Well that happened.
You knew it was coming. Main characters’ deaths were plentiful in the climax of Avengers: Infinity War. But the way in which Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Galaxy’s Wisecracking Guardians met their demise, and the exact individuals to go, did come as a surprise. The original cinematic Avengers, some whose actors are expected to retire from the franchise, remain alive when the movie ends on a cliffhanger. There’s Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), still on Titan, and Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), all intact in Wakanda. Perhaps the one missing OG teammate, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), is also alive wherever he is.
Ironically, while those characters all live, among those killed off include Avengers with sequel movies on the horizon, namely Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). Doctor Strange, who may also have another movie in his future, is also turned to dust, as are most of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Groot (Vin Diesel), despite the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is in the works. It’s as if Marvel, or maybe Thanos (Josh Brolin), has a wicked sense of humor. The heroes who disintegrated Rapture-style, will surely be resurrected in Avengers 4, but the twist is that Iron Man and Captain America at least will probably wind up dead in their place.
And I mean really, truly dead. Not fake comic-book-style dead, like we get with the end of Infinity War. But then it might be too late for us to care (a la Superman in the DCEU). The seemingly high stakes of this new movie will have collapsed with the reversals. It’s already bad enough that Marvel took the Lost finale method of having their cake and eating it too. Once again, we’ve expected specific individual demises but instead got a scenario where a bunch of characters all die in unison sort of matter of factly. And it doesn’t have any substantial meaning. We can suppose that Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is truly gone, or hope so for the sake of the emotions it made us feel. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) could have faked his death, though it’s for the best, satisfyingly, if he didn’t.
So what exactly happened? Thanos filled his Infinity Gauntlet with the Infinity Stones, and with a snap of his finger he solved the supposed issue of intergalactic overpopulation and wiped out half the citizens of the universe. Just as he did in the “Infinity Gauntlet” comic book crossover of 1991, although then he was doing it to impress Death, whom he was crushing on. On the page, the MCU characters who evaporated (or seemed to) included Hawkeye, Daredevil, Luke Cage, the Wasp, and Black Panther. Others included X-Men and Fantastic Four members who aren’t yet included in this series. They were all saved with a simple act of pressing Control-Z on the Infinity Gauntlet and undoing Thanos’s snap attack.
Everything goes back to normal thanks in part to a mission and then assault led by Doctor Strange, Adam Warlock (no, we haven’t met him yet, but we saw his cocoon in a post-credits scene in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), and Silver Surfer (another who’ll come down the road with the Disney/Fox deal). Eventually Nebula (Karen Gillan) steals the Infinity Guantlet and Thanos, now siding with the Avengers etc., goes after her. She reverts everything back to how it was before, after which Warlock gets ahold of the Infinity Gems and everything is okay. For the time being. Avengers 4 will have to go another route due to availability of characters, but also we’re given a hint that Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, is a key to victory.
Here’s where the Infinity War post-credits scene comes into possible play. We see more of the effects of Thanos’s population wipe in America as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders) launch into emergency response mode before also fading away themselves. Just before he disintegrates, though, Fury manages to send a “911” to Captain Marvel — that’s her symbol we see flash on the little screen — with a cosmic pager. That’s a good reminder that we’ll soon be introduced to Captain Marvel in her own movie, which is set in the era of pagers, the 1990s. We can safely assume that she will respond to the beeper beacon and also be instrumental in saving all of existence. Maybe she takes the place of Silver Surfer or Warlock. Maybe Marvel has a completely fresh idea.
There’s a chance that more main characters will die before the reversal happens. In the comics, after Thanos’s Rapture, the mad Titan turns Thor into glass then shatters him into a million pieces. He also breaks Captain America’s neck. Thanos’s partner Terraxia meanwhile decapitates Iron Man. All of that is erased with Nebula’s cancellation of the apocalypse too. Maybe we’ll see more death before we see everyone reborn. Yet someone is going to have to die somehow at the very end to fulfill the teases of certain doom and closure for part(s) of the MCU. Maybe there’s more to the fix and Tony Stark has to, predictably, sacrifice himself to complete his 11-year character arc. Or he and Cap go together, while gloriously hugging it out.
Then what? The MCU will continue, just not the way it’s always been. Most of the answer remains a secret so as not to spoil the events through Avengers 4, but there is a good deal known about what comes next. Read all about the future of the franchise here.