'Avengers: Infinity War' Begins a Sad Goodbye for Marvel

It's tough to see old heroes prepare to exit, but hits like 'Thor: Ragnarok' have proven shaking things up is key to the MCU's future.

Within the last 10 years, the mainstream movie landscape has changed radically thanks to the dominance of superheroes. Though there had been a few handfuls of comic book movies before the Marvel Cinematic Universe kick-started with Iron Man in May of 2008, Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark heralded the beginning of a series that has ballooned far beyond Marvel’s (as well as fans’) wildest dreams. Now, nearly a decade later, the culmination of the MCU is at hand, as evidenced by the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, which brings together the many heroes of the universe to face off against the villainous Thanos.

The trailer promises, in many ways, exactly what anyone with a passing familiarity with superhero movies would expect: a group of good guys banding together, a new and exponentially scarier villain fighting off our favorite characters without so much as breaking a sweat, and more. Perhaps the most important part of the trailer is how it carefully, deliberately introduces the notion that the Infinity War films are going to function as a passing of the torch, from one set of Avengers to a newer group. The trailer’s introductory dialogue is spoken by characters from the first Avengers film in 2012, such as Tony Stark, Thor and Black Widow (with help from Vision, who technically has been there from the beginning as JARVIS). However, the characters who are given a fair deal of screen time in the trailer are those we’re less familiar with, hinting at the sense that when the Infinity War is resolved and Thanos is presumably defeated, some of those old standbys may not be around anymore.

Other than Iron Man, of the original Avengers, the only one to get serious face time (and the one whose presence is further encouraged by newer hero Black Panther) is Chris Evans’ Captain America. In one of the trailer’s closing shots, he leads a mix of old and new faces into battle, possibly serving as the balance of those we know and those we’ve just met. Admittedly, the trailer’s setup does allow for a possible concern or two. At the very least, the trailer is a reminder that there are so many heroic characters who are going to show up in Infinity War, from Iron Man to Tom Holland’s new Spider-Man to Black Panther to Thor, the latter of whom appears to be the first to encounter another group of Marvel heroes, the off-kilter Guardians of the Galaxy. Even if you leave aside Josh Brolin as Thanos, there’s still a good few dozen or so heroes who will be part of the film, including the old favorites.

Though a few of the shots of the Infinity War trailer recall early sequences in DC’s latest film and first hero meet-up, Justice League, such as what appears to be a very climactic battle in a massive field between good and evil, it’s important to remember that this war will have casualties. (It certainly should.) Marvel’s films have sometimes struggled with a lack of character-based stakes, because each perceived loss is reversed or nonexistent, whether it’s Groot’s sacrifice in Guardians of the Galaxy leading to him being revived (granted, as a different character) or the battle among heroes in Captain America: Civil War only causing a lot of wounded pride. Avengers: Infinity War and its 2019 follow-up will likely shake up that trend, leaving us with newer characters like Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, the upcoming Captain Marvel and others to pick up the pieces.

In some ways, it might be sad to potentially say goodbye to some of the characters who made Marvel’s cinematic universe so well-liked to start with. However, as this month’s Thor: Ragnarok proved, Marvel movies might only have continued success if they can keep shaking themselves up. The same old plotlines can’t sustain the MCU creatively, whereas films like Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy highlight the benefit of zigging and zagging away from people’s expectations of what a superhero movie should look and feel like.

So perhaps Avengers: Infinity War is going to zig and zag as well, putting our heroes in mortal danger from which there’s no easy escape or return, as opposed to bringing them back from the dead. After a decade of watching the Avengers Initiative spring up and its members team together to fend off alien attacks, the Infinity War trailer suggests that this time, the newbies are going to have to step up to prove themselves against an unstoppable foe. There’s likely a reason why characters like the Vision, Wanda Maximoff, Black Panther and Doctor Strange make more than a passing appearance in the trailer; the idea that made the Avengers come into existence is about to be carried forward by new stewards.