus Hawkeye. Watch in agony as Captain America loses his friend once again (I really wish Marvel would stop pushing this shallow relationship on us). Let the tears flow as Iron Man watches his deepest fears become a reality as young Peter Parker dies in his arms. It’s supposed to be gut-wrenching, but ultimately, it feels like an over-correction. Six deus ex machinas are waiting in the wings to save all of these characters. Marvel is trying to milk superficial emotions.
Additionally, the numerous “deaths” at the end of the film lessen the impact of the characters that will most likely not be making a comeback. As mentioned above, Loki gets shafted in the first five minutes. People love Loki and the Russo Bros. have him an honorable death in trying to save his brother. What a massive turn-around, and what a compelling story arc. To be jettisoned like that is such a disservice to the character. Where, who or even better, why is Gamora? Her death actually does impact the story and leads to Star-Lord’s grief ruining literally everything. However, she could very well pop back up into existence through the power of the Soul Stone as if nothing happened, and just in time for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.
Yes, in the comics, characters come back to life all the time. No one is a superhero unless they have sacrificed their life for the greater good. But the rules for movies are a little different and death should have a larger impact in the end. Instead, unfortunately, Avengers: Infinity War makes a hero’s death meaningless.