Marvel raises the stakes but may lose the plot with ‘Infinity War’

by Ethan Mikolay
8 December 2017



The Avengers will face their biggest challenge yet in Avengers: Infinity War, releasing in May of 2017. The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and stars, among others, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and Tom Holland. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios.


“You didn’t see that coming.”

Those were the last words spoken by Quicksilver, the Avengers’ own super speedster (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson), just after he was mortally struck in Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

And yet, this shocking and unexpected superhero death was hollow.

Taking place in the eleventh film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and being the last major death to take place in the past six films, it’s easy to forget. As momentarily upsetting as Quicksilver’s death may have been, it represented only a glimpse of peril.

That will all change with the release of Avengers: Infinity War next May, which seems to be a course correction for Marvel.

“It’s not an end for all characters; it’s an end for some of these characters,” Infinity War co-director Anthony Russo said.

The question is: Why are the Marvel films a matter of life and death only now?

Despite what the name suggests, Captain America: Civil War (released last year) was a very tame film. It focused on internal conflicts between the members of the Avengers, but besides that, there isn’t much to differentiate it from previous films in the franchise.

Most of these films have followed a similar structure. The hero’s future is optimistic, we are greeted to a montage of badass scenes highlighting their skills, the villain of the movie poses a new threat before being thwarted, and the next movie is teased. It has pretty much become a given that the heroes are never in any real danger.

Had Marvel followed a closer adaptation of the Civil War’s comic book counterpart, the franchise could have begun its transition into darker tones that is desperately needed.


So why the stakes now? It may be driven more by legality than good old fashioned storytelling.


However, despite a tense battle between heroes at the end of the film, nothing of major importance happens. They are divided, but only in the sense that they are no longer the tight-knit Avengers they used to be.

Since Civil War, Marvel has released Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok. All of these films, despite being released after Civil War, rely heavily on hit-or-miss comedy rather than drama or tension.

This will only make it jarring when, in a span of two movies, several characters will be on the chopping block.

So why the stakes now? It may be driven more by legality than good old fashioned storytelling.

Several core actors in the Avengers will have finished their contracts with Marvel by the end of 2019 according to a Vanity Fair cover story published last month.

This does not mean they have to step down from their roles, as they can hammer out more movie contracts, but Chris Evans (Captain America) and Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man) are among these core actors and have both hinted at their nearing departure. This means Marvel will have to replace them or shift their focus in order to further the franchise.

What this highlights is the problem that multi-movie contracts bring up. Knowing that an actor has a legal commitment to a specific amount of films takes tension out of the equation. What we’re left with, in the end, is less of a passionate story and more of an obligatory end.

The loss of a major character will be upsetting and shocking regardless of the purpose, but corporate intentions will minimize the emotional weight of such an event.

With all this being said, I’m not pretending to be smarter than the executives at Marvel Studios. They have found a way to pump out consistent, quality films like no company has before, and I’m eagerly anticipating their next releases.

But I don’t think I’m alone in my recent disappointment in the franchise. I’m hoping the folks at Marvel can truly revive the same excitement we felt when this all started almost a decade ago.

If they fail to recapture the vibrancy and innovation of the original films, however, our love of the franchise may die rather quickly.

That too would be a death no one saw coming.



Ethan Mikolay is a columnist for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL

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