Infinity War: Consequences and The Times In Between

Avengers: Infinity War is a culmination of a decade of shared universe filmmaking. Whilst there have been cause and effect consequences throughout the franchise, none is more impactful and of the same epic scale as the ending of Infinity War. In its concluding moments over half the main characters vanish into nothingness, whilst the remaining half express shock at the momentousness of what has just happened, and the audience is meant to feel the same way. However there is a fundamental problem in all this. A universe where resurrection and uncertain demise are frequent, where a nebulous magic system can conveniently erase plot holes, somewhat lessens the overall impact of death. Death is a consequence, but only so far as it creates the illusion of consequence, and only so far as this consequence matters in the moment, always the moment. But even when it seems like death matters, are we left with sufficient time to grieve?

Thanos in Full Battle Armour: “Perfectly Balanced, As All Things Should Be”

Even if it becomes retroactively averted, the magnitude of the death seen in Infinity War is impactful all the same. As the titular theme of the film plays out over the credits, we are left to mourn the loss of so many characters in such a sudden and upsetting way. Ironically, this is the only point in the film in which we are left with space to do so. The plot momentum has been so relentless so far, and like the characters, there has been barely any time to slow down, process and reflect. Like many cliff-hangers, we are left with time to wildly speculate, time to contemplate the consequences of the film’s ending. Whilst there is speculation stemming from Jim Starlin’s 1991 The Infinity Gauntlet storyline, there is no guarantee this blueprint will be followed. Thus we have time to speculate on how the filmmakers will avert these consequences, rather than how these consequences made us feel, because we fundamentally doubt they have any lasting impact to begin with.

The Stakes are Real?

Thanos Fighting The Avengers in Their Last Stand

The thing is, this macro and cosmic change hasn’t actually happened. Unless the ramifications of Thanos’ actions are accepted as set in stone, the idea of macro change remains in stasis until the events of the subsequent film potentially undo these changes. But the stakes in Infinity War seemed so real. Characters started dying from the outset, previously overpowered characters were nerfed (Vision), and Thanos literally ripped through the major and supporting cast like they were insects. The MCU has had a long track record of upping the stakes in each film’s final act, but they have been less successful at having these takes mean much in either the moment or the aftermath. The world may be ending, or it may be the galaxy, or the universe, but this threat is always averted. We only see the death of four named characters in Infinity War before Thanos flicks his fingers. Considering three of these are in question based on the ambiguous manner of their deaths, suggests maybe the stakes haven’t hit home. Loki is a trickster who has ‘died’ before, Gamora is tied to a mysterious Infinity Stone, and Vision’s data was saved before his demise. People are sceptical. There is doubt. Can the MCU have real stakes? The question then is, if suddenly half the characters disappear at the conclusion of the story, what has convinced us from the relationship between previous films that this will have lasting impact? The end of Phase Three should have the gravitas and stakes to be expected of the end of a book, however, this book has planned sequels, and it also has a seemingly infinite lifespan. So unlike the end of a book, it feels more like the end of a chapter, albeit a twenty film spanning chapter.

What Have I Done?

Thanos Inserts The Space Stone into The Infinity Gauntlet

Consequences in the MCU might seem contradictory. Can there really be consequence in a world of serialized instalments, an endless stream of episodic adventures without concern for lasting impact or end, but a series of micro changes that culminate in a larger semblance of change? From Iron Man’s ‘Clean Slate Protocol’ in Iron Man 3, to Captain America’s defection from the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War, the microcosm of change is often reversed or its impacts inexplicably left unexplored. By the time the next film rolls around, often these changes are undone in minutes. Whilst these changes may seem like engaging character development, often enough time has passed between films to facilitate the character’s return to somewhere within the range of their original archetype. This convenient time lapse technique works, it suggests larger change whilst justifying not having to concentrate with the aftermath of the previous film, having more time to focus on the incoming threat. Excluding the tv show Agents of Shield, did the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier really have much of an impact? Did Natasha Romanoff’s choice to expose her personal history really impact her character much? If it did we didn’t see it. Yes SHIELD collapsed, but they had multiple seasons of Agents of Shield to build it back up again, and Nick Fury managed to find a Helicarrier because of it whilst filling a plot hole in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Yes you could argue it informed character development, but did we see its effects on Steve Rogers? We assumed it happened, but we didn’t get to see him grapple with these consequences on his psyche, we didn’t get the payoff, we got a time lapse to skip over it. Coming back to Infinity War, Captain America is reunited with his teammates within minutes of first appearing in the film. His exile is ended in order to save the world, the time in between only mentioned in dialogue, his character changed but the damage only surface level, because that’s all the plot has time for.

For many characters, such as Black Widow, many of her strongest material is left off-screen. Mentions of her time in Russia, mentions of her complicated relationship with her would be executioner Hawkeye, mentions of her countless covert operations. These tastes of detail suggest more than is actually explored. We get fragments, but they never extend to anything larger. We get glimpses of the wider MCU, but often these smaller moments are eclipsed by the game-changing material, the world or universe ending stories.

So whilst there is only finite screen time for the MCU to develop, what has been shown so far has only been the macro, not the micro. The larger story, not the smaller details, at least on the big screen. Whilst the Netflix, ABC, Hulu and Freeform shows exist to show smaller stories, they have arguably had less success feeding into the larger narrative. The consequences of events in these TV shows become so divorced from the larger MCU at large that they could almost be in a separate universe. The fundamental problem here is if the tv shows have too much world building, the casual moviegoer audience will be left even more confused. Simultaneously, if they have too little world building they seem inconsequential to the larger narrative. Sometimes this is an interesting compromise, The Defenders for example raises the stakes but still keeps the conflict grounded at the street level so that these character’s personal storylines will continue to stay small scale. However despite the stakes being raised, their is only brief and vague mention to the MCU at large, even though several characters from the MCU would be in New York at the time of these events. Agents of Shield in its fifth season goes to opposite lengths. In the final arc of the season, the story plays out against Thanos’ pursuit of the Infinity Stones, with General Talbot striking out to defend earth from Thanos. However the season concludes before Thanos has a chance to snap his fingers. Whilst this decision was made to end the show on its own terms should it not be renewed, this illustrates how there will always be compromise in the integration of the micro and macro, and not always for the betterment of the wider MCU. The world building is always bottom up, and this means the shows always struggle to meet the demands of the top down in meaningful ways without compromising their own storylines.

With a film like Infinity War, there is a very finite narrative real estate, under three hours to tell a story with numerous named characters. The space afforded to tell these smaller stories is limited, but that shouldn’t mean the consequences remain unchecked. The challenge is to integrate the consequences and aftermath of certain events better, and this requires something that has been strangely only now being implemented better, interconnectedness.

Time to Grieve?

Tony Stark in the Final Battle Against Thanos: “I hope they remember you”

In Infinity War, the film moves at a breakneck pace, introducing and dispensing with characters’ stories left, right and centre in order to reach its dramatic conclusion. During its run time, the film’s slower sections where the looming threat is momentarily forgotten stand out, for example Vision and Scarlet Witch in hiding, Rocket and Thor bonding over loss. Besides the frequent quips, the only time the plot slows down is during quieter moments or moments of heavy exposition. The time to process what is happening psychologically is not given near enough space, not just in Infinity War but the MCU as a whole. Events happen so quickly that characters would be forgiven for not having time to come to terms with what’s happening. In the context of the film it makes sense, the eventual and arguably inevitable conclusion means there’s no time to waste. But what do we lose in the process? Time to feel, time to process, time to mourn.

When it comes to mourning, the consequences of death can show us a character’s grief, that he or she is real, just like us. In Infinity War, with the exception of Spider Man, we don’t get this time. Arguably real life is the same. Sometimes things happen and there isn’t time to pay respects or send off people the way we would have wanted. The film’s ending comes in such a way, sudden and shocking. We see the surviving character’s react, we see them mourn if only briefly. But what we don’t get, is closure. If this were the end, would we take longer to mourn? While slowing down the narrative hasn’t been a priority so far, the sense of aftermath afforded to the ending is left in stasis. There is finally catharsis, finally mourning, but it comes with uncertainty, not if what has happened is real, but whether it can’t be undone. Should the film focus on grief if grief will be reversed? The lack of time left to grieve makes us think like most consequences in the MCU, we will need to time jump in order to move the plot forward. In setting up a finale, the consequences hit home, but only so far as they need to, just enough to give a reason for everything to be undone. Because you can’t spend your time grieving when there’s Avenging left to do.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Dimitri Adoniou

    Speaking of consequences and time inbetween… RECENT SPOILERS BELOW!!!

    How about that after credits scene in Antman and the Wasp! I thought that was very well done.

    • tclaytor

      That was my first thought too! I thought that extra scene shows more consequences from Thanos’s actions that moves the audience to grieve and to hope for a resolution that will also help Antman!

  2. Pamela Maria

    Love this article, as well as this commentary. I think k Marvel as a whole struggles to find balance between comedy and grief. For instance, though perhaps an unpopular opinion, I viewed Civil War as sloppy. The comedy took too much from the grief, ramifications felt unconvincing, and I was really hopping they’d follow with the comic blueprint in which Captain America dies at the end of the film to see how Marvel would handle such a major character death. The Marvel franchise is amazingly successful and has expertly executed many things, but grief is definitely not one of them.

  3. Definitely looking forward to Captain Marvel joining the fight and in her first appearance in the Fury offshoot and into Infinity War 2. Who will be the one to finish Thanos off. Adam Warlock, Galactus, The Hulk in World Breaker State, God Odin or Drax. Wondering which way they go. I think way back then either Thanos’s grandaughter used the gauntlet to undo everything, or Nebula steals the gauntlet off Thanos while he was resting.

  4. When Thor arrived during the battle in Wakanda I almost cheered (not something I’d usually do in a cinema). Of course it’s obvious that most, if not all, of the heroes who ‘died’ won’t actually stay dead, but it was still shocking to see the role call of those killed. Can’t wait for the story to unfold. Well done marvel!

  5. It’s not often I come out of a blockbuster movie having to process what I’ve just seen for so long.

  6. Great article. The more I think about it, the more ambitious and audacious I think it was. It’s a pretty extraordinary achievement.

  7. I think this is the first Marvel film I have genuinely not enjoyed. For a few reasons, chief being that it’s not a full story – we all know that we have to shlep back to the cinema next year to see how they hit the reset button. But also because it’s such a downer, and it’s really not *about* anything. It’s a series of plot points and fight scenes with no overarching theme or character growth. Most of the cast were barely required to act anything at all – half of their scenes could have been performed by their digital doubles.

    • Rayford

      The cast is a veritable ensemble of ensembles. There is simply no room for character growth and most of that has been competently done in the standalones. My only gripe about this otherwise (imho) excellent film is having a superhero with no superpowers played by a guy in his fifties at the centre of the story.

  8. It was like watching an entire season of TV in a 2.5 hrs supercut and at the end it was just another cliff hanger.

    Plus how can you feel sad or shocked by any characters dying when you know literally anyone of note already has IMDB listed new solo movies in the works – Black Panther, Spiderman, Guardian’s of the Galaxy – and what a boring way for everyone to go, float off into a swirl of ash after the main battle is over.

    Individual sequences were good but there was just ONE too many setups to cut between so every time we cut back to a group we hadn’t seen for 40 mins you’d be like “Oh yeah, these guys, forgot about them!”

  9. My theory, the ones who we think died survived and those who are left are actually the dead ones.

    • Perryman

      No. They’ve just been sent to the dark dimension, where Dormammu is Doctor Strange’s slave anyway. In the next film it is all about Dormammu versus Thanos(ish) with the supermarvellousheroes doing their best to swipe the Infinity Stones off the gantlet one by one, and this time scatter them through separate dimensions (without letting Dormammu get one of course).

  10. Parthenia

    the thing thats screws my mind is marvel timelines, I cant wait to see this film but reading that a teanage groot and star lord die. Will the Guardians of the Galaxy 3 coming 2020 show a small groot is it just before this film. I like the Guardians series as thhey have a good laugh in them.

    • Guardians 3 as a prequel would feel a bit hollow, knowing they’re all going to die.

      I’m kinda gutted, even though there’s another film to go.

  11. This was an interesting article to read, I think that you ask some really good questions like ‘are we left with sufficient time to grieve?’ When I watched Infinity War at the cinema I was left very disappointed with how it ended with so many dying and being left feeling like ‘what just happened?’ I also felt like Thanos was able to get all the stones way too easy.

  12. Thank you for writing this article. I was not the biggest fan of Infinity War. Like you said, the suspense went away for me when certain characters started to disappear. I immediately thought, “Well, they’re not dead and are somehow coming back in the next one.” You make a great point too about the breakneck pace of the film and the immense size of the ensemble cast. Sometimes it felt like the film was jumping around from one character to the next way too much, slowing the momentum it was trying to build up. I also wholeheartedly agree with you about the seeming lack of consequences. Your Captain America example is a great one. Maybe I will view Infinity War in a more positive light once I have the chance to watch it back to back with the next Avengers as one full film. P.S. I love your author bio with the Telltale Games joke.

  13. Newberry

    Excellent movie. I was surprised by how much they used from Starlin’s original stories (down to lines of dialogue) so I won’t be surprised if Nebula is given a larger role in the next part. And Captain Marvel was Thanos’ original nemesis, of course.

  14. Ka-Rock

    I have been an avid fan of these movies, but this one seems to be the one that I start to get disillusioned.

    Thanos is just such an uninteresting villan. Too obvious. Far too powerful. I find him tedious and just don’t care.

    And I find the whole thing about killing off most of your ‘heros’ that have done pretty well fighting off other Big Bads in the past but now are suddenly not up to the task but hey, don’t worry about that for the sequel as we’ll shoe-horn in some new character that has barely been mentioned in the whole series before but is now suddenly revealed as being powerful enough to defeat this really really powerful bad guy (be is Captain Marvel or Adam Warlock, depending how close to the comics they remain)by finding some way to manipulate the MacGuffin that is the Infinity Glove/Stones is just, well, meh.

    • Linwood

      Thanos is one of the better villain in superhero movie. There are tons of other mindless and boring villains. Credit to them for actually trying to develop thanos’s character.

  15. Currier

    The dead characters will be back in the sequel.

  16. Being old enough to remember when this story – in a slightly different form – was in comic books, I think it’s safe to say that the dead characters will be back. In fact, I was pleased when i heard that Hawkeye wasn’t in this one because that was his fate in “Infinity Gauntlet.”

    • Hawkeye’s arc was moved to the second movie. At one point it was going to start in this film, but they decided in post that it would be cleaner to move it all to Part 2.

  17. It was better than Citizen Kane and my local cinema gave me free Avengers lego. Best.Day.Ever

  18. Thought it was brilliant! Two things annoyed me a little.

    A. Gamorra giving up the soul stone so easy and it taking so long for her to click that she was getting chucked off the cliff.

    B. Star Lord being a massive bellend and ruining was looked like a totally excellent plan to get the gauntlet off thanos.

  19. Curious on the implications the film has (if any) on the Marvel TV shows… they’re set in the same reality (Battle of New York is referenced)… does this mean half of the Defenders or Agents of Shield will have vanished? Where do these sit in the timeline?

    • An Watt

      Everything will be set either pre Infinity War or post Avengers 4.

  20. Medrano

    I was disappointed with the pacing to be honest, it was hard to laugh at the humour when it was thrown in with death after death and it would’ve been nice to have more time dedicated to the characters interacting and developing relationships more.

    • So agree. It just got so hard to be invested in any death scene, one cause it would just happen without a build up and then they would move on to the next big thing happening straight away with very brief emotional responses from the other characters… plus most of the characters who died definitely aren’t dead ( I am annoyed about loki though if he’s dead dead he deserved a better death scene).

      • Yeah it was a weird feeling to watch the movie playing these deaths as if they were supposed to really shocking and heartbreaking when it was mainly characters who literally already have their own sequels announced in the coming years.

  21. I loved how it actually felt like Thanos’s film. He was the protagonist in this and it was very much about his journey and his sacrifices to do what he thought was right. I guess one of the advantages of having 10 years worth of films behind them is that the Russo’s didn’t need to put any real effort into character development of the vast majority of the cast which allowed them to send some real time on the big bad guy, and that really paid off.

    Outside of the ending which I think anyone who had read the comics was secretly hoping for, the deaths were meaningful and tragic. Loki and Gamorra in particular had real impact.

    It never lets up for a second. It’s fast paced and relentless. Maybe a couple of down moments might have helped a bit, but overall I liked the way it made it seem like Thaons had made his decision and now he will just do it, why waste any more time?

    I don;t think it would have been possible to do what Marvel has done without 18 films behind them leading to it. So much work and passion has gone into bringing these fantastic characters to the big screen, and this films has shown that it has paid off in spades.

    Can’t wait for the sequel, especially after that end credits scene!

  22. Thanos was made into a well-rounded character and the deaths of Loki and Gamorra were emotional. I don’t believe for one second that all of the heroes killed at the end are really dead – the implication of killing off Spider-Man, for example, after just one solo film doesn’t make any sense for Marvel. My least favourite thing about comics is the constant revival of supposedly-dead characters, but I suppose the Russos were simply doing what comics do. Can’t wait for Part 2!

  23. YouAreGrot

    I enjoyed it, but it was essentially “Set-Peice: The Movie.” Someone in my cinema was crying when Peter Parker turned into ash. It’s sweet, but do people really not know that there is literally zero chance that he will stay dead? Everyone that turned to ash has confirmed sequels in the works. So because of this, i felt no tension.

    • Partridge

      It is possible to know that the ‘dead’ characters will (mostly?) be coming back and still be shocked by their ‘deaths’ in the moment. And I wouldn’t be too sure exactly what is going to happen as no one saw the end of this movie coming.

  24. Mickbate

    What a thrill!

    What more could you ask for in a Marvel film, it had action sequences, comedy drama and a bit of romance thrown in. I have been waiting such a long time, and it was worth the wait. Haven’t really got many concrete theories yet, but I don’t think the disintegrated heroes are gone forever.

    I do wonder though where the heroes that were absent from infinity war were and what they were doing. The main one is ant-man. but I would think that Hank Pym could do something with the quantum realm to somehow bring the other heroes back to life. Like somebody else said I think that perhaps Tony Stark is the linchpin to defeating Thanos, as I think there must be something more to Dr strange bargaining for his life.

  25. The scriptwriters and Russos did brilliantly to weave that altogether which I guess is the reason it felt quite rushed in the first few minutes.
    Obviously Captain Marvel – who the Russos say is the most powerful of the lot – has a big say in the next film which should follow the Avengers Forever plotline which involves time travel. I think Ant Man and Hank Pym will be involved in creating this.
    Wouldn’t be surprised if others are introduced for the next phase. Cap will be killed off.

    • I thought that Dr Strange Bartered for Starks life because Tony might be the one to invent an alternative way of travelling through time, but I prefer your theory. They already credited Stark with Hank Pym’s invention of Ultron AND Ultron’s invention of Vision. It’s hard to guess what will happen given how relentlessly insistent RDJ can be in keeping his character front and centre.

  26. I loved everything about this film ill admit it im a MCU nerd i never planned to be as a kid i liked but didn’t get into comics more into sport and theatre i never rated superhero films but something about the MCU and its interconnected universe grabbed me i was hookedafter iron man. I was so excited to see this film and it didn’t disappoint and it flat out left me stunned its 24hrs since i seen it but still im thinking about it and so excited to see where the next lot of films take us.

  27. I believe that all those left “alive” are in fact dead. Otherwise Nick Fury and Maria Hill (coby smulders’ character) would not have both been evaporated. Thanos created another dimension by clicking his fingers so I suppose Dr Strange could go and get some of the characters.

    Just a theory what do you think?

    • Langford

      Nah, Ant-Man has the ability to travel the multi-verse. Hes deffo in the 4th Avengers film. Stark will perfect the technology to travel safely (Thats why Dr Strange saved him) and they will stop Thanos from getting the stones by dealing with the problem in advance.

  28. Great portrail of Thanos, ending is bit dis-ambiguous, could have done with a team gathering moment in Wakanda, to give an idea of everybody’s mindset after the tragedy a bit more.

  29. It was a little unbelievable how the film ended the way it did because of plot induced stupidity on the part of several characters. The first of these was how Star-Lord decided punching Thanos free of Mantis’ hypnosis was more important than taking his Infinity Gauntlet. Dr. Strange had the right idea when he said he put the Infinity Stone above the lives of others, since losing it to Thanos would (and does) result in the end of the galaxy: however, his inexplicable surrender of the stone seemed to be a move to force a 2nd part. This idea is continued when Thor slammed his ax into Thanos’ chest instead of his head: he surely knew the stakes of their battle, so why he didn’t aim for a certain kill is a mystery. In summary: a bunch of poorly concealed contrivances mandate Infinity War Part 2.

  30. The ability to time travel renders any death reversible.

  31. Munjeera

    Marvel rules, DC drools.

  32. graphicscardhub

    Thanos is the best villian.

  33. Slaidey

    Reading through the problems with intertwining tv shows and the movies was eye opening. As many films as it took to culminate in Infinity War, there would have been no place for the tv shows or other material to have an impact. It’s a real dilemma, and while watching Agents of Shield, I always felt like they were being held back.

  34. If you think Strange, Spiderman and Black Panther are going to stay dead you’re deluded. This is big business. Those franchises are worth a fortune.

  35. Lexzie

    I, personally, very much enjoyed Infinity War. I didn’t find the lack of grieving time to be a hinderance because, ultimately, I understood the movie to be Thanos’ movie. The only death worth grieving in retrospect is Gamora’s in this sense. And her death had its moments of grievance. So, for the movie, I thought it was done really well. 10 years of build up is difficult to compress into 2 x 2.5 hour movies and since this is really only part 1 of 2, it might not be fair to judge the entire thing until next year. But as a stand alone movie, I thought it was good and consequences were felt. Although, if the rumours are true about time travel in the next film then all of these “consequences” would be for moot and, although better for the MCU to not have the Thanos snap happen, it might feel a bit disingenuous in the long run.

    However, the interconnectedness of the MCU movies and television is going to be the tricky navigation part and I worry, too, that the TV Universe is going to feel even more disconnected than it already does.

  36. Ah. I was waiting for an article to be written on this film. And I must say, I am not disappointed. This was great, and I enjoyed hearing your opinion and forming my own! Fantastic job!

  37. James

    I love how the scenes with Bruce Banner even address this. He’s been gone since Age of Ultron and all of a sudden comes back to Dr Strange and Black Panther and has to be caught up on all this stuff that he’s missed.

  38. After 2019, there is no point in reading this.

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