**Major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War ahead. Turn back now if you didn’t see it yet.**
I was left with some conflicting feelings at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, knowing fully that, due to the huge scale of what had been done, it would surely be undone in the sequel, but still feeling compassion for the characters I’ve gotten to know over the years, who don’t yet know that everything’s going to be (mostly) OK. While we know they’ll prevail in the end (don’t we always?)—despite the possibility of that victory in next year’s sequel also costing lives—what’s at stake for the characters, going into that story, is massive, and that’s exactly what the Russo brothers directing team was going for.
Now that the dust has settled, Joe and Anthony Russo sat down with Variety to discuss why they went down such a dark path with the first part of their Marvel grand finale. If you’ve seen the movie (and if you haven’t, why are you reading this?), you know that Thanos succeeded in wiping out half the universe with a snap of his fingers, including tons of major heroes—mostly except for the ones we were kind of expecting to die going in, which makes sense in retrospect, considering that would be best saved for next year’s Avengers 4. Our spider senses are going to be going nuts for the next twelve months, honestly.
With Infinity War’s absurdly large cast whittled down, that movie will be able to focus on the core Avengers who were left behind, some of whom have every reason to give up everything to undo what happened. As Anthony Russo told Variety, “Unless you have real stakes, you’re sort of limited in terms of the emotional impact a story can have on you. You have to go to very difficult places for the stakes to feel real, for the characters to feel like they have something to lose, for the audience to feel like they have something at risk.”
He added, “I will say this: There is a real commitment on our end to the stakes,” with Joe saying that any remedies will “come at an incredibly high cost.” That follows in line with Gamora and Thanos’ story in Inifinity War, wherein he had to sacrifice her—possibly all he cared about in the universe aside from killing half of it—in order to gain the soul stone. With Joe teasing “just you wait” about who will die in the sequel, it seems as though we can expect similar, if less murderous, sacrifices from our own team the next time around.
But who has the most at stake emotionally? Let’s take a quick look:
Banner’s kind of a loner outside of the relationships he’s established with the core Avengers, and they’re all still here—for now. The only person he really lost was the Hulk, which he’s probably more annoyed by than anything else. The really tough thing for him is going to be the possibility of losing his teammates in their efforts to undo Thanos’ damage.
Thor lost a lot, as he pointed out, but Thor had already lost a lot at the end of Thor: Ragnarok, and we’re still not quite clear on just how much stands to be reversed from Infinity War. If it’s just Thanos’ ending snap, then the Asguardians Thor lost, along with Loki, are still dead. Still, after finally repairing his sibling relationship in Ragnarok, Thor is likely to find any chance to revive Loki appealing, which also opens up the possibility that he could have to make a hard choice not to, if it doesn’t align with the goal of undoing Thanos’ unholy rapture.
Okoye, Nakia, Shuri, & Wakanda
The entire nation of Wakanda has lost its king—or someone even more personally important, depending on the character we’re talking about. Wakanda had already been particularly generous in helping in the fight, but now it’s personal. We don’t know for sure who’s still alive aside from Okoye, but Shuri and Nakia are sure to be at least equally determined to get T’Challa back if they’re still around.
Nebula just got finished establishing her one and only emotional connection in the universe—aside from hating Thanos—and now her sister, Gamora, has been taken from her. We found out that she had already thrown everything away in a fairly suicidal bid to kill Thanos between movies, and now she has even more reason to do so. She’s probably going to team up with Tony to get off of Titan and avenge her sister, though the possibility of that is a bit more fraught than bringing back everyone who was “dusted,” if the Russos really are interested keeping the stakes real and some of Infinity War’s events permanent.
Rocket lost all of the guardians—the family he just realized would always care about him despite his faults at the end of GotG2—and his chance to get Bucky’s arm. He’s gonna get that arm. He’s gonna get his family back. They were already the only thing he had going for him. Of course, getting all of them back may not be on the table, but there’s already strong evidence that Gamora’s soul was captured by the soul stone rather than completely lost in exchange, so we’ll see what happens.
Hawkeye was absent from Infinity War, but that doesn’t mean he won’t figure into the larger plot of the two-part narrative. He’s already been spotted on-set for Avengers 4 in an outfit that suggests he’s adopted the persona of Ronin. Long story short, we’re fairly worried that his family, who we met in Avengers: Age of Ultron, met their Thanos-driven fate offscreen at the end of Infinity War, leaving Hawkeye no more reason to stay out of the fight and, as with so many of our other heroes, absolutely nothing to lose outside of his remaining teammates.
Tony Stark must be furious. He’s also likely to be particularly determined, as the only person who was able to appreciate Doctor Strange’s parting words. Tony likely knows there should be a way forward, but he also has no idea what it is. The loss of Peter/Spider-Man had to be particularly devastating for him, especially after opening the movie by talking about becoming an actual father, rather than a father figure. Not only that, but he was finally able to put a name to the terror that’s been haunting him since the original Avengers—the one that’s been making him feel inadequate and vulnerable underneath his Iron Man armor. One that has led to many bad decisions in its wake.
He also has no idea what’s happened back on Earth and who’s waiting for him, with the possibility that Pepper Potts is gone, as well. At least he’s still got Rhodey, who will no doubt want to help his friend any way he can. (I’m also interested to see what payoff there is to Thanos recognizing Tony.)
Captain America has lost everything—well, except the remaining Avengers. He lost Bucky again, just after getting him back. He lost Sam Wilson. He had already been forced into hiding after Captain America: Civil War. He’d already lost his entire life when he was frozen for decades. He has next to nothing left to lose. Steve was already one of the most selfless people to ever live, so it’s safe to say there’s nothing he won’t give up to set things right in Avengers 4.
Those are some pretty high stakes for our characters, and whether the ending of Infinity War ultimately feels like cheap emotional manipulation or not will probably have a lot to do with the sacrifices they have to make to set things right, and how their stories wrap up. The only question I have left for the Russos is We have to wait a year!?
(via Pajiba, image: Marvel Entertainment)
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